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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Edge, LPC

How to be Successful with Online School: Tips for Teens and College Students

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

The fall 2020 school year is rapidly approaching. COVID-19 is still more present than ever and making the school year challenging. Many students struggled balancing online classes last semester.

How can this school year be different than the last? How can teens and college students focus more on school rather than YouTube and Discord?

Here are a few tips to help with the online school year.

1. Have Separate Work and Play Spaces

The environment we work in can help or hinder our productivity. Set up a specific room or area only for school work. This space should be distraction free. If you use the same space where you game or watch Netflix, it’s easier to become distracted.

Have a separate room or area to relax, game, use social media, and/or watch YouTube. Those activities are great, should not be associated with school.

2. Have Separate Work and Play Devices

Online school requires students to use devices. Set up a work computer and play computer.

The work computer only needs programs and websites needed to complete school. Unless the teacher has a specific YouTube video to watch, you probably don’t need access to YouTube while doing school. If you want to listen to music while studying, use Spodify, Pandora, or a local radio station. A white noise machine can help drown our background noise.

If you have one device that must be used for work and play, set up different accounts. Set up the school account to just have access to programs needed for school. The play account can have all your games and socialization platforms.

Here is how to set up another account for a Windows device and Apple device.

3. Do NOT multi-task

Multi-tasking is a myth.

We are incapable of doing more than one activity well. When we multi-task, we are rapidly switching our attention back and forth between tasks rather than doing two things at the same time.

As a result, our memory and retention of that information suffers. If we try learning about World War I while on Snapchat, we won’t remember much about the Great War.

Focus your attention on one task at a time. This might be difficult if you are used to multi-tasking. Doing one thing at a time can feel boring, suuuuuuuuuuper boring.

If you need to fidget with something, play with your pencil or doodle. Doodling is different than multi-tasking and is beneficial.

4. If Needed, Use App and Website Blockers

App and website blockers can be the extra help needed to focus during challenging classes.

Freedom is a program that allows you to block websites and apps for certain time frames. If you have Algebra from 9:00 AM – 10:15 AM, you can block every distracting site during that time. The great part about this program is you can’t change the settings during that time frame. Even if you are the administrator!

Freedom can be used on computers, tablets, and phones. You can also use the Screen Time feature on iPhones or Digital Wellness on Samsung devices. Other programs like Flipd, help with productivity goals too.

5. What Worked and What Didn’t Last Semester?

It’s helpful to learn from the past. Think about what you did well before with online school and what you want to improve on.

Some of it could be on the teachers or online organization such as where to find assignments, but focus on how you were successful or struggled to stay on top of their school work.

Get feedback from a family member or friend to see what you can do differently to improve this next semester.

6. Be Empowered

You are in control of your school year.

Not your parents, teachers, or academic advisors. They could want you to get all A’s more than anything. But if you don’t want it for yourself, it won’t happen.

The best thing you can do to prepare for online school is the desire to do well.

You are capable of passing online school. Sure, it looks different from in-person, but it’s not impossible.

You’ve figured out difficult things in the past, you can do it again. Think about the benefits of doing well will online school: more opportunities, skills, knowledge, and understanding of new concepts.


Utilize these ideas to make the most of this school year. If you know of another tip to improve productivity, share it with others! Don’t let COVID and online school dictate a negative school year.



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