It’s no secret that college isn’t the same during the pandemic. Instead of strolling through campus with friends or batting around economic theory during an in-person seminar, many students are clicking into Zoom classes from their dorm rooms, childhood bedrooms, or off-campus apartments. It’s jarring—and isolating. And Zoom fatigue is real. Despite the barriers posed by online classes and campus services, students are making a go of it. In addition to classes, colleges have pivoted student services to remote formats that are available and accessible to all. If you’re struggling with your online coursework, these extra resources may turn a negative academic year into a positive pandemic outcome. Here’s how campuses have adapted and what students themselves recommend.
Use academic services and connect with your professors
Probably the biggest stressor for students is not being able to connect with professors and academic services in person. But after a bumpy take-off, academic services at many colleges have reinvented themselves for the pandemic, offering group Zoom sessions, webinars, online workshops, and virtual one-on-one coaching. Your college likely has a writing center, tutoring center, peer coaching, and programs to teach time management, study skills, or how to reduce test anxiety. These resources can help you manage your academics. Even if you don’t need extra help, they can also help you feel more connected to your college (maybe your tutoring center needs you for peer help!).
Colleges that are taking the initiative
Texas Christian University, for example, developed a Student Success Series that featured 11 weekly programs offered in person and via Zoom that address topics like study skills, faculty expectations, reading comprehension, stress management, and procrastination. At the University of Maryland, Baltimore, the Academic Success Center allows students to schedule online appointments for math or science tutoring, writing help, placement testing, and individual meetings with academic advocates or academic success mentors.
Faculty are also making themselves more available via email and Zoom than in pre-pandemic years, and students appreciate it. Rhodes College senior Grace Merriman, an Economics and Art History major, says that prior to the pandemic, she contacted professors with a specific question or problem once in a while, but now, the boundaries have come down. “I’ve found myself connecting with professors via email and Zoom and attending office hours nearly every day,” she says. Despite full-time remote learning, Merriman has received more personal attention this year than usual.
At Lafayette College, the academic advising group recognized students may be juggling other tasks, like taking care of younger siblings, and adjusted to accommodate them. “We’ve been striving to advise from a very holistic perspective as we help our students advance their degree progress and maintain balance during this very stressful time,” says Mike Olin, Dean of Advising.
Academic challenges sometimes need to be met head on though. Molly Bayewitz, a University of Maryland senior, said she realized she was struggling when she stopped attending synchronous classes and fell behind. To get herself back on track, she connected one-on-one with a UMBC academic advocate for help. She used a work management app, communicated when she needed flexibility, developed shared plans with her professors, and caught up on classes. The biggest help to herself was realizing she needed to talk to her instructors. “Communicate with your professors,” she recommends. “They’ll make time for you and help you because that’s what they are there to do—you’re not being annoying by asking them questions.” Go to office hours, email your professor, and get the help you need. She also suggests reaching out to classmates and using strategies like creating or joining a GroupMe class group chat.
Maximize on career services’ resources
With internships canceled around the country last summer, making career connections has been another stressor for students. Campuses have adapted by offering online career fairs to help. Lafayette College’s fall career fair morphed into a virtual event that managed to draw nearly as many employers as previous in-person fairs. More than 450 students participated, according to Mike Summers, Assistant Vice President of Lafayette’s Gateway Career Center. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, students have continued to engage with career counseling services using the virtual technologies, he says.
Take advantage of what your college offers even if you’re a younger student—because it’s never too early to utilize the career services office. Start by signing up for your career center’s email notifications and social media channels. Michael Rienzi, a senior at Adelphi University, sought help from his career center for creating his résumé and cover letters before applying for internships and jobs. He was also able to schedule a room with a computer for an interview that he didn’t want to conduct at his house. His advice? “Check your emails,” he says. A double-major in Marketing and Communications, Rienzi says he ignored career center emails for the first couple of years of college. Because of it, he almost missed out on learning about Adelphi’s Jaggar Community Fellow Program, which he applied to and was selected for.
Rahul Bhojwani, a junior at Bentley University, became a career colleague this year because he got so much mentoring from his career center that he wanted to give back. He works with first- and second-year students to help them develop a career path of their own. “This is an especially tough time for younger students because their college experience is being defined by an online, virtual atmosphere,” he says.
Create a routine and schedule downtime
With professors willing to communicate at all hours and asynchronous classes available any time of day, many students feel fragmented and buried in their screens all the time. Try creating structure and downtime, experienced students suggest. Merriman says she and her roommates have created a daily routine of gathering at their dining room table to log in to their classes and do homework together. The structure offers the feeling of the classroom and the library—at least a little bit. She’s also maintained virtual study groups and gone to virtual review sessions before exams, which she says are well attended.
If you’re struggling to stay on track, try starting the day with a to-do list and creating a space to do schoolwork, if that’s possible where you live. And make sure to prioritize logging off. Wilder Brice, student government president at Bucknell University, says he schedules time to work out or go for a walk with someone. Or, if they’re open in your area, head to a coffee shop or to your physical campus for a change of scenery, says Rienzi.
Reach out for other kinds of help
It may be that the issue behind an academic slide or general malaise is bigger than simply connecting with your professors for extra help. Many more students are struggling with mental health this year. Check your campus health center for a list of health and wellness programs. Many health centers offer telehealth appointments. Just do something for yourself if you’ve been struggling. And if you’re struggling financially—which also causes stress and mental health problems—find out if your campus has a Basic Needs Office to learn how your campus can help you. Alternatively, ask your Dean of Students, Student Affairs, or Multicultural Office where to start. Many campuses have a food pantry, but some colleges also offer more comprehensive help. Talk to someone on your campus. These resources are another strategy for success, so don’t be afraid to use them.
The pandemic has brought on many struggles for college students, but professors, academic advisors, counselors, resource offices, and more are all trying to find ways to make things a little easier. Make the effort to connect with and utilize these resources as the pandemic continues to set yourself up for academic and future success. It’s important to take good care of your mental health and ask for the help you need.
See the COVID-19 student resources page for a comprehensive list of resources for any struggle you may be having during the pandemic.