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Aug 17, 2020
College Life

If you haven’t been in literal hibernation for the past seven months, you know that 2020 has been one sucker punch after another so far. From wildfires to murder hornets, it seems like the world is determined to keep us on our toes at all costs. And through it all lies the underlying thread of worldwide anxiety: how are we supposed to live our lives when we’re all stuck in quarantine?

Image courtesy of University of Rochester.

If you haven’t been in literal hibernation for the past seven months, you know that 2020 has been one sucker punch after another so far. From wildfires to murder hornets, it seems like the world is determined to keep us on our toes at all costs. And through it all lies the underlying thread of worldwide anxiety: how are we supposed to live our lives when we’re all stuck in quarantine?

As the months roll by, we’re getting closer and closer to the start of the next academic term. College this year isn’t going to look like it usually does, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a campus experience. Here’s what we’re hitting on today:

  • Staying Studious
  • Staying Social
  • Staying Safe

Staying Studious

How to keep up with your grades in the virtual classroom

With Zoom as the new classroom, academia can seem like even more of a headache than usual, but that doesn’t mean it’s undoable. Image courtesy of Daily Northwestern.

Keeping up with school work when you can barely keep up reality can seem like a Herculean feat, but there’s a couple easy steps you can take to make classes, tests, and studying manageable.


If any (or all) of your classes are virtual, it is more important than ever to set a routine. Even though you might not be getting up and out of the house for some of your classes, lying in bed in your pajamas is only going to bog you down. Sure, it’s comfortable and relaxing, but it also stops you from being fully present. Try to get up at around the same time every day, get dressed, and find somewhere that’s not your bed to log into virtual classes.

In both virtual and physical classes, it’s also a good idea to figure out what kind of learner you are and use it to your advantage. Are you an auditory learner? Zoom classes should be right up your alley! Visual? Try color coding your notes, even in classes you don’t usually take notes in - anything that helps you focus is going to help you get through. If you’re a physical learner, take the opportunity of not being in a classroom to pace while you listen to lectures; it might help you internalize the information better. Whatever your learning style, figuring out how you learn and then playing to your strengths is a surefire way to stay afloat during quarantine classes.


Just as a schedule is vital for classes, it can also be instrumental for keeping you on track with homework. I know from personal experience that not seeing your teachers and classmates in person can make it frighteningly easy for homework to totally slip your mind. That’s why it’s helpful to have a calendar that lists due dates, or a bullet point list you can check off as you go. Every time you check off an item, your brain releases a little bit of that go-getter dopamine you need to keep yourself motivated.

Usually do homework with a group of friends? Don’t let social distancing stop you! The share screen option in Zoom and related platforms means that it’s even easier to share notes than it is in person, because no one’s crowding around one screen or piece of paper. If a group of friends and classmates keeps you motivated to do your work, that’s not something you need to give up.

Tests and Studying

If you have an internet connection, then you might be socially distancing, but at least you’re not alone. Study groups over the internet and group chats are perfectly doable. What’s more, virtual studying doesn’t have to be a begrudging alternative: use technology to your advantage! Screen share sites like Kahoot and Quizlet to make the most of your quarantine study session, or record the meeting so everyone can go back to it if they forget something.

If your tests aren’t in person - and a lot of them probably won’t be - make sure to set reminders for yourself so you can keep on track. Plan out when you want to study and when you need to remember to take tests. Writing down the things you have to remember to do means that those things aren’t taking up rent space in your head anymore, and you have more space to relax and take care of yourself.

Staying Social

Social distancing doesn’t mean cutting yourself off - it just means being careful

There are plenty of social options that aren’t also social risks! Just, ya know, imagine the people in this picture are wearing masks. Image Courtesy of Savor.

Say it with me, folks: social distancing does not mean social isolation. Really, it’s more physical distancing than social distancing, and if you’re clever, it won’t stop you from having an active social life. It’s just that in the new reality of six-feet-apart, parties and hangouts look a little different.

Greek Life

Everything is online now: classes, study sessions, family check-ins, you name it. There’s no reason that frat meetings can’t be, too. Sure, it’s not the same, but sometimes it’s nice just to be able to see your Greek Siblings, even if it’s not in person. There are a lot more options for virtual greek life than you might imagine.

