It feels intimidating enough to leave behind your comfortable years at school as you move into college, but to do it online this year, due to the CoronaVirus pandemic, can seem especially daunting. Having to study or work by yourself at home, through a virtual platform, is certainly the new, unfamiliar reality that we’re all trying to adjust to. Your first year of college is a unique learning experience that propels you towards being an independent, educated individuals and therefore, the transition from school to college is challenging enough as it is. However, even if it is through your device screens, there are a number of things you can keep in mind to maximize what you gain from it.

·   Feel like skipping lectures? Don’t do it!

It’s extremely tempting to skip online lectures, or to attend them but not pay any attention, because you’re surrounded by the coziness of your home and its pleasures. There are innumerable distractions abound, and being lazy has never been easier. But don’t underestimate how crucial it is to be present in classes, as otherwise, you could miss out on important portions and points. One helpful tip to deal with this is to create a separate productive space at a quiet corner in your house- a particular desk or room that you use solely for work and not leisure activities. Don’t study sitting on your beds or other places that are too snug, and take care to have a fixed sleep schedule.

For freshmen especially- ensure that you make the most out of your orientation sessions as they offer the perfect chance to learn more about your College/ University, its attendance, course and credit structures, and about how it works and functions. You can ask questions and get acquainted with the atmosphere of your institution.

·   How should you deal with e-books and online learning material?

Most textbooks and reference materials are only accessible in a digital format this year. Take printouts of all that you can, so as to reduce screen time, but not to such an extent that you end up wasting paper unnecessarily. Familiarize yourself with the syllabus and reference books required, and come up with a way to organize notes and other relevant materials.  Arrange your files by subject and make notes regularly during lectures.

Ensure that your documents are always backed up to the cloud -for example, by using Google Drive, Docs and Sheets. Also keep your computer protected from malware so that the risk of getting your files corrupted is reduced. This can be done by installing Anti-Virus software and ad-blockers like McAfee or Malwarebytes.

·   Want to participate in more than just studies?

Many people look forward to accumulating holistic and well-rounded knowledge through extracurricular involvement in college, above and beyond book learning.  Although this might be considerably more difficult online, it’s not entirely impossible. You can always join webinars, online workshops and clubs that are organized online. It’s not the same as being part of a society at your University and having a physical engagement, but there are still plenty of opportunities out there. Colleges have been organizing everything from dance workshops to baking classes, seminars and talks, poetry sessions, photography lessons and so on, organized on platforms like Zoom, YouTube or Google Meet, that you can learn a lot from. You can write for your department blog or join an association. You can also participate in fests or MUNs as many are organized online these days. It’s a process of exploration that can help you find and enjoy what you love or build up your skills in a certain area. College, virtual or otherwise, is the best place to try new things and work on your personal development and leadership skills. You can also meet new people through this, and it is essential as a Freshman to expand your network.

·   Feeling disconnected? Reach out to your professors, seniors and classmates.

It can feel unreal having to shift to college or university virtually- facing and working with an entirely new set of people without ever having met them can certainly be tough. So as early as possible, take the initiative to get in contact with your classmates as it would be reassuring to know that others are in the same boat as you. Also, connect with your seniors and your professors (after finding out the virtual office hours) even before your classes start and have one-on-one conversations with them to familiarize yourself with the structure and feel of your college. Establish strong bonds with them and do not hesitate to ask for extra academic support, especially if you’re struggling to adjust to this new reality. This can be done via text, email or phone calls but ensure that you communicate in a mature, professional and effective manner. Even in the cyberspace, make an effort to network and collaborate.

·   How can you be studying efficiently in the technology world?

There are numerous mobile apps, websites, extensions and other digital resources that can enhance productivity and facilitate better learning. Apps like BeFocused and Pomodoro Timer help manage your time. The Forest app and extensions like Cold Turkey help reduce screen time by blocking out distracting apps or websites. This is essential because there is increased usage of your devices as a result of online classes and it becomes easy to jump on to Netflix or Instagram.

There also are good apps for organization and planning, such as Notion and Evernote, and syncing your upcoming classes, tasks and assignments to your Google Calendar can be beneficial as they give you reminders when things are due. Cam Scanner and Adobe Scan are good options for scanning and creating PDFs and Quizlet is an excellent app for studying with the help of Flashcards. Some more examples include Audible, Photomath and Khan Academy, among other such learning resources and productivity apps that can encourage you to work better. Keep checking your college/ university website regularly so as not to miss out on important information. Ensure that you have good network connectivity, working devices and all other required facilities ready before classes start to avoid technical issues later on.

·   Excessive screen-time getting to you?

After sitting through online lectures for hours, you still have to depend on your devices for further learning material and other general use. Hence your average screen time will spike immensely, and this is detrimental to your physical and mental health.

So, when you want to entertain yourself during your study breaks, try to avoid the screens and engage in activities like reading, painting, baking or any kind of creative work. Make it a point to be active, spend some time outdoors and exert yourself physically now and then. Spend time with your family, socialize in whatever way you can and build relationships. Over-using technological devices and sitting at one spot just staring at your screens all day can lead to headaches, unhealthy posture, obesity, a disturbed sleep schedule and so on. Control and manage your time by creating a proper schedule and timetable.

There is no denying that this phase is unfamiliar and confusing for all of us- but it is the reality, at least for the time being. Buckle up and do your best, as with solid plans, organization, and consistent efforts, you can survive even during this uncertain, challenging period. Be persistent, hold yourself accountable, and liberally utilize all resources and opportunities that come your way.  Transitioning to University is a milestone in your life and having to do it through a digital educational platform can be difficult. Students are on their own and it would require strict discipline to keep up with classwork. So, we hope these tips help you face your online freshman year of college with confidence and enthusiasm. Good luck for the academic year!

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