Hi everyone,

My name is Meena Shanmuganathan and you likely know me as your First Year Advisor from the Summer.

By now, I’m sure each of you has heard the words “unprecedented times” at least a hundred times. But what does that mean for you specifically? In this blog post I’m going to share ten tips and tricks to successfully complete your first year at Schulich in a remote learning environment.

1. Form a Morning Routine

Coming from someone who’s tried it before, waking up five minutes before your lecture is not the best way to start your day. September is a great time to come up with a routine that works, so that you can remain productive throughout the day. Try to eat a good breakfast and change out of your pajamas so you feel like you’re actually going to school!

2. Allocate a Designated Study Space

Apart from having a routine, it’s important to have a space that you can go when attending virtual lectures or studying for your classes. Your bed is not the best place to attend lectures as your brain associates your bed with sleeping, leading to you feeling sleepy and unmotivated. Try to sit upright in a chair, in a quiet environment with a plain background, so that you’re not slouching and able to organize your thoughts better.

3. Keep Your Camera On

A lot of your classes are going to allocate a percentage of your grade for participation. Why forego them by turning your cameras off? These are the easiest marks you’re going to get and keeping the camera on also allows you to stay focused during the lecture, and not tempt you to stream your favourite TV show in the background, instead. We are already in an isolated environment, so everyone showing their faces will allow for a more realistic classroom experience!

4. Take Notes During the Lecture

How many times have you told yourself you’re going to do something later, but then never get around to it? This is all too common and a dangerous habit to have when it comes to note-taking during class. Unless you’re 100% sure you will re-watch a recorded lecture, utilize your note-taking skills from the first day of class. This way, you will have material to refer to in the event that your lectures aren’t going to be posted on Canvas or Moodle.

5. Ask for Help

Just because you’re learning remotely, doesn’t mean that your professors can no longer be there to help you 1-on-1. Check your course syllabus to see if your professor has scheduled virtual office hours. This is for you to ask them any questions you have about the course or concepts that you don’t quite understand. If there are no scheduled office hours, don’t be shy; email your professor and ask them for a time to meet via Zoom or whatever platform works for you.

6. Form Virtual Study Groups

We said this at the enrolment appointment, but it’s definitely worth repeating: Schulich’s program was designed in a way to foster group discussion and have you get used to working in a group environment. For example, if ACTG 2010 is not your strong suit, get together with some peers on Zoom. Make it a habit to meet once a week before your lab to do the questions together so everyone understands the concepts. You all have premium Zoom accounts with no time limit, so take advantage of this!

7. Schedule Time to Unplug

Self-care looks different for everyone, but with a virtual semester, it’s important to find time to physically unplug your devices and walk away from your screens. Do not underestimate Zoom fatigue, so put a reminder or an alarm on your phone so you know it’s time to get up and take a break! Try to find activities that don’t involve technology, like reading, crafting, and working out. This way you’ll come back to your work feeling energized and ready to be productive.

8. Stay Organized

It’s very easy to take a lot on when there’s no commute and need to leave the house. Remember to keep your dates in order so you know when everything is happening. I recommend using a physical agenda or Google Calendar to make note of when your classes are, what meetings you have each week, and when you should be taking breaks throughout the day. Once you receive your course outline, you will know when all of your midterms are and when your assignments are due, so you can plan out your semester.

9. Get Involved

It’s important to get involved during your first year to get a real sense of Schulich’s culture. All clubs and committees will be running virtually and are planning some fantastic online events for you, so don’t hesitate to join as either an executive member or a general member! The Schulich Ambassador Program is also another great way to get involved, so I would definitely recommend signing up for that as well. 

10. Stay Positive

There are lots of upsides to learning from home, so take advantage of the situation! For me, this means being able to fix myself lunch in the kitchen in between classes and saving time and money on commuting to school. There are plenty of other pros to staying at home, like learning self-discipline and getting creative with the hundreds of online platforms and software at your fingertips. All this extra time saved could mean taking up a new hobby outside of school, too. So, keep the positive mindset strong this semester, and you will find that learning remotely will seem like less of a challenge and more of an interesting experience!

Hopefully, these tips help you with transitioning to Schulich in these “unprecedented times”. I wish you all the best of luck this year and hope to meet you in person soon!

As always, feel free to reach out to undergrad@schulich.yorku.ca if you have any questions!