Top tips on being a student in a pandemic

Once again we find ourselves in lockdown which means for many of us we won’t be going back to university until at least mid-February. Of course this can make many things a lot harder; living situations, accessing course materials, online learning. To help you get through it I’m going to be doing a series of posts on these different topics to hopefully help you be a bit more productive and a bit less stressed. Of course these are things that work for me, they won’t work for everyone, but if you’re feeling a bit lost you might as well give them a try.

At the moment I am living at home after returning for the Christmas break and attempting to get my work done. I’ve been trying to put little things in place to help myself stay productive but it’s always important to remember that these are very strange times. It’s important to remember that you may not feel as encouraged at the moment, don’t beat yourself up about this because it’s only natural to feel a bit of a strain on your work at the moment.

With working on my dissertation, assignments, seminars and reading there’s a lot to be doing and it can be nice to have something to focus on at the moment. However, the importance of taking a break is a big as ever. Go for a walk, watch a bit of Netflix, call a friend, make sure you’re doing things to relax yourself so that you can feel that bit more fresh and ready to go.

Organising my life

I know I’ve definitely spoken on here about how much I love my planner in keeping me organised. Since I got one for Christmas last year I’ve used it so much and already put one on my list for this year. But being in third year I’ve found the need to keep organised so much more important; there always seems to be so much to do and it’s almost difficult to keep up. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ve probably noticed I haven’t been posting as much lately but hopefully over the coming weeks I can begin to become more organised so that I can get more things done.

Now that I’ve started third year there seems to be so much to think about. To think that I used to think that third year was just the dissertation, I also have to focus on my other modules and meet those deadlines. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about after university, applying for grad schemes in the hope I’ll have something secure when I graduate. With all these things to think about even before taking time to relax and getting involved with extra-curricular activities, it’s vital to stay organised.

The important thing is to realise is that it’s important to prioritise the upcoming deadlines without neglecting further deadlines. While it’s necessary to complete essays due in before Christmas I’ve still been working on my dissertation without bringing that forward as the priority at the moment.

With that in mind I like to ensure that I have all my deadlines written down with little reminders in the few weeks before. By working out how long things will take I can ensure that I factor enough time for each thing into my plans so as to not fall behind.

Thankfully I’ve lately had enough time to do everything I need to but hopefully I can work on being more organised so I have more time for the things I enjoy.

Give yourself a break when you need it

As reading week draws to a close, I must say I’ve been glad for the break. For me this marks half way through the first term and has given me the chance to catch up on work but also to have a relax which is always important. Especially with the second lockdown stress levels are high and so it’s vital to make sure you look after yourself

Of course university work is important but so is your mental health, in fact the latter is more important. Understanding what you need to ensure you feel good is something you should explore. Working yourself out to find that balance between getting work done and looking after yourself is always a good idea. Maybe you work a certain amount of hours in the day and give yourself a break in the evening or you focus strongly on work in the week to give yourself time at the weekend for yourself. It’s all about finding what’s best for you.

You should never feel guilty for having a break. Even if you feel you haven’t been working at your best lately don’t punish yourself by pushing your mind and body to breaking point. It can be difficult when you have so many things on and so many deadlines looming to just take a step back and give yourself the space you need to get back on track. The way I see it if I allow myself a break I will be more productive when I get back to working as I have refreshed myself and my mind is not running at a million miles an hour.

The perfect way to give yourself this time away from your studies would be to do something away from your work space. Even if you just move to a different room to watch some Netflix or read a book you’re resetting yourself to get back into work. A good way to relieve stress is through exercise, whether that’s at home or outside, do what feels right for you. Maybe go on a walk and get some fresh air, let your mind wonder, ask those you live with to join you and just have a nice chat. Call or message a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while for a catch up. These things not only give you that break you need but give you something else that hopefully will add to your happiness. But also if you just feel like doing absolutely nothing for a little while that’s fine too, find what feels good for you.

My biggest piece of advice is not to wait until you feel desperate for a break, give yourself time off so you don’t get to a point of burnout. Make sure to look after yourself especially in this pandemic and now that England has gone into a second lockdown. Remember there are people there for you if you need them, treat yourself right and remember whatever you are feeling you’re not alone.

Socialising in a pandemic

Social distancing and 10 pm curfews are becoming a big part of our lives. While it’s important to adhere to the government guidelines it can feel like they are getting in the way of you having fun at university. I’m here to tell you that this doesn’t have to be the case, there are so many things you can still do to enjoy your time at university and spend time with friends.

Go out for food – whether this is breakfast, lunch, dinner or even brunch there are so many places you can try. Me and my housemates have decided to go for dinner once a month. It gives you a great opportunity to sit down, catch up and have some great food. Maybe there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or a cuisine you’ve always wanted to taste. Try it out, the best part is you don’t have to wash up afterwards.

Have a movie night – rather than going out why not have a cosy night in. Especially as it’s getting colder and the days shorter it can be so much nicer not to leave the house in the evening. Snuggle up with a hot drink and a movie. Maybe even bake some snacks to enjoy as a daytime activity.

Go for a drink or have some drinks at home – yes, if you go out for a drink your night will be cut short but you can still enjoy it. If you don’t fancy that you could just host drinks at home, sticking to the government guidelines of course. It’s a great way to make a night in just a bit more exciting.

Have a games night – get your housemates together for some fun. Whether you play board games or go for a drinking game, it’s a great way to spend an evening.

