How I study – tips for online school!

Expat Life

October 24, 2020

Hello everyone! In this week’s blog post I thought I would share how I’m studying from home and just some of my general study tips! Incase you’re new here, I’m a freshman as Georgetown University and I went to high school in Dubai. I’m currently taking my first semester of college online and it is honestly a struggle! Online school makes it more difficult to follow along and understand class content, especially when you’re getting used to a whole new college curriculum like I am. I thought it would be useful to share what I’m doing and some of my top tips for success!

Before I get into this post, make sure to check out last week’s post where I wrote about a typical week in my life as an online international college student!

Completely paperless studying

This semester I decided to completely paperless with my note taking. I take all my notes for classes on my iPad using GoodNotes, which I love! I decided to do this firstly because I wasted a lot of paper on my note taking. I am the person that fills endless notebooks each year, so this switch is definitely better for the environment. I also did this because as in international student I thought I would be travelling a lot (going back home during holidays and things like that) and I didn’t want to have to haul a bunch of heavy books around. Obviously that hasn’t ended up happening, but hopefully it will help me out when I am actually on campus!

The other thing I love about being paperless is that I can access my notes anywhere. I’ve set up my GoodNotes app to automatically sync to my Google Drive (you can also set it up to sync to a Dropbox account) so if I’m out and I want to check something, I can just pull it up on my phone even if I don’t have my iPad on me! Also, buying online textbooks is significantly cheaper than buying physical books, not to mention they take up a lot less space!

I would definitely recommend making the switch to paperless if you have the necessary equipment. I was initially nervous that it would hurt my learning, but it hasn’t. If anything, it’s actually made me more motivated to take notes!

Take lots of notes, ask lots of question

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a proactive student who takes lots of notes and asks lots of questions, even if that might seem nerdy sometimes! I always take notes during class because it helps me to stay focused and also because it saves a lot of time when studying for an exam. It’s a lot easier to take notes as you go along each week rather than spending hours going through every presentation the week before the exam!

I would also recommend asking lots of questions if you’re confused about something. In college I was initially nervous about attending office hours, but they are such a help! Honestly, I think professors and teachers also appreciate it when they see you putting in the effort to engage with the material and ask questions.

Review as you go along

This one is so helpful to me! One thing that stood out to me about college compared to high school was that there was less opportunities to receive grades. In my college classes we have midterms and finals and that’s our whole grade! This means that there’s a lot of content to review for these tests and that they really matter!

Something that I think is really useful when going along in the semester is to be proactive and review your notes regularly. I always review my math notes at the end of each week and make a little review sheet summarizing the main concepts from that week. This makes it so much easier to study for a big test and you also realize the questions you have as you’re going along rather than just keeping a bunch of questions in your head until they spiral out of control.

Plan out your time effectively

Maybe it’s just the organizational freak in me, but I love to write out a huge to-do list and schedule in each of my tasks for the day. When I put a time frame next to each task it makes me feel less stressed about fitting everything in and it also helps to keep me on track!

When I say planning out my day, I think it’s also super important to schedule in self-care time. I always schedule in some free time for a lunch break and sometimes I’ll put time in my day for socializing or just doing something fun. Being organized, doesn’t meant you should romanticize being busy and over-scheduling yourself!

I also find it really effective to alternate my tasks between things I want to do/enjoy doing and things that I really don’t enjoy doing. If I just write a to-do list full of tasks I don’t enjoy doing, I don’t end up doing any of them! I like to follow a really difficult task like writing an essay, with something more fun like finishing up a custom order for my store.

Change your environment

This one is a little difficult at the moment because of the pandemic, but if you have opportunity to safely change your study setting, I would recommend it! It makes such a difference to my motivation to get out of the house and work somewhere else, now that my whole college life is online. I’m pretty sure the people at my local Starbucks are sick of seeing me there on my laptop everyday!

Put your phone away!

This goes without saying, but put your phone away while you’re working! I have to admit that I’ve been pretty bad at this recently, but normally I am way more productive and focused when my phone is away from my desk. It can be really helpful to put your phone away for 30 mins while you focus on working and then take a quick 5 min break to reward yourself!

Create a learning environment you love

This is so important at the moment since most of us are spending all day working from home. If you create a learning space that you love it will cheer you up and make you more motivated! It can be a cute desk space, putting your desk in front of a window, a candle you light when you’re working or anything like that. But if you set up your learning environment to be more pleasing, you’ll definitely study more effectively.

Go back and look at your previous work

In middle school when we were first learning to write essays, I remember that my teacher told me that if we were ever stuck on what to write next, we should go back and read what we had already written and that would stimulate more ideas. I think this advice doesn’t only apply to writing an essay, but studying in general! If you’re ever unmotivated or stuck on how to approach a new task or paper, go back and look at your previous work. Hopefully it will stimulate some new ideas and make you feel super accomplished!


Alright! I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about how I study and stay motivated during online college. Let me know if you use any of these tips or if you would add any more to this post by leaving a comment below!

Before you go, be sure to check out my store, Wildflower Studios. The Christmas Collection is coming out soon!

See you next week,

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