The Mentorship Spot
15 Tips for Doing School From Home
By Zarin Hossain
With the pandemic taking over our summer and trickling its way into fall, we’re all just learning how to adapt to the new normal. And for school, the new normal is doing class from your bed, trying to focus while your dog barks in the background and missing seeing your friends on campus. We all can agree that school from home isn’t the most ideal, but it is what it is. Here are 15 tips to make school from home a little more tolerable.
1. Wake up early
Honestly, everybody hates waking up early. You don’t have to get up at the crack of
dawn but waking up early really does allow you to have time to have a productive day.
Waking up at noon makes the day feel short already, with less time to get things done.
The earlier you start, the more likely you are to have the evenings free to do whatever
2. Create schedules or To-Do lists
During these times, it feels like we’ll never have an everyday routine ever again. But
creating one… and sticking to it, absolutely helps to make things feel normal. Create a
schedule; not just in your head but written out on paper. This makes it more likely that
you follow it and stay on track. Not really into schedules? To-do lists also make sure you
get done whatever you planned for the day. How satisfying is it to cross off something
on your list?
3. Have effective workspaces
Here’s the thing: a lot of people suggest having a designated workspace for you to do
school. This doesn’t work for me because I get tired of being in the same place, and I think many of you may too. What is really important is to make effective workspaces for
yourself. This may be one designated spot, or several. But your workspaces should allow
you to focus… meaning no beds, couches, or sitting in front of the TV. Instead try a
specific desk, your backyard patio, or a quiet room in your house. A productive space
really does change your motivation.
4. Go outside every day
Whether you liked it or not, school was a reason to get out of the house. Now, not so
much. Make time to get some fresh air every day. Meet up with inner circle friends.
Take a walk/jog around the neighbourhood. Even sit on your front porch. Anything.
Getting just a small dose of the outside prevents that cooped-up stuck-in-the-house
5. Communicate and set boundaries
Let your family or roommates know when you’re in class or working/studying. Maybe
have a do not disturb sign. Communicating early on prevents disruptions and
disagreements with those you live with. The last thing you want is your family to walk in
on your zoom call, or your roommates vacuuming in the background as you’re trying to
listen to your lecture.
6. Use your resources
Online school makes us feel like our resources are not available. We can’t walk up to the
teacher to ask a question or nudge our neighbouring classmates for clarification. Using
resources may be a little more difficult during these times, but nonetheless they are still
available. Feel free to email your profs, talk with classmates and make an effort to
participate and use your resources. Most likely, your profs and TA’s are expecting
questions via email. Even more so, your classmates will likely be happy to have a study
buddy, even if you have to reach out first. Communication during online school is
harder, but not impossible.
7. Participate in extra-curricular activities
For many of us, half our days at school were taken up by clubs and committees.
Although many of our extra-curriculars don’t look the same as they used to, a lot of
them are still running. Commit yourself to your extra-curriculars as much as you do
regularly. It will create a sense of normality and give you something else to do aside
from school. Or if yours aren’t running, this is a great opportunity to fill your time with
something new or out of your comfort zone. Journal clubs, esports and online events
are the new normal, so try them out! You can even make your own club!
8. Actively stay interested
Getting started and motivating oneself is the hardest part of studying, especially from
home. Convincing yourself you are interested in your classes and having a positive
mindsight can help you to get started. Actively making sure you are focusing and trying
to get things done will go a long way in regards to motivation.
9. Read the course outline
Reading the course outline is important for several reasons. First, it allows you to plan
out your calendar for when things are due. Second, it allows you to understand what
types of assignments you will be receiving. With the pandemic, many courses that have
been run similarly for years are suddenly changing. More open book tests, more assignments and less participation marks. Make sure you read the course outline to
make sure you know how your course is being run this year and when your assignments
10. Use quiet time to your advantage
While living with other people and doing school online, boundaries are great but actual
quiet time is rare. When others are working, use this as an opportunity to get a reading
done or make a few notes. Although it may not be part of your routine, this hack allows
you to slightly get ahead and exploit that quiet time that you may not get later.
11. Avoid distractions during school time
Since we’re all studying from home, there’s no chance for a professor to catch you
snoozing in class or going on your phone. But that doesn’t mean you should. Consider
turning off your phone when “in school” (listening to lectures, studying, etc.), or try
downloading a website blocker (such as Cold Turkey) to prevent multitasking
12. Invest in something that makes school easier
With the transition to online school, your study habits may not be working as they used
to. Invest in something that makes online learning easier for you. Some recommend
getting an iPad to make note-taking easy and fun. Others recommend scannable
notebooks that take your physical notes and turn them into pdfs for your computer.
Some also recommend blue light glasses that help prevent headaches from staring at
screens for long periods of time. Having something that makes school easier for you
helps you stay motivated and happier.
13. Do things you miss from in-person school
If you haven’t caught on yet, keeping motivated is about recreating spaces that help you
focus and making it fun. School is about learning, but it’s also a place to socialize and get
out and about. Bring the fun of school to you. This could be making/getting your daily
Starbucks before school starts, or hanging out with your friends “after school” even
online. Make school still enjoyable.
14. Reward yourself
Back when we were IN school, finishing a big midterm or group project meant
celebrating with pizza or going for a night out. Just because you don’t have people to
celebrate with around you does not mean you shouldn’t. Reward yourself when you feel
accomplished. Take the night off, order a pizza, watch a movie, call some friends, etc. It
is important to work hard, but also important to take breaks and recognize your success.
15. Remember your goals
Remembering why you are in school and your long-term goals can help motivate you.
Working towards meaningful goals is always a good reason to do something. We’re all
trying to get a good education, so let’s make the most of it! Work hard and it will pay
With all this said, keep in mind that different things work for different people. Feel free to apply as many or as few things that you feel are best suited to you. It’s always about finding balance and your best learning environment. Good luck with school this year! May you stay motivated and successful!