My own frat, Pi Nu Epsilon, has weekly virtual meetings and recently hosted virtual rush events. As the event coordinator, it’s my job to plan activities, and I’ve found no shortage of things that can be done remotely. From Jackbox and variations on Cards Against Humanity to watching movies or doing virtual museum tours, there are plenty of things to keep your organization active during quarantine.


Yes, parties are still an option, you just have to be careful. You’ve got two main options: outdoor social distance parties, and small gatherings with friends.

Outdoor parties probably won’t be able to have food and drinks, because you should be wearing a mask, but you can still make them available if people are willing to distance. But while refreshments might be a gray zone, music and dancing are still absolutely allowed. Or, if anyone has a projector and access to a field, an outdoor movie party with picnic blankets and snacks would be a great idea even on a normal basis.

For any significant number of people indoors, be sure to follow guidelines. A small group of friends might be easier to coordinate, and still be plenty of fun.

And, most importantly, don’t be afraid to stand up for your health. If you’re invited to a party and you get there only to find it’s wall to wall people and none of them are wearing masks, don’t be afraid to turn around and go home. It’s true at all times, but especially during a pandemic: don’t get peer pressured into risking your life.

Hanging Out

Again, small hangouts with friends are still totally manageable… most of the time. But what about when they’re not? How do you keep your friend group active when people are in quarantine, or don’t feel safe gathering even in small groups?

Once again, technology is your friend.

Virtual platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype are perfect platforms for hanging out without being in the same room, and can happen at any time without worrying about walking home in the dark. In fact, oftentimes it’s not meeting up that’s the problem: it’s finding something to talk about that isn’t how insane the world is.

Like I mentioned in the section on Greek Life, online resources like Jackbox and Pretend You’re Xyzzy are always a great time, as are virtual museum tours and movies. I’ve been forcing my friends to read my favorite book, and we’ve been chatting about it every week in our own personal book club.

Even if you’re one of the introverts that claims to not mind social distancing, try to say “hi” to another human being at least once a week, for your own mental well-being. And if no humans are available, well, there’s always pets.

Staying Safe

You can’t make a campus experience at all if you don’t take care of yourself

If you’re not covering your nose, you’re not doing it right. Wear a mask, and wear it right. Image courtesy of Gideon.

If you’re reading this article, you know how frustrating it is that there’s no guidebook for how to survive this. But thankfully, when it comes to your physical health, there kind of is. The Center For Disease Control and Protection (CDC) details the ins and outs of protecting yourself from Covid-19. Here are the highlights:

  • Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your face.
  • Avoid anyone sick, and remember to keep 6 feet apart when possible.
  • Stock up on Personal Protective Equipment -- bundles of PPE for college students are specially designed to help college students prepare for the semester ahead
  • Wear a mask that covers your mouth and your nose. Masks can be easily made or bought, and come in an enormous range of colors and patterns. Generally, it’s best to have at least five, one for each day of the school week.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces in your house.
  • Generally monitor your overall health.

But besides for health precautions to take during the pandemic, there’s also the things you need to pay attention to for your everyday health. With everyone stuck in quarantine, healthy habits can get shoved to the side.

  • You need to get fresh air every once in a while. Grab a mask and go for a walk, even if it’s just for a few minutes. The fresh air will do you wonders. If you can’t actually get outside, consider grabbing an air purifier for your room.
  • Try to get some exercise! Regular exercise is incredible for both your physical and your mental health. Can’t get to the gym like you normally would? There are plenty of videos you can use to have your own at-home routine. (Tip: This isn’t sponsored in any way, but my personal favorite is Jillian Michaels: 30 Day. It’s intense, but it doesn’t take up a lot of time, and it’s easy to do at home!)
  • Healthy eating shouldn’t fall by the wayside. Getting to the grocery store can be a nightmare during a pandemic, but delivery services and healthy care packages are your new best friend. Even if you aren’t getting as many vegetables as you probably should, at least try not to eat the same thing every day. 
  • And finally: sleep. Chances are, your instinct these days is either to get too much or not enough. But when the whole world seems to be spiraling, getting your circadian rhythms in check becomes more important than ever.

Life is tough right now. That’s just a fact. But social distancing or not, you are not alone. Talk to friends. Set up online counseling sessions through your school or through resources like BetterHelp. You can get through this and still have a great college experience.

It’s okay to not feel okay. Just remember that, no matter what it seems like, this isn’t forever.

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