With school starting up and stress looming, it can seem pretty nerve-wracking to come to campus, either for the first time ever or for the first time in a year and a half. Having personally experienced college before and during the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel like a more-than-competent student; while I don’t have all the answers, I’ve compiled a list of general tips that every student can utilize. 

1. Take advantage of communal spaces

I know with social distancing and mask mandates that it might sound impossible to hang out in communal spaces, but some of my best college memories are laying in the grass around the Duck Pond with friends or studying at Zimmerman Library. Just being around other people makes for a more interesting day. This time around, we just have to do it more carefully.

Having these areas at our disposal is a big privilege that I think a lot of people take for granted. Even the sitting areas on the edges of Smith Plaza are a great place to meet a friend for coffee or do homework, so please don’t stay locked in your room if you can help it — I promise you’ll be better off!

2. Use a planner

Non-planner people (myself included) make their lives so much harder for no reason. I just recently got a planner, and am already feeling a million times better about the semester. Sure, it’s good for school, but if you’re involved with any student organizations or have a job, a planner will completely change your life.

One of the things that kept me from using one was the fact that I never knew how to utilize it correctly. At the beginning of every school year, without fail, I would buy a new planner and instantly neglect it. “The Organized Money,” a YouTube channel focused on productivity and organiztion, has a video tutorial that provides helpful tips for using a planner to the fullest, and it was a lifesaver. By far the best quote from the video was “a messy planner is better than a blank one”; there are tons of other videos and articles just like it if you’re unsure of where to start.

3. Get involved on campus

Now that school is back in person, it’s the perfect opportunity to find a student organization to be a part of. This can make your college years infinitely more fun and meaningful. Having a social hobby outside of classes gives you a chance to explore your interests, make new friends and maybe even find a new passion.

Even if you’re an upperclassmen, it’s not too late! I can say from firsthand experience that it’s so much better to get involved a little later than to never get involved at all.

4. Don’t work too hard

This is probably the most important tip on this list — not working yourself to death is the key to thriving in college. You might think that the more you study the better you’ll do, but the truth is, if you overwork yourself, you’re only setting yourself up for failure. “Burnout” isn’t just a word used by therapists for drama — it’s a very real and widespread problem, especially for college students.

I know, I know — you’re busy. You don’t have time to watch that show you missed the other day or make a good dinner. But I don’t buy it. You need to either make the time or find a few breaks in the day when you can do a little something for yourself. Listen to your body and be conscious of when you should take a breather; it might save you from a major screw up.

5. Be honest with your professors

In my experience, professors are more likely to be lenient with their students if the excuse for a late assignment is “I gotta be real with you; I woke up late and haven’t had time to do it,” versus the repetitive lie “My dog died yesterday” (that’s a spiel they’ve already heard four times that week). 

I’ve also noticed that during our online year of classes, professors were more generous with grades and deadlines than before; I don’t doubt that will continue into this semester. Tensions are still high and the future is up in the air, so more than likely, professors aren’t expecting you to be on top of your game. Just tell the truth and cross your fingers.

I realize that during this time of COVID-19 delta variant surges and rampant anxiety, everyone has been on edge. Although these hacks certainly won’t make the COVID disaster disappear, I hope the tips can alleviate some stress in this time of transition. Remember that you can’t control everything, but try to make do with what you’ve got.

Emma Trevino is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @itsemmatr