Tips on having a college experience during COVID-19

Photo by @flaglercollege on Instagram

By Casey Niebuhr |

My heart goes out for the college freshmen. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted millions of a unique experience that is the first year of college, and this sudden change into the virtual world has many feeling as though they’re running on four hours of sleep, ice coffee, and nicotine.

The transition onto virtual learning has brought a struggle between mental health and the demands of college environment in an unprecedented competition. Freshmen are at a loss of a unique experience due to the sudden change of the coronavirus, and its growing continuously strenuous as the semester continues.

It is important to remember that if you are a college freshman, you are not alone in this uncertainty. Millions are in the same situation as you; and you should find comfort in knowing that someone else understands the pressure.

To potentially help ease the burden of this semester, I wish to offer a few bits of advice that have helped me navigate my semester in the past month.

Online learning is not a vacation.

It’s difficult to stay motivated this semester. Online learning has brought more work, and sometimes it feels as though we’re not learning anything: we’re just scrolling through social media while our Zoom class substitutes background noise.

You still have responsibilities, and a commitment to yourself as a college student to continue, and strive for the best possible learning outcome. The best advice is to keep a clear line of communication open between you and your professors, peers, and parents.

You need a sense of structure.

I miss when coronavirus first hit, and I would have my Zoom calls in bed, without a care in the world; but that loss of routine catches up to you, and it drags you down.

Assignments go in missing or late, your sleep schedule in shambles, your hygiene is non-existent, you’re having your first meal at 5p.m. and you feel like you’re slipping. You need a sense of predictability to keep you sane.

Reach out.

In COVID times, it’s essential we identify and manage our emotions, and make sure we can identify what others are feeling, in the wake of mental health stress.

While in-person support is limited or not available, the use of telehealth is just as important. Send an e-mail to your professor and ask for help. Attend their office hours. Take advantage of the resources that are available to you.

Be mindful of exposure.

We’re in the middle of a pandemic…you are not exempt from putting your and others’ health at a top priority. I understand how frustrating it is: you were stuck inside for five months and now a college is expecting socially-starved teens to be socially distant…not the best plan.

You’re not the only one who’s struggling, sweetie. We have to be considerate of others during this time, and we need to keep our physical distance from each other.

Wear your mask, wipe down the areas you touch, and be mindful of what you’re doing, and how it may impact the campus and its operations as a whole.

Stay connected.

Physical distance doesn’t mean you have to be socially distant. Take this moment of life to send letters to your friends who are back home or off at college; you’re adapting to a greater commitment of friendship and you’re supporting the U.S. Postal Service—what could be better than that?

Take advantage of the events the school puts on (they’re doing it for you!). Take part of co-curriculars and clubs. Interact through your college’s social media accounts and digital activities.

Get creative with your social connections. Take initiative and set up a dinner date on Zoom with your peers. My friends and I got on a call together and played Cards Against Humanity online…there’s always something you can get your hands on.

In this age, we need to make sure we can still properly manage friendships and relationships, while still putting emphasis on not only our mental and physical health, but also the health of others. Make the most of what in-person interaction is available to you, and don’t do anything that isn’t necessary when you have an alternative action.

While your freshmen year of college may be a difficult transition, it doesn’t mean you can’t be safe, sane, and sanitized.

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