To the Annenberg Class of 2024,
First and foremost, I hope that those of you who live in the greater Los Angeles area are healthy and safe considering the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
Since I wrote to you last, USC has shifted gears, to say the least, going from a hybrid learning plan to a predominantly remote Fall semester. So, before I get into any of today’s letter — if you feel isolated, scared, confused and or overwhelmed, I’m right there with you.
To be completely honest with you, I was hesitant to write you this week because of my uncertainty as to what the semester will look like for me, let alone you. Let’s just say that as much as I am writing this advice to the Class of 2024, I am writing it to myself, as well.
If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that time management and work/life balance are going to define your semester. Managing the time you work and the time you will FaceTime friends could not be more important — especially when our world will mostly be from the confines of our kitchens or maybe even our parents’ kitchens. Yikes.
While it goes without saying that your mental health matters, you will need to make more of a conscious and committed effort to sustain that health during what will be an unusual and possibly overwhelming semester.
What do I mean by this? Sadly, you won’t have the typical freshman-year distractions of a Tuesday night study session or Friday night get-together. It will be a whole lot easier to lock yourself in your room and study relentlessly or do TikToks relentlessly — to each their own.
In any event, finding the right balance of work and play, even in the middle of a global pandemic, could not be more important. So here are some remote study strategies I hope can help you (and me) this semester.
- Invest in your workspace.
Buy a planner, a candle, or a blue-light desk lamp that you are excited about and keep your workspace tidy. The last thing you want on top of due dates is clutter. And please, please do not work in your bed. Just don’t.
- Plan, plan, plan.
College studying is very different from the studying you did in high school. On the first day of class, you will know when every quiz, test, essay and project are due. So, instead of pulling an all-nighter before the test, map out your time so that you schedule 30 minutes of review every day, or every other day. This is not only better for memorization, it’s better for your wellbeing. Caffeine can help, but only so much. I learned that the hard way.
- Make a schedule for yourself.
Set a timer on your phone and get to work. And then, of course, schedule time to stretch your legs, go on a run, eat, or call a friend. Most importantly, set a time that you are done studying for the day. This is key, especially when you most likely won’t have plans to rush off to. Well, besides your couch….
- Cut the distractions and focus.
Yes, that means leaving your beloved phone in another room or at least turning it on airplane mode. Personally, I use a reward system where I let myself check my phone after finishing a problem set or paragraph.
- Find a work- and COVID-friendly environment.
This may be just me, but college turned me into a coffee shop kind of girl. Between my freshly brewed latte, the ambiance of 1950s jazz and the friendliness of familiar faces, I would park myself at different coffee shops around L.A. and crank out an essay or news brief on a given afternoon. COVID makes doing so more complicated, but I know some spots with outdoor seating! And Nature’s Brew near campus is a fabulous place to hunker down. Not going to be in L.A. in the fall? Find a coffee shop in your neighborhood to at least get some breathing space from your parents.
- Study with friends.
Whether it be a Google Hangouts or group FaceTime (because aren’t we all over Zoom?), studying with friends is a great way to stay connected, bond with peers, and crush that exam.
- Do more things that fill your cup.
No more Model U.N. or debate team “because it looks good for college.” Whether it be a remote activity or a socially distanced club, spend some time finding activities that are good for you, not your resume. Ask yourself, ‘How do I like to spend my free time?’ Especially when you are sitting at a computer all day — this is crucial.
- Be kind to yourself.
Last, but certainly not least, when it comes to studying in a remote learning environment, treat yourself gently and with compassion. If you are ever feeling overwhelmed or alone, there are tons of resources on campus to help you get through this difficult time. Similarly, the Annenberg Media Center has a mental health and wellness desk where students come together to help our community live healthier, smarter, more productive lives. You can check out my column here.
I hope that at least one of these tips helps to get you through your Fall semester. But if you take anything away from this newsletter, I want you to know that it is absolutely OK to not be OK. Now read that again. More on that here.
As always, we are all in this together — and don’t you forget it!
Stay healthy, and Fight On!