A Day in the Life of an (Online) College Student

by | May 13, 2020

Written by Kendall Job, Marketing & Communications Intern

Hi there! My name is Kendall, and I’d like to give you a look at the day in the life of an online college student. Like many other students, I hadn’t planned on taking courses fully online, but I’ve quickly found that it is totally doable and can be really fun once you get organized and know your responsibilities for each day. Follow along below to see what a day in my life looks like as well as a few tips on taking online courses from my friends!

7:30am - Wake Up 
I only have class two days a week, and the other three days I work my internship remotely (here at Illinois Online!). Today is a Tuesday, so I have three classes back to back and need to be awake for classes through Zoom. I wake up around 7:30 am for my 8:00am class, then go right into my 9:30 am and 11:00 am classes. 

7:45 am - Breakfast 
With online classes, you don’t have the most strict schedule, nor do you spend any time walking (or running) to class like we normally would on campus. Breakfast has become increasingly important for me to get through these first few hours of the day filled with classes. It helps to keep me focused and on task until I can take a brain break after class. 

12:30 pm - Plan for the day 
After my final class ends, I take a look at what I need to accomplish throughout the remainder of the day. I like to go through my planner in order to see all my assignments written down and in my head so I can stay on track with my coursework. My friend Lauren, who’s studying Nursing, is an avid user of her planner. When it comes to staying organized in online classes, she said, “Creating checklists in my planner has helped me get everything done in an orderly and timely fashion. Crossing things off my checklists not only provides me satisfaction but also keeps me organized in knowing what I have and haven’t completed for the week.” It’s usually around this time that I plan out the specific tasks I want and need to accomplish for my internship the next day, too, so everything is planned out, and I can get right to work the next morning. 

1 pm - lunch 
Since I’m at home while taking online classes, I take a break for lunch near the middle of my work day. I try to eat lunch with my mom since she works from home, too, and we usually take a break from staring at our computer screens to catch up and spend time together. I have to admit; we do love the Food Channel, so sometimes we have that playing in the background as we cook and eat! 

1:30 pm - Homework
I like to start working on my actual assignments for the week after lunch. Since I have class in the morning, I can structure the rest of my day with what I need and want to accomplish. Kelly, who’s an English student here at Illinois, told me her biggest tip for online learning is to create structure in your daily routine. “Since we don’t have the ability to go to a physical class, try your best to make that setting at home. Plan to do assignments at certain times in the day - even planning meals and other activities helps with structure.” I find this advice especially helpful with one of my Gen Ed courses, which is Introduction to Epidemiology. It sounds scary, but it’s actually pretty interesting! There are fewer tasks for this course in particular, but each one is time consuming, so I like to plan out which days I want to accomplish each assignment so it’s ready to be turned in by the deadline. 

3 pm - Workout 
It’s around this time I usually start to hit a wall with school and need to take a break to focus on something else. Since we’re all at home right now, staying active is super important to me. I’ll grab some weights and a workout mat and find a YouTube workout video to follow for around 30 minutes. Personally, I think it’s important to take time for yourself throughout the day to do other things. My friend Ashley, who studies English and Political Science, gave some great advice. “I think in order for students to succeed online, they need to be understanding with themselves… it is crucial that we as students are not so hard on ourselves and give ourselves credit for trying and adapting.” While online classes are convenient, it can be easy to hole up all day. Find something fun to do to get moving, even if it’s just an at-home workout or a walk around your neighborhood. 

4:00 pm - Back to work
After a quick shower, I now have this time to delegate to other things. One of my online classes, Issues in Contemporary Sport, has a film we are required to watch each week. This is a good time for me to watch the film of the week because I get to relax and also check something else off my to do list of classwork for the week. Although I say “relax,” my friend Brendan, who studies Computer Engineering at Illinois, reminds all of us that online classes are no time to slack off on your work. He told me, “Just because you're home… absolutely does not mean that the work and the classes are any less demanding of you. Don’t slack off and remember that the semester is still in session!” 

6 pm - Dinner
My mind starts to wind down from school around 6pm, when I usually eat dinner. After this, I’m pretty much done for the day, unless I have a big project to work on or an exam to study for. Again, it’s important to take some time for yourself each day where you’re not doing or thinking about classwork. I like to take the evenings to recharge for the next day and get some sleep before the next day of work! 

While school and online classes are a priority, it’s also extremely important to take care of your body and mind, especially now. Whether that be cooking a healthy meal, doing a midday workout, or taking some sort of brain break, school consumes a lot of our life. That being said, online courses are just as demanding as traditional courses, so each individual must learn how they learn best, what schedule works for them, and how to organize their time for the most success!