• Jawed Bensalah

15 Tips for a successful college semester during COVID

The Spring semester is just around the corner and with COVID on the rise (again), most classes are starting online for the first couple of weeks with the possibility of that being extended to the whole semester. To help alleviate some stress you may be facing, I've decided to compile a list of tips to help you have a successful semester whether it be in person or online.


1. "Easy choices = Hard life, Hard choices = Easy life"

If there is one thing you take away from this blog, let this saying be it. This is one of my favorite sayings and it's something I try to live my life by. Essentially what this means is that if you make the "easy" choices right now such as skipping class, not doing an assignment, or spending money you don't need to, you're setting yourself up to have a "hard" life later on. And Vice versa, If you make the "hard" choices now such as saving money, staying on top of your classes, working out, etc. you're setting yourself up to have an "easy" life. Adopting this mind set will have an enumerable affect on your life and will set you up to have a successful and "easy" life.


2. DO NOT BUY THE TEXTBOOK UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY

One of the biggest lies you will be told as a college student is that you NEED to buy the textbook for your class. This is actually rarely the case. I always wait until after the first week or two to decide if I need to buy the textbook. For some classes the assignments will be directly tied to the book (usually in an online capacity), in which case you would obviously have to pay for the book in order to get access to the assignments. But ultimately you know yourself best, and if you think you'll benefit from having access to the textbook then by all means get it. However instead of buying the book, I would recommend renting or at the very least buying it used. Another option would be to check if the campus library has it that way you can check it out for free as you need it and even scan the parts of the book that you need.


3. Use a planner and stay on top of your classes

As a student that has ADHD, I HIGHLY recommend utilizing a planner. I can't tell you how helpful and beneficial keeping a planner has been for me. Before using one, I would forget that I have assignments due, miss meetings, forget I have upcoming tests to study for, etc. A planner helps you stay on top of your assignments/obligations, helps prevents stressful situations, and overall will really help with getting your life together and staying organized. Now, this is all contingent on you actually taking the time to update your planner and remembering to check it, which is an issue for me sometimes. If you do though, I promise you it will be worth it. Regardless of if you choose to use a planner or not, it's important to stay on top of your classes. I know it sounds obvious but personally staying on top of my classes has always been a struggle for me. I can't tell you how many times I have found myself at the end of the semester with a grade that I wasn't happy with wishing I would've just stayed on top of my classes from the beginning. Remember: Easy choices = Hard life, Hard choices = Easy life.


4. Meet and communicate with your professor

This is probably the second most important tip for success on this list and it's one that most students don't do. Get to know your professor, or more importantly, let your professor get to know you. Your professor is literally the person who controls your grades, and you want to give them every reason to want help you pass. On the first day of class introduce yourself to them or stop by their office during their office hours, or if it's an online class email them or hop on a zoom call with them. Meet with them throughout the semester too. Doing this will help build a relationship with your professor and if you end up having a predicament they'll be more likely to help you out. A good relationship with professors can also help you later down the road when you're applying for jobs, internships, or grad school.


5. Don't be afraid to ask for help

Building off the last tip, do not be afraid to ask for help. This doesn't just go for your school work, it applies to everything in your life. Whether you need help understanding a subject in class, figuring out your degree plan, improving your mental health or what ever it might be, always ask for help. Depending on who you are, asking for help may be out of your comfort zone and be easier said than done, but I promise you it's okay and it'll worth it in the end. UTSA has a number of different services dedicated to helping students that you can utilize, and they can all be found on UTSA's website.


6. Take care of your mental health and take time for yourself

Your mental health is extremely important, and it's essential that you don't neglect it. College can be very stressful and it's okay to take time off for yourself. Try to dedicate a couple mental health days a moth or as needed to help prevent burnout and improve your mental state. A mental health day doesn't have to be anything fancy, it can be as simple as skipping class for the day (yes its okay to skip class sometimes), napping all day, playing video games, going hiking, having a spa day etc. As stated previously, if you feel like you need help, be sure to reach out and get yourself the help that you need. At the end of the day you only have one brain and body to last you the rest of your life so make sure you take care of it.


