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10 Tips to Survive the Fall Semester Online

10 Tips to Survive the Fall Semester Online

10 Tips to Survive the Fall Semester Online

The Graduate Student Ambassadors from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona have identified 10 Tips to Survive the Fall 2020 Semester of "remote learning." These tips are intended to help incoming and returning students find ways to optimize their remote learning and working experience during this challenging time!

1. Create a Routine That Works for You

Even though it may not feel like you have much to plan for these days, we can assure you that creating a routine and keeping a calendar or planner of some sort will help you feel organized and motivated for the semester! Plan out everything you have to accomplish each day, including classes, assignments, and work, and you'll be able to identify times when you can schedule in exercise, cooking, cleaning, and connecting with friends and family. Getting into a routine that works for you will help add structure and flow to your days and weeks this semester!

2. Personalize Your Workspace

Create a “zen zone” for your workplace. Personalize your desk or wherever you get your work done in order to create the most comfortable learning environment for yourself. There is no “one size fits all” for this, and you know yourself better than anyone, so figure out how to minimize distractions while you are trying to stay focused during the week.

3. Dress for Work 

We know it’s tempting to roll out of bed and into your chair for a Zoom meeting with “bed head” and no camera on. But if you take the time to get ready for work and school like you would if you were going to leave the house, the preparation really improves your ability to shift modes mentally and stay productive during the workday, especially if your bed and workspace are in the same room!

4. Meal Prep On Weekends To Free Up More Time During the Week

No one has time to cook in the middle of the day with back to back Zoom classes and meetings – at least we don’t! Try to spend some time over the weekend to prepare meals ahead of time (“meal prep”) by making bulk batches of meals and maybe even some treats for the week. This will save you loads of time later and help you feel accomplished before the week even begins!

5. Schedule in Time for Movement

Moving your body, however you like to do it, makes a big difference. Whatever your activity might be – walking, yoga, cycling, dancing, or P90X – is important because it boosts brain function and even improves memory (Physical Health, 2020). Plus, exercise and movement will help combat Zoom fatigue. Moving your body is also a great way to stay nimble and avoid stiffness from sitting for long periods of time.  

6. Remember Your Friends Still Exist

It can be hard to reach out if you are feeling overwhelmed, but it is important to stay in touch. Friends can be an important part of your support network and staying connected can help you stay focused. Also, as a student, new friends are always out there! Consider starting up a virtual book club, a regular happy hour date with friends or students, or a creative endeavor like virtual origami, crocheting, or game night group via Zoom. If you enjoy fitness with friends, find a friend to be an accountability buddy and you can work out together virtually!

7. Stay Mindful on News Sites and Social Media

Almost all of us spend time on social media and consume online news and entertainment. Social media and news can be a wonderful way to stay connected to friends and family and what is happening in the world, especially during this time! We would encourage you to stay mindful while using social media and while consuming the news and entertainment. If the news or posts become too overwhelming, or if you notice you are “infinite scrolling” while procrastinating on schoolwork, try taking a break from your phone and look out the window or step outside for a bit. Especially during COVID times, it’s smart to pay attention to how our consumption of news and social media affects us!

8. Be Willing to Adjust Your Expectations

This semester will continue to evolve as we continue to figure out how to “do school” with a mix of in-person and online courses (if you’re like us, we’re mostly remote learning). This can be a difficult transition for those who’ve never taken online classes before. Be sure to track deadlines for all your classes and try to break up projects and papers into smaller, achievable tasks to help you stay sane throughout the semester.

9. Make Intentional Communication a Priority (i.e. Network on the Network!)

Especially for grad students, don’t forget you can still work on your research and professional goals while remote learning. Use Zoom to network! If you don’t have questions for a professor, consider going to their office hours anyway to learn even more about what you are covering in class and also connect with your professor. If you identify faculty or staff you are interested in learning from, you can always schedule an informational interview virtually!

10. Schedule Time to Step Away from the Screen

Before the pandemic, many of us didn’t realize all the non-screen time that used to make up daily student life. Biking or driving to and from class, running to Catalyst Café to grab a coffee, chatting with friends before class, or having a quiet moment outside Drachman Hall filled our student days. Remember that you can still create these moments for yourself to take a break throughout the day, even if life looks different. Here are a few suggestions to break up the day: 10-minute guided meditation, doodling/ journaling in between long stretches of online time, spend a few minutes outside between classes or take a lap around the block. You could even have an outdoor picnic during your lunch break (weather-permitting)!

This list was created by this year’s graduate MEZCOPH Ambassadors. Meet both your undergraduate and graduate ambassadors here:


Physical Exercise. (2020). Cleveland Clinic Healthy Brains website. Accessed September 17, 2020.

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