Be realistic. Goal setting is an important part of striving for success and growth, but setting unrealistic goals is likely to lead to failure and frustration. At one point, I was determined to take at least seventeen credits and five classes for the upcoming fall semester. At least. And I intended to do that while maintaining two jobs. At least. And maintaining membership in a student organization.
Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that the schedule I was previously imagining would be unrealistic to take on in a healthy manner. So the question was not ‘can I do this,’ but rather, ‘should I do this?’ Even in a pre-COVID-19 world that schedule would have been…ambitious, but as someone who struggles with online classes, it would have been irresponsible to commit myself to so many things. So just evaluate and be honest, because you will not necessarily be able to take on as much as you could have before you were living through the chaos of a pandemic or maybe by some chance you’ll need something to take up more time to combat boredom. Whatever the case may be, it really defies logic to expect to work the same way now as you would have under completely different circumstances, i.e. if COVID-19 were not a reality. Being realistic is something that will help you with the other steps.
Adjust Accordingly. The best-laid plans are often a distant memory by the time the first bump in the road appears. So give yourself some breathing room. For example, if I were to decide to follow through on the five class minimum schedule, believing it realistic, a great option would be to consider the first week a test run and try out my schedule, pay attention to the syllabi and be prepared to make necessary changes such as dropping certain classes or switching them out. This still requires the skills of honesty from the first step, because dropping that creative writing class that seems really fun may sting a little, but in the long run, it’s better that it not become a burden and feel like a chore while you muddle your way through Science of Water.
Stay organized and commit. This is the hardest part of online classes for me. I am usually not a long-term plan person when it comes to schoolwork. In the past few semesters of college, I have gotten into the habit of scheduling my assignments a week in advance but I go slack-jawed when my friends talk about having their entire semester’s assignments marked down during syllabus week. I think the week in advance system works fine, but there is the matter of actually sitting down each week or however often you need to plan things out. That is where the second aspect comes in: the commitment. It’s about following through on your plan to plan, as well as the plans themselves. It also relies on being realistic because if you’re not, commitment is less likely. In the spring, it didn’t matter how many media and communications classes or psychology classes I had sat through hearing about how multitasking is not practical, there I still was watching TV while working on assignments. That is not a commitment to setting aside time to work.
Introspect. Figure out what it is you need to make sure that your student life can stay a priority without becoming a source of misery or exhaustion. Someone once theorized to me that you couldn’t possibly commit to work, sleep and social life and do well at all of them, but I disagree. Sleep, and moreover relaxation and self-care, are integral to a functioning routine for students, especially now, when the ever-present uncertainty of current events can be harmful to mental health. Taking the time to check in with yourself and figure out what you need to do outside of school to stay on track in school is important. Maintaining social connections, even when they look different than before is another way to prevent life from becoming horrifying news, work, and sleep. It may not seem like there’s much to catch up on, but at least for some, hopping on Netflix Party is an option that gives you plenty to talk about.
Communicate. Ask your professor questions and give them information such as whether timelines are realistic, or whether you have extenuating circumstances that affect your ability to complete schoolwork. Professors may be required to complete training this summer about teaching online, but that doesn’t change the fact that many of them are essentially first-year educators when it comes to teaching an entirely online course. Knowledgeable as they may be, they don’t know everything and they certainly can’t read minds so it’s important to raise any concerns that you have as soon as you have them, respectfully of course.