How To Handle College at Home

Jeff Morhous // March 16, 2020

Are you one of the tens of thousands of college students who’ve been displaced recently? Lots of people are talking, writing, and reading about their transmission to remote work, but not much has been said about remote learning. A lot of the same concepts apply, but a lot differs! I was actually homeschooled for 12 years, which involved some online classes, and a lot of self-direction. In college, I’ve already taken a few online classes. Even my job has been remote for quite some time, and now (like you, I’m assuming) I’m forced to finish out my entire academic semester online as well.

I’m not super worried about the transition, solely because it doesn’t change my lifestyle all too much. There’s still some adjustment, mostly being back home and coordinating with my parents, one of which is also WFH (working from home) in this tense time. Being left to your own devices AND being locked in your house requires a ton of self-discipline, and can definitely get to you really fast. Everyone is different, but there are some things that I know help me to be as productive and healthy as I can when working remotely. Here are some tips that I hope help you be as successful as you can. Build strong habits early, and you’ll be thanking yourself when online exams roll around the corner 🥴

Recognize the situation

There’s no doubt the world is hurting right now. You’re not alone. People everywhere are having their lives turned upside down. Remember, the world is not ending, but the steps we’re taking are indeed stopping it from ending.

We’ve all had the rug pulled out from under us. Your professors and peers are all in the same boat as you. We didn’t sign up for this (well some did, but if you signed up for online classes to begin with you probably could write this article). Be patient with your faculty as they work to deliver you the education that you paid for. Be patient with yourself — it would be really unusual to be at your peak productivity during a time of worldwide crisis.

Create a space for school

Sure, watching lectures in bed and studying on the couch is sick and all(no pun intended), but it’s going to lead to devastating productivity losses. Some people can thrive wherever, but as we spend more and more time in our homes a-la quarantine, it becomes increasingly important to remind your mind where work does and doesn’t happen. I work best in a closed room with a clean desk and an nice chair. But that’s not going to be possible for everyone all the time. Not everyone has a desk, I’m posted up at my parents kitchen table 👌. Just try your best to dedicate some physical space to your education, as it will certainly help you dedicate some mental space. Music and headphones are your friends for isolation, as it will help your drown out others sharing your school space.

Create a time for school

This isn’t “spring break forever,” though it still feels like that. It’s really important that you dedicate time during your day to “lectures” in whatever form they’ll take, in addition to the obligatory studying and homework. Turn off your phone, shut the door if you can!

Dedicating time to school will help you strike a healthy work-life balance. There’s no such thing as just leaving the tv on ‘in the background’ while you do practice exams. If you put your focus on school during the time you promised yourself you’d be doing it, your free time will be yours to spend entirely.

Use a planner

Keeping track of online classes is stupid hard. Professors may or may not remind you of things that are due, and it’s certainly not their responsibility to keep you organized. Write everything down and prioritize your days. A lot of people find it easiest to do this digitally — I use Todoist, and I already wrote a piece about how it helps me stay organized.

Communicate with your family

If you’re at home for the long haul like me, this is going to take some adjusting for everyone. Be clear with them that you need undisturbed time to dedicate to your studies in order to succeed. It’s crazy hard to get deep work done if you’re constantly being interrupted, even if the interruptions are important. If you attention is absolutely need during your school time, help you family understand how to get that message across while still respecting your headspace.

Get Dressed

It’s easy to just lounge around in pajamas all day, and that’s totally fine. However, if you get up and get ready for the day like you were going to be out and about, it helps remind your mind that this isn’t a snow day. Hygiene and lifestyle habits will do wonders for your mental health!

All of these tips not withstanding, remote work gives you the freedom to break these rules when needed. Use this wild pandemic to take advantage of the autonomy remote work offers. Who knows, you may discover that your top job desire is the opportunity for remote work.

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