Everyone may be able to agree that this year isn’t normal, easy, something one could have prepared for — the list goes on. This year has been, and perhaps will finish out as, a rollercoaster, and academics is no exception. UW-Madison is in week four of the fall semester and it’s already proved complicated after closing down in person classes one week in and reopening two weeks later. There’s more questions than answers, and no way to tell how it’s going to continue to go.
With that being said, there are steps in hopes to soften the blow of any future confusion. The 2020-21 school year is different in more ways than online instruction: there’s how to combat asynchronous courses and schedules with no structure at all; it can feel like a five day weekend when only two days have designated class meeting times. There’s also learning how to hold oneself more accountable in a semester where different things are being expected and the professor may not even be secure in what’s going on.
For asynchronous courses, where are the assignments kept? On the announcements page? Syllabus only? Emails? Home Page? Or perhaps the Discussion Page? Does it feel like there’s more deadlines than if in person to anyone else? To try and reel these problems in, try to figure out the professor’s pattern for each class and mark in an agenda, a piece of paper, or the notes on your phone where they tend to give the information one needs. It’ll help to have it all in one place — like how a class schedule would’ve been. The professor may even have a pattern for when — what day of the week and time of day — they upload lectures, discussion threads, etc. Learn to read the professor. Where they put their information may change from week-to-week or day-to-day —unfortunately they’re having to learn all of this alongside the students too, so be prepared for that. If that seems to happen, check all outlets for the class every morning or when sitting down to work for the first time. Every class is different so don’t fall victim to the assumptions that what most professors tend to do, others will too; some professors find other methods better for their style or content.
Now, take this information and run with it. The fun part is having the control to make a schedule that works for yourself. You have control over your own life. It’s helpful to implement a set schedule, though. Make set times for yourself in the day to focus on one class or an assignment. The schedule will be curated for you by you and will be stable and secure. Make structure in a semester that is highly lacking it.
On the other side of staying organized, something that has helped me has been to have tangible notebooks — going old school, here. I have a specific notebook for each class and color-coded because I needed some spice in my life. You can do this electronically, too, as I know it is easier to look through your notes that way and with various other helpful technological uses. Personally, having a physical notebook gets me out of my head by differentiating where I’m studying from, with everything in class being done online now.
Finally, one of the most important aspects of trying to take on this whirlwind of an academic semester would be the mindset. This year is a rather unnerving time in more ways than one, and school may be one of the last things on your mind. A lot of emotions are at play in everyone’s lives right now and concentration and motivation may be hard to come by. This is all valid. You are justified and are not failing. You are not failing, being unproductive or doing anything wrong.
A mindset for some includes reassurance in school being a constant in their life right now. They can count on there being assignments to do weekly, and expectations that they know they can meet if they go for it. This is not true for everyone, though, as sometimes having to do school is that much more overwhelming. This is why one’s mindset is the most important aspect but also the hardest to master. This is a step that will be different for everyone as this year is unforgiving and affecting everyone differently. You know yourself better than anyone and can discover how best to mentally tackle the school year.
Remember, you are more than your GPA and class grades. Develop a motivator and mindset for yourself that makes you feel strong and capable, because you truly are. When one feels secure and stable in themselves, it can translate into their day-to-day. You are strong and capable, and your school assignments will get done. Trying your best is all anyone can ask for, and it is ok if your best is different this year. Be easy on yourself.