Tips for Success During an Online School Year

Written by: Nicole Lagace 

From vibrant campus life and packed lecture halls with friends, to Zoom lectures and working from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the student lifestyle in ways we could not have imagined.

Learning from home has its upsides: you can set your own schedule; you can attend lectures from anywhere you would like; and there's no travel time to get to class. However, there are some new and unexpected challenges for everyone, and we've all had to make changes to our student experience. Navigating these changes can be tricky, but fortunately, we have some tips and tricks to help keep you happy, healthy, and successful during this online school year!

1. Make a Calendar!

An image of a weekly calendar and a penWith online school, it may feel difficult to keep track of upcoming assignments, quizzes, and tests. Going through each of your OWL sites and putting all your due dates in one place can help you stay organized and reduce stress around missing anything important. To stay on top of things, look out for your upcoming deadlines in the weeks ahead so you can manage your workload accordingly.

Not sure where to look? Here are some of my favourite ways to keep track of deadlines!

  • Use a calendar app like iCal, Outlook calendar, or Google Calendar.
  • Like checklists? Todoist is great for organizing your to-do lists however you would like, setting deadlines for each item, and having a list of all your upcoming tasks!
  • Not a fan of online organizers? Grab a planner, calendar, or bullet journal and write in all your deadlines by hand.

2. Managing Your Workload

Have you ever started your day saying you were going to get a ton of work done, only to find yourself struggling to make progress? While this is a common experience for many of us, it can be especially challenging to hold yourself accountable when working from home. Setting aside blocks of time dedicated to working on a specific task and committing to them can help you tackle your to-do list.

3. Staying Connected

Two people on a Zoom callDuring an online school year, it's easy to feel like you're learning on your own. To stay connected, you could try:

  • Reaching out to your network of classmates about an upcoming deadline, to work on an assignment, or study together (in person or virtually).
  • Join a club! While club week has passed, you can still sign up! Check out some clubs here. Not sure what you want to join? The USC has made a speed dating quiz for you to find your perfect match! Check it out!

4. Create a Good Study Space!

It's important to have a good study space at home. To do so, it is a good idea to minimize clutter, distractions, and have everything you need beforehand (your computer, books, pens, paper, and water). Good lighting, organizers, and small decorations like plants can really help liven up your space! Of course, if you don't want to study at home, you can check out a nearby coffee shop, or book a spot at an on-campus library.

5. Break-up Your Day

Taking breaks has been proven to increase productivity. When working at home, we no longer spend time travelling between classes, club meetings, and study spots. Without some changes in where we're going, it can be difficult to split up our day, which can make the time fly by and decrease your productivity. To get around this, it's good to take breaks and get out of the house, walk around, or do something fun to get your mind off studying for a bit before getting back to work!

How long should your breaks be? How long should your work blocks be? This is up to you! Think about how long you can work without feeling mental fatigue, and how long it takes for you to bounce back. Not sure where to start? Try out the Pomodoro technique, a proven method of increasing productivity!

6. Find Your Favourite Way to De-stress

Any semester at university can be stressful, and it's important to manage that! Here are some fun things you can do when you take breaks during the day, or to have fun and relax after a long day of work:

  • Exercise: Go for a walk, run, do a home workout, or stretch.
  • Listen to music.
  • Read a book, or listen to your favorite podcasts and audiobooks.
  • Watch an episode (or a season!) of a show or a movie.
  • Try out a new recipe.
  • Draw, colour, or paint.
  • Hang-out with friends - safely, of course!


My biggest tip for you is to keep at it! Building habits can be tough, and it may be hard at first, but sticking to your goals can help you create your own success. Best of luck and have a great school year!


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