College  |  August 3, 2020  |  Connor Peoples

Online, In-Person, or Both: Here’s how to succeed this upcoming semester

What you’ll learn
  • How to plan for college this fall
  • Tips for online classes
  • How to handle hybrid classes

By now, almost every school has a plan for the upcoming fall semester. Some schools have announced they will proceed with classes completely online, others are moving forward with in-person, on-campus classes, and some are offering a combination of both online and in-person class sessions. No matter what your school is planning for this fall, you can still succeed academically with the right approach.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you navigate each option.

Online Classes:

To help mitigate the risk of COVID-19, some colleges are prepared to offer courses completely online. Here are some tips to help you succeed if your school goes online this semester.

1. Stay motivated. Without seeing your professor face-to-face each week, it’s easy to lose motivation. But remember, college is an investment that will set you up for success for the rest of your life. How well you do academically (and how seriously you take class) matters, so hold yourself accountable. Complete your coursework, turn in everything on time, and watch every lecture.

2. Create a schedule. Build a consistent routine for your day. Wake up at the same time, get enough sleep, and build out a study and homework calendar so you don’t fall behind on any assignments.

3. Find a quiet place. Where you work matters just as much as how hard you work. When you’re able to focus on studying or writing, even for a short period of time, you will realize you accomplished more than if you had worked in a loud or distracting space for hours. Set up a quiet, dedicated study space and limit loud distractions. Find a good study playlist and let your roommates and/or family know when you have class. By keeping an open dialogue, they will know not to come into your learning space and to keep the noise down during that time.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your teachers and TAs want to see you succeed. If you’re worried about how you will learn in an online environment, or if you’re having trouble adjusting, ask for help. These people will be great resources and they may be able to offer you specific tips on how to tackle your classes.

5. Plan ahead. Computers break, online portals fail, and your internet connection can go out when you least expect it. It’s better to be prepared for any situation, rather than procrastinating. Try this: if an assignment is due at midnight, make your completion goal 5 p.m., so you have time to adjust if something goes wrong.

On-Campus Classes:

Even if your school has made the decision to resume in-person classes, things could change (and quickly). That said, take advantage of your time on campus, and keep in mind that your school may adjust their class structure to align with the current COVID-19 environment.

1. Save everything. Save everything. Your notes, your practice quizzes, and past lectures will come in handy whether your classes stay on campus or go online. Make “CTRL + S” on your keyboard your best friend. Keep in mind that an online-only learning environment may return.

2. Get involved. Make the most of the different opportunities to see people face-to-face (or in some cases, mask-to-mask). Join clubs and organizations, attend guest lectures, find an on-campus job or internship, and, most importantly, attend your classes.

3. Expand your network. Go to your professors’ office hours and build relationships with them. You never know if you might need a letter of recommendation for your first job or a grad school application. These potential mentors can offer advice that will carry you through college and help you become a successful young professional. And, if you’re sent back to an online environment, learning from someone who knows you personally can make a huge difference.

4. Find a study buddy. Your classmates are some of your most valuable resources. If you miss class, they can share their notes and help you catch up on the course material. And when it’s time for an exam, you can help each other study.

5. Make time for yourself. Don’t forget to take breaks to rest your eyes after staring at your computer screen to give your brain time to unwind and reset. Go for a quick walk, remember to stand up and stretch, and listen to a few songs that make you happy. Your body will thank you for it!

The Hybrid Approach:

A hybrid class is a combination of both in-person and online lectures. Some schools have opted for this option to lessen the number of students in a classroom at once. If your school is taking the hybrid approach this fall, these tips will help you make the most of it.

1. Take every class seriously. Treat every class with the same degree of seriousness. Online lectures will be just a challenging and engaging as the traditional in-person classes. Whether the majority of your classes are online or in-person, your final grade will still show up on your transcript and affect your overall GPA— so make it count!

2. Utilize your time on campus. Some professors teaching large lectures are still going to host office hours, so whenever you’re studying or taking classes from home, write down any questions you might have so you can ask for help when you’re on campus.

3. Remember, we’re all in this together. Your professors want to support you and they understand that this is a new, odd, and challenging situation for many — including themselves! If you experience any difficulty with an assignment or meeting a deadline, let your professor or TA know sooner rather than later. They may be able to work with you.


No matter what your learning environment looks like this fall, the good news is: you’re ready for the challenge. You’ve already proven yourself to be college-ready, so don’t let change slow you down. With the right preparation and approach, you can succeed in school this fall and beyond, no matter where you are.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.