Bake or cook – make yourself a tasty treat or get your housemates together to make a house dinner. These are such fun activities and then at the end you get to eat what you have created which makes it even better. You could even learn to cook something new or try a friend’s favourite dish just to mix things up a bit.

Take a day trip – within reason of course but there are some great places you can still visit. I recently went to the Victoria and Albert museum and it was a great day out. You did have to book a time slot but it was still free, just means people could adhere to social distancing.

There are so many things that you can do to enjoy your university experience. Most of these things you can do in your own home with the people you live with which is a good option at times like this. Remember to stick to the restrictions put in place by the government but still try and make the most of your university experience.

What university has taught me

Of course, the point of going to university is to learn, be educated and get a degree. However, there is so much you will learn at university that is not academic. Going away to uni can be rewarding for so many reasons and I am here to tell you what university taught me. 

Meeting new people: I had friends before going to university but most of them I met at the start of secondary school if not primary school. From this I clearly knew how to maintain friendships, but it had been years since I actually had to actively pursue meeting new people.  I’m glad I did; I met some of the most amazing people at university and it has really taught me to be more confident in meeting new people. It may seem daunting at first but if you put your best foot forward and really try to meet new people you will be sure to find those who you gel with. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t find your best friends straight away for some people it will take longer than others, but it will be worth it in the end. Also, meeting people from all different backgrounds when I have lived in one place my whole life with the same people, is a really fun experience.

There’s no time limit on life: Before I went to university, I had so many ideas of what I wanted to do at uni but once I arrived these things didn’t always go to plan. I didn’t even join a society until second year but that was okay, it can be overwhelming when you make big changes to your life. For a lot of people moving to uni will be the first time you’ve moved away from home but I’m glad I have that experience as it has given me confidence to make changes in my life and know that when I do I will go at my own pace.  Connected to this is not comparing yourself to other people, people will have different timelines to you and that is okay. Just keep going at your own pace and don’t feel like you have to rush just because other people are doing something.  you’ll be much happier without putting that unnecessary pressure on yourself to do something you either don’t want to do at all or don’t want to do just yet. 

Take time for yourself: Being at university, you have so many opportunities constantly coming at you. Whether that’s work related or socially, it can feel like you need to do everything. You don’t have to force yourself to constantly participate and sometimes it’s important to just take that time for yourself.  People aren’t going to change their opinion of you just because you missed one night out especially when you need it for your own health. This is one of the biggest things I’ve learnt from uni that sometimes you will just want to sit in your room with some snacks and your own company.  This is something I try to do a bit more often as self-care is so important. 

You will make mistakes: This is a really important one when you’re in such new surroundings.  I was so used to my life before university that it was easy, everything was familiar and so I knew what I was doing. University will be a time when you will learn a lot. The way essays are written is completely different to those written at sixth form and so it was very much a learning curve that I had to get used to a new writing style which was difficult seeing that I made mistakes but it’s something you can learn from and you will gradually improve. Not just in an academic capacity though, you are meeting new people, and you may accidentally rub people up the wrong way. Taking responsibility for your actions and owning up to your mistakes is the first step to learning from them. 

Budgeting: I wanted to just put this one in at the end as even though I have written a whole post on this it is one of the most vital lessons I have learned while being at university. So, if this is something you struggle with, go check out my previous blog post all about creating a budget and sticking to it. 

My top tips on managing your university workload

Learning to manage your workload is a vital skill at university. You will have to complete weekly reading, write assignments and study for exams all while being sociable and settling into a new environment. It’s also good to work out what works best for you in first year when a lot of universities don’t take your grades into account towards your final grade (remember you still have to pass).  This isn’t me saying you don’t have to worry but it means you can afford to make mistakes as you are learning what works best for you. Having an established plan will also help as the workload will begin to increase as you go through the years at uni.


Prioritise: It can be easy to choose to do the task you like best first, but this isn’t always the best idea. Focusing on an assignment that isn’t due for 5 weeks when you have an exam in two days. Of course, it’s always a good idea to get ahead on assignments and not leave them to the last minute but this shouldn’t be at the expense of other things you have due in. Keeping in mind what deadlines you have come up will help you work out what needs to be done first and what should be your priority at a given time. Also, keep in mind somethings will take longer than others and so you may have to begin these things a bit earlier. 

Plan your time: I personally use a planner to keep myself on top of what work needs to be done. I ensure that I have all my deadlines written down, so I don’t get any surprises from forgetting something is due. I then plan what I’m going to work on each day in order to keep on top of everything. It is important to work out how much time will go into things but also how much time you have on a particular day. If you’re in lectures every day you don’t want to be planning to do 8 hours of work on that day as it’s just not going to be possible to fit all that in. Also, realising that you need to plan a lot more time for a 5,000-word assignment than a 2,500-word assignment is important. 

Don’t overexert yourself: Remember you’re going to have off days where you may not feel like working and so I make sure to plan a rest day each week. Though in my plan this will be a specific day, if I need to I’ll move the rest day, I may feel I really need it on a specific day.  Also, making sure you leave time for breaks and out of university activities is essential in order to not wear yourself out and to keep your mental health in check.

It’s not all about work: As much as you are going to university to get your degree, you will have so many opportunities you don’t want to miss out on. Making time for extra-curricular activities and socialising is very important to make the most of your time at uni. Make sure you find a balance that works for you, you don’t want work to become like a chore; it should be something you enjoy.