7. Set aside specific times for your classes

This applies to all modes of learning but is especially helpful when it comes to asynchronous online classes where you don't have specific times your class meets at. When COVID first hit and classes moved online, all of my courses were asynchronous and I really struggled to stay on top of my classes. Dedicating specific times out of the day or days out of the week to working on my classes helped me ensure that I was getting my assignments done and wasn't going to fall behind in the course.


8. Have a separate area for working on school work

This goes hand in hand with the previous tip. It is very important to make sure you separate your work space from your leisure place(s). Doing your work in the same area that you sleep or relax in both hurts your relaxation and your studies. Having a dedicated place for working on school work will help you get in the right mindset and often increase your productivity. If you have multiple rooms where you live, dedicate one to being a study where you do all your work. If you have a small space or even a single room allocate part of the space to being a study area where you have a desk and all your school related supplies. Another option, which is what I prefer, is to go to the library, coffee shop, park, etc. to get work done. I prefer going to places like these that have other people working too because that environment influences me to want to work on my assignments. Your environment is very important and influences you more than you may realize, so it's important to put yourself in the right environment for the task at hand.


9. Show up early to class

This tip mainly applies to in person classes so with COVID still around lets hope y'all get to utilize it this. I know showing up early to class doesn't seem very appealing, especially if you have an 8am or earlier class, but doing so has it's benefits. For starters, showing up early helps guarantee you have time to find parking and make it to class on time. In addition, being one of the first to arrive to class ensures you get your unassigned assigned seat that's next to the power outlet and is the best spot in the room.


10. Put your devices to charge the night before

There a few things that will ruin my day quicker than realizing my airpods are dead. To prevent this, make sure you put your laptop, airpods, phone, etc. to charge before you go to bed. You can even set a repeating reminder to go off around your bedtime to make sure you don't forget.


11. Get involved on campus

If you want to have a good time and enjoy your semester, get involved on campus. Go to games, attend on campus events, join an organization. While this definitely takes up more of your time, I think it's worth it. You'll make new friends, new memories, and have more fun throughout the semester which will help alleviate stress.


12. Get Sleep

College students are notorious for not getting enough sleep. However getting a proper amount of sleep can do wonders for you. Being well rested will prevent brain fog, burn out and improve your overall physical and mental health. Make it a goal to get the proper amount of sleep for the majority amount of days per week. This probably means saying no more often to people when invited to go out or stay out late, and while the FOMO may set in, your body will thank you in the long run.


13. Join the GroupMe for your class

Usually every class you take will have GroupMe that includes the rest of your classmates. ALWAYS join it. It's a great tool to utilize when you have questions about assignments because the other students in the class can help you out with some problems you may be having, including borrowing a classmates' notes from a class you may have missed. Also if your professor sucks y'all can all vent about how horrible they are with each other. GroupMe's are usually made by a student in the class who takes the initiative to make it, so if you haven't gotten invited to a GroupMe for your course ask around to see if one has been made and if you can be added to it. If there isn't one, you can always make it yourself and invite the rest of the class to join it.

Pro Tip: Make sure your professor or TA isn't in the GroupMe.


14. Make your own meals/meal prep

Do yourself a favor and eat in. I have spent so much money eating out it's not even funny. Making your own meals not only saves you money but a lot of times is way healthier than eating out. If you're not good at cooking or don't really know how that's okay, don't let that discourage you. There are countless videos on YouTube that can help you learn how to cook and give you recipe ideas, and if you want to go the extra mile, you could even meal prep for the week. Meal prepping is essentially making all your meals for the rest of the week and packaging them. Each day you just eat one of the meals you made until the next week and repeat the process again.


15. Exercise

Last but not least, exercise. If you're new to working out, it can seem like a daunting task but it doesn't have to be. Just like cooking, there are countless videos on YouTube that can help you get started and get workout routines. Exercising doesn't have to be anything crazy either. It could be as simple as going for a walk, or hiking. You can start off simple and slow and work your way up to harder and more physically exerting activities as you go. There are an incredible amount of benefits that come from working out and it's something I highly recommend to help improve your physical and mental health.

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