The College Experience: How to Adapt and Thrive When Studying Remotely

by Ben Kissam

For nearly all students, the college experience is going to look different this school year. Due to COVID-19 health restrictions and modifications, the majority of Azusa Pacific University’s student body will engage in remote learning this fall.

No doubt there will be a learning curve, but the university community is here to support you! You might even discover new opportunities, experiences, or even skill sets you didn't know you had as a result of this new season. Here are some tips to help you succeed this fall semester and beyond.

Start with Acceptance

Not knowing what’s happening (or what’s on the horizon) has become the new normal for everyone. Learning to adapt to this reality and remain flexible can help you rise above the challenges.

The first thing you can do to get ahead is to accept the situation in front of you. Make a mental commitment to do the best you can possibly do this year—no matter what. Approaching the semester with a positive outlook will reduce your chances of getting flustered, frustrated, or feeling like this semester doesn’t “count.”

“I encourage you to find reasons why working virtually is a good thing,” said Tedd Szeto, Ph.D., executive director of APU’s Academic Success Center. “Perhaps you can maximize your time better, have easier access to resources, improve one-on-one connections with faculty and peers, build your competence with technology, or test your resilience.”

It will take effort, but you might be amazed at what you can achieve when you committ to giving it your best and take advantage of the many resources available.

Establish a Routine

Yes, it will feel very different to do your classes remotely. You might discover you have more time without needing to travel to and from classes, or transition between classrooms. How you use that time matters. As with any new semester, establishing a routine is one of the best things you can do. From creating dedicated time to study to setting a firm bedtime every night, routines can help you stay productive and healthy while offering you a sense of normalcy and control, according to Healthline.

To begin to create a routine, you can:

  • Buy a planner.
  • Build a home office or workspace for classes and homework.
  • Block off study times.
  • Decide when you’ll eat meals in between classes.
  • Decide how and when you’ll exercise.
  • Decide when you’ll go to sleep.

Remember that it’s also wise to plan some flexible downtime that can be used however you need (or want) to. Having an idea of what your week might look like isn’t only good for academic success—it also might make the college experience feel somewhat normal again!

Strike a Balance

“We are not built for isolation, so utilizing online resources and opportunities to stay connected will be important,” said Bill Fiala, Ph.D, dean of student wellness at APU. “However, it will be equally important to create some space for ‘disconnecting’ from Zoom and social media.”

The truth is, you’ll probably spend a lot more time on the computer this semester than you’re used to. This might not be your ideal setup—but it doesn’t mean it can’t be managed effectively. You simply need to make the most of the time you spend online.

Keep screen time in mind as you build your weekly routine. Prioritize the most important tasks, like attending class or meeting with your professors during their office hours. And maybe swap out those Netflix sessions for something that takes place offline.

This could be a great excuse to build some new healthy habits, like getting outside, connecting with friends, de-stressing, and praying or engaging in mindfulness.

Remember What Isn’t Changing

“APU students are accustomed to faculty and staff who are available and invested in their well-being,” said Fiala. “That will not change this semester.”

University faculty are eager to teach, challenge, and support you as you continue to learn and develop skills for your chosen career path. Staff across campus are ready to assist you in all areas as well, including providing opportunities to stay connected as a community. Take a moment to think about all the resources available to you that won’t be changing, such as:

With a few tweaks in your perspective and some effective planning, the college experience doesn’t have to be that much different than it’s been in years past. In fact, if you approach it with the right mindset, this school year is a great opportunity for you to develop the skills of a leader willing to persevere through uncertain times—a trait that will serve you for the rest of your life.

Curious to learn more about the Azusa Pacific University experience and resources this fall? Explore the school’s remote learning webpage and articles.