Since I was a freshman, I remember hearing the upperclassmen saying that the years fly by before you know it. Of course, I didn’t believe them- no one ever does, right? Yet here I am, a few weeks into my senior year- online.
My entire county has gone virtual for the first two months of school. Right now, I am experiencing my senior year virtually, waking up at 7:30 am to log onto my first class. After nearly 12 years of a rigid schedule, I’ve been forced to adapt to a new routine where I am at home all hours of the day. Being home makes it difficult to focus fully on all the things I have to do, a feeling I know many others might relate to. In this article, I’ll outline some of the things I’ve found helpful in staying on top of everything, some of which might help you, too!
My Typical Schedule
Each of my classes are structured with a 30-minute live session and 45 minutes of “asynchronous” or individual work time. Essentially, I have 45 minutes of free time between classes. Here’s how I navigate online school:
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My first class begins at 7:45 am, lasting about 30 minutes. After this class is over, I usually take this time to make a cup of coffee and fully wake up. At 8:15 in the morning, I’m still pretty tired!
For the rest of the day, I alternate between live classes and asynchronous time. During my asynchronous time, I try to finish as much schoolwork as I can. I also work on extracurriculars and try to lighten my workload for the afternoon.
Sometimes, I call some of my friends between classes and catch up with them or do work together over FaceTime.
After all my classes are over, I take a few hours to relax and unwind, and then I get to work on school assignments, college applications and extracurriculars!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to understand how my day typically looks like and have adapted to this schedule. Once school begins for you, analyze how your day looks and figure out what times are best for working, unwinding and etc.
Don’t forget to take some time for yourself and make sure you get some kind of human interaction throughout the day! Being at home doing schoolwork without being in the same location physically Interacting with others can be very jarring. Text your friends between classes or after school, talk to your family; make sure you’re not just in the same isolated area all day!
Tips on Staying Organized and Motivated While at Home
It can be really tough staying productive while going to school from home. After being in the same environment hour after hour, day after day, week after week, it can very exhausting and unmotivating. But, whether it’s your senior year or not, it’s important not to drop the ball!
This year, I’ve been committed to using a planner to organize everything I have to do. Each year, I always tell myself I’ll use my planner consistently, but I always end up falling through within the first month or so. Not this year, though!
It helps that I always have my planner open next to me during my classes; since it’s always right there and easily accessible, it’s easier to fill in all my assignments. Maybe it’s just the beginning of the year motivation, but this has helped me feel so organized and productive, even though I’m only writing things down.
Perhaps the best advice I have on trying to stay productive is give yourself a list of things you want to accomplish by a certain time. For example, this past weekend, I wrote down a list of four things I wanted to complete:
1. Finish reading my assigned novel for my English class.
2. Begin the analysis sheet for the above assigned novel. My goal was to at least get halfway through it.
3. Follow up with my teacher recommendations for my college applications (check out my article here for how to get fantastic recommendation letters).
4. Write a draft of one of my college supplemental essays (continue reading to the next section for how to balance college apps with senior year and COVID-19).
By writing down this list of things I wanted to work on, I clearly know what my goals should be for the weekend. Rather than making a rigid schedule that may discourage you if you can’t fully stick to it, a list of goals is better for your mental health and productivity. You know that you will get these objectives done by the end of the weekend, so you can enjoy your weekend while also being productive!
Navigating College Applications
Ah, college applications. The bane of every high school senior’s existence. I always thought that I had ample time before I had to begin worrying about college apps, but college season has already begun!
For the Class of 2021
, college applications look vastly different than they did in previous years. Many of us have not been able to visit most college campuses due to COVID-19, and have been forced to rely on virtual sessions and tours to get a feel for the campus and atmosphere. In addition, standardized testing like the SAT and ACT have been extremely unpredictable, with many seniors unable to find testing locations. As a result, many colleges have gone test-optional, which some see as a blessing and others a curse.
While college tours and testing are not within our control, the actual application itself is. My advice would be start now.
•Make a list, if you haven’t already, of colleges you’d like to apply to and start gathering all this information in an organized spreadsheet.
Take note of deadlines, financials, supplements, recommendations required, etc.
•Create a Common Application or Coalition Application account and start adding your colleges to your account.
Explore the site and get a feel for how the application works.
•Start your application!
Get the basic stuff, like personal information and family details, out of the way. For the rest of the application, I would recommend making a list of goals, like I mentioned above. For each week, have a specific piece of the application you would like to complete.
For example, the first week might be about brainstorming and writing a rough draft of the main Common App essay. The second week’s goal could be editing it. Then, set it aside for a week and work on drafts for your dream school’s supplements and come back to the main essay with fresh eyes. Each week, come up with a list of things you think you can realistically achieve.
Even with all of this, it can be tough to stay motivated and productive. Don’t forget that it’s important to take a day off here and there for your mental health! One unproductive, lazy day will not set you behind at all. Good luck with your senior year!