College may look differently to many students due to the recent pandemic and social distancing. At the University of Alabama, students were given the options of remote learning and in-person classes. Some students returned to campus, while many others opted for remote learning instead. Incoming freshmen were introduced to a slightly different first year experience at the University this Fall. In addition to the pandemic, midterm exams could also add to the stress many students are experiencing this semester. However, a few upperclassmen and staff were willing to share some encouragement as well as a few study tips.

“Something that has helped me tremendously with big exams this semester is being a part of a class GroupMe,” said UA senior Taylan Prewitt. “Planning ahead and making certain days, study days also helps.”

Prewitt, a psychology major, is currently taking online classes to finish up her journey at the University. She is expected to graduate in December and said she’s just now getting adjusted to changes on campus due to the pandemic. According to Prewitt, the most challenging aspect of taking classes online is that it appears to be more reading assignments and work than usual. 

Dr. Vesey, assistant professor of journalism and creative media, has also been trying to adjust to the sudden changes on campus. As a fourth year educator at the University, Dr. Vesey said she hasn’t been specifically trained to teach remotely. This aspect has presented challenges for many professors and students as they try to adapt to the “new normal”.

“I’ve been teaching for almost a decade in higher education and I don’t know how to do this,” said Dr. Vesey. “As much as we try to be adaptive and flexible, it’s hard.”

Though challenging, Dr. Vesey tries to make the curriculum as easy and painless for her students as possible. She said she uploads all of her assignments and material on Blackboard ahead of time. That way, students can review the material early and ask questions if needed. She also said she prefers to teach in person because it can be more beneficial for students.

The biggest advice Dr. Vesey has for students preparing for exams consists of taking detailed notes, using study guides and forming study groups. Though GroupMe is popular amongst many college students and organizations, Dr. Vesey said she doesn’t recommend the app for forming study groups with other classmates. According to Dr. Vesey, there has been an issue of students sharing test answers through the app, which will result in disciplinary action.

Marcellus Taylor, a junior at the University, said he likes to use flashcards and advises students to review their course material each night in preparation for big exams. Taylor, an engineering major, also said he likes to work ahead and avoid cramming as much as possible.

Angel Wynn is a senior majoring in operations management and finance. To prepare for exams, Wynn said she likes to make her own study guides and use the popular study tool Quizlet. According to Wynn, adjusting to remote learning and life on campus during a pandemic requires a lot of discipline. 

“It’s extremely difficult with everything that’s going on,” said Wynn. “I really haven’t gotten back into the swing of things honestly.” 

Dr. Vesey is very mindful of how social distancing and remote learning also affect some of her freshmen students. According to Dr. Vesey, teaching freshmen requires order and organization to help them transition from high school to college. 

“This is probably not what they expected their first year of college to be like,” said Dr. Vesey. “So much of that first year of college is about finding your friends and community.”

Prewitt is also considerate of how the recent changes at the University could affect freshmen just as much as upperclassmen. She then provided some encouraging words for students trying to navigate college life during these troubling times.

“I’m sorry your freshman year looks different and isn’t what you planned, we’ll get through this and hopefully things will go back to normal soon,” said Prewitt. “For now, stay mentally healthy and take advantage of some of the things that have been made easier due to the pandemic.”