8 Tips for Being a Student When You're Social-Distancing

It’s undeniable that we live in strange, strange times. With a virus spreading like wildfire and people being told to stay in their homes, it can feel like we’re all stuck in one of those end-of-the-world novels (Stephen King’s The Stand, anyone?). But amidst the chaos and uncertainty, those of us in some form of school have found ourselves thrust into a new reality: online classes.

I’m currently in my first year of law school, and a little over a week ago my school decided that they would transition to online classes for three weeks until everything calmed down and then we would plan on all coming back to regular classes. However, a few days later they announced that, like so many other schools across the United States, we would be doing online classes for the rest of the semester. Personally, I have mixed feelings about online classes. Attending all my classes via Zoom means that I can wear comfy clothes all day and I don’t have to bother putting on make-up, packing a lunch, or trekking to school. On the other hand, it also means that I don’t get to see any of my classmates in person and that I essentially just sit at my desk all. Day. Long.

Here are some tips that have helped me in my transition to entirely online law school classes. I hope they help you as well!

1. Stick to a routine…

If you’re anything like me, then you’re creature of habit that requires at least some semblance of a routine in order to function. I recommend finding a routine and sticking with it during this time, whether that be waking up or going to bed around the same time every day, having that morning cup of coffee, or even calling friends every week. Sticking with a routine will help this strange debacle we’re in feel a little bit more… normal?

2. … But not necessarily your old routine!

However, just because you’re sticking to a routine doesn’t mean that you have to follow your old routine. Don’t be afraid to switch things up! Usually I’m the kind of person who likes to get as much work done as possible during the day so I can have a bit of free time at night. But after a few days of doing online classes I realized that in order to keep from getting stiff from sitting at the same desk all day I would likely have to take more breaks throughout the day instead. My knees and back have definitely thanked me for being flexible on this one!

3. Designate a specific workspace for yourself.

If possible, make a distinction between where you do work and where you do other things. In other words, don’t do work in your bed if you can help it! Personally, I find that I’m much more productive if I’m sitting up at a desk than if I’m all cozy in bed where novels or Netflix are just a simple reach away… Plus, it’s nice to feel as though you have somewhere to go to do work, even if it’s just across your bedroom like my desk is.

Welcome to my desk!

4. Be intentional with your workspace.

By this I mean that you should do your best to design a space that suits you. If you like cozy things like mean, this could mean lighting a candle, stringing some lights, and having a mug of coffee by your side. Regardless of what makes you happy, I would recommend keeping your space clean and as clutter-free as possible to avoid it feeling overwhelming.

5. Create to-do lists– and stick to them!

I LOVE to-do lists. I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. But during this time of social-distancing, I’ve found myself even more inclined to rely on them throughout the day. As someone used to attending classes face-to-face and having a structured day of meetings and events I have to go to, it feels a bit strange to not leave the house for days on end. Following a to-do list can help make your day feel more structured than it actually is.

6. Keep in touch with classmates and professors.

Zoom or other online ways of doing classes are great alternatives during these times, but they can’t make up for the lack of face-to-face interaction with classmates and professors. I think it’s especially important that you maintain those connections through extra emails, Zoom calls, or other ways of staying in touch. For instance, some of my law school friends and I have set aside an hour and a half block once a week where we can all catch up and chat, both about school and other things going on in our lives. Not only does this help you feel more connected, but it also gives you something to look forward to each week.

A lovely little window that I gaze out longingly…

7. Get offline.

I’ve noticed that while doing online classes it’s easy to get sucked into being on my computer all. Day. Long. From attending classes in general to doing homework and even things like blogging, it can feel like I spend most of my day staring at my computer screen. I recommend setting aside some time each day to shut your laptop completely and do something physical–read a paper book, go for a walk, do some crafting, chat with those you live with.

8. Cut yourself some slack.

This is a strange, strange time, and everyone is just trying to do their best–including YOU! Give yourself a break! Go easy on yourself! Talk to yourself as you would a friend! (Don’t worry–I’m saying all these things because they’re things I need to be reminded of, too.) One day at a time, pals.

I hope these tips are at least somewhat helpful and that you’re all doing well! Let me know any other tips you have for being a student when you’re social distancing. Also, let me know how your education has changed because of all of this. I’m really curious!



