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Column: Contemplating college during Covid? An expert offers tips

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

COVID College Coping

As I write this, I am, like the rest of you, working from home, where I am also living, eating, sleeping, watching movies, and, occasionally but mostly theoretically, working out. The state I live in (New York) is under stay at home orders, schools and colleges are out for what will most likely be the remainder of the year, and everyone is trying to navigate this strange new world. As a college counselor and instructor, I am teaching on line, and as a parent, I am watching a college student, a high school student, and a middle school student adapt to the new reality of online and often asynchronous learning. Schedules are in disarray, routines are disrupted. Here are some tips from the front lines to help keep students on track and on task, in turn keeping as much normalcy as possible.

  1. Stay on schedule. Keeping a daily routine, or close to it, can help students remain task-oriented. As they already spent a fair amount of the year studying or learning information during a designated class time, keeping that schedule or some close approximation of it may help with retention of information.

  2. Keep a sleep schedule. This one may be tough. For many of us, the freedom from having to be somewhere specific at a certain time makes staying up late and sleeping in a real possibility. But rest and proper sleep are important not just for overall health but for learning. A rested body is less susceptible to illness, depression, and anxiety.

  3. Use the Resources Just about every school, college, or university that has moved now to the online model has also developed extensive resources to also provide support services and non-classroom services in a distance model as well. This includes counseling, tutoring, career planning and just about every other function that a school provides. Those people are eagerly awaiting a chance to serve the students that they have dedicated their careers to. Find them and access them. Now more than ever they are here for you. If you’re between schools or unable to access your school, many counselors and tutoring services exist on line.

  4. Stay engaged it is easy to blow off or even be intimidated by online learning, especially when it’s introduced so rapidly and it’s not what we signed on for- this is hard for the faculty too! But keep at it. If you’re struggling or having technical issues, reach out to your teachers. Email still works, and most are now available via Zoom, Skype, or other school-based platforms. In my day job at the College, I have been meeting with students online with Zoom and other platforms. Colleges are conducting virtual tours and information sessions (I recently heard from a colleague at an outstanding small regional liberal arts university that had an online open house where the attendance dwarfed any of their regular days). Stay involved with friends, just do it from a distance. That human interaction is what we are built for and what makes us stronger.

  5. Pause Take time each day to relax. We’re fortunate in America in that yes, we’re isolated and stuck at home, but many of us also have food, shelter, and, beyond the basic necessities, we have wifi, streaming services, family, and friends. Take time each day to reflect on what is good and what you have to be grateful for. Take a walk. Give blood. Learn a new skill or meditate. Practicing self-care and taking time to relax will allow you to focus on responsibilities such as school, work, or maintaining not just your own health, but healthy relationships with those around you. This is an event in which none of us has much experience, but that we have as a culture experienced quarantines, financial crashes, and even forced blackouts and rationing. We can do this and we will come out stronger.

These are unique times but college students and kids in general are resilient and tough. Still, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Kids also like routine and knowing what and where the boundaries are. By keeping to a plan and maintaining schedules and healthy routines, we can make this experience as “normal” as possible.

--Joe Spence lives in Upstate New York, but his advice is relevant to students and parents from around the country who are seeking to advance their education. He is a career and transfer planning specialist in the State University of New York (SUNY) system.He is also a career and college planning counselor in private practice . For more of Joe's insight go to He also can be reached at