36 thoughts on “8 Tips for Being a Student When You're Social-Distancing

  1. Definitely agree with not working in bed – I tried this as a student and ended up having back pain for several weeks, which ruined my concentration and made studying more difficult! I can also recommend trying a “standing desk” approach, just by putting your keyboard on a higher surface, to mix things up.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this post! I’m definitely going to struggle with online classes from home… just unfortunately had to move back from my dorm, where I would do most my studying from the library, to my childhood bedroom where… I haven’t gotten out of bed except to eat in the past week? (am in bed rn). I always used to do homework from bed in high school… don’t think that’s gonna fly anymore

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love planning beforehand and making to-do lists but that never happens! I end up scraping the entire list and do what my mind tells me to. Sometimes, having a list really pressurises me lol

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I definitely agree with designating a specific work space and getting offline!! Working from your bed can definitely making getting stuff done pretty hard, I can say that from experience, haha! Also, getting offline is very important like you said, after a while, it can get hard to always be online because you start to feel as if you’ve gotten nothing done… because it’s all online!! Sometimes just taking a break can make all the difference.
    Something I would suggest would be to give yourself goals, and the goals don’t even have to be related to your work! FaceTiming a friend can be a goal, and I know that it helps encourage me to get my work done in order to have a little fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m homeschooled, and I learned that it’s okay to take breaks whenever you feel like it just get back on track after. Homescholling has really taught me, and this article helped me to spice up school through this whole conundrum.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My school’s in the midst of deciding right now. The students are actually pretty split–some of us (including me) want mandatory P/F, but because law school is so competitive in terms of grades/internships/jobs, a lot of students want the option to get actual grades still so they can boost their GPAs.


      1. I read some of the reasons the Notre Dame students want to go P/F, and it includes things like watching younger siblings and being unable to focus while online. I feel mean saying it, but these are everyday challenges that the average middle class and lower student faces. These excuses feel flimsy to me. However, I think there are valid reasons, such as no access to the physical library collection, living in a time zone that’s quite different from where the school is located, and all those poor international students (ND tends to have a lot of them).


      2. Ahh I see. But I don’t think those reasons are flimsy at all. For instance, there are quite a few students in my class who are mothers and fathers and are now home trying to homeschool their kids because schools are closed while also doing law school simultaneously. Some people are sick, some people are taking care of family members, and others are experiencing severe mental health issues from this pandemic. To me, mandatory pass/fail is the only fair way to account for this inequity in a system like law school where students are forced to be graded against each other in every class on a competitive curve. That’s just my opinion in my current situation, and you make a great point about the valid physical barriers as well.


      3. Oh! I see what you’re saying. I’m thinking more about undergraduate students and not grad school programs, though of course there are people with children in undergraduate programs.


  6. These are all amazing tips! My university has decided to stick to online classes for now, and the whole country is under emergency status until April 2nd. Then, they’ll decide what to do. But there are rumours we’ll have online classes the whole semester, and take exams in September. I’m not completely happy about the whole online classes situation, to be honest. My French teacher is not even giving class, he’s just assigning us LOTS of homework – it’s crazy, he probably thinks we have more time now that we’re home. And neither is my Marketing teacher, she’s just uploading the PowerPoints, opening a forum for questions and scheduling quizzes (that I think are evaluated), but without classes and someone explaining it, how am I supposed to learn? On top of that, I have two more classes and my internship. since I can work from home, I’ve been doing my internship work every day, eight hours per day, so I can finish it asap, so I’m always tired, … It’s really not ideal! Hopefully, everything will go back to normal soon. How are you doing with online classes? πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no!! That sounds so stressful!! We do all of our online classes over Zoom, so we still have lectures, discussions, cold calls, etc. But they haven’t told us what we’re doing for exams yet… agh! I hope everything goes okay for you!!! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had my first Zoom lecture last Friday, and it was a short one because my teacher was still getting used to it. But he’s pretty much the only one trying, that’s what annoys me. I hope everything turns out alright for you too! ❀

        Liked by 1 person

  7. These are some great tips, not just for students but for those who have to work from home too! Setting a routine is really helpful and getting away from the computer/media helps alleviate some pressure or feelings of idleness. Getting up, walking around, chatting with friends, and just filling up your day with some variety can help you from feeling too confined. Awesome post, thanks for sharing! πŸ˜€


    1. Yeah same for me. I’m home schooled and honestly the stress of this stuff has gotten to me so bad I just decided to start spring break early…πŸ˜‚ Also YES getting away from electronics helped so much! At first I did strictly online classes, and I was losing track of what’s what and where it is, so I changed to half and half computer and workbook. I swear it saved my soul.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s like the equivalent of just taking a nap when you have so much homework 🀣🀣 I salute you lol. Yeah, it can definitely feel disorienting spending so much time on electronic devices. Stepping away for a bit throughout the day can really rejuvenate the soul lol

        Liked by 1 person

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