With “shelter in place” orders, school closures, and mass event cancelations, everything looks a bit different right now–different from what most of us have experienced before and different from what we expected these months to be. In the middle of all of this, it can be hard to stay motivated, especially when it comes to school.
Here’s our advice: stay curious.
That curiosity may also look different. If you’re like most students, you don’t have access to the same sort of inspiring lectures or conversations, club activities, and competitions that often launch investigation into ideas or observations, which in turn may lead to a choice of major, a future career, or creating programs or products. Even so, curiosity is still available to you.
The best thing you can do is to remain an active learner. Participate in your online classes as much as possible. And when you are watching lectures, completing worksheets, or just watching TV with your family, be on the lookout for anything that seems interesting. Then, chase down that lead; fall down the Wikipedia rabbit hole; text your friends for their takes. Maybe you found yourself actually enjoying a passage from an APEL test; look up the full work or dive into the author’s life. Perhaps you want to know about previous pandemics and their effects. Maybe you want to know how the Netflix algorithm works or why Netflix succeeded where other similar businesses failed?
You don’t need to make formal assignments out of this. You don’t even need to see a pragmatic use for the knowledge you gain, although if you do that’s great too. In a time when you can’t work to impress your classmates, or even get a better grade, make it your goal just to stay interested, just to keep learning. A shift in viewpoint like that will serve you well long after our present situation ends.
It may help to do some of this work offline, even though we’ve grown accustomed to turning to the internet for answers. Much of our previously in-person world is now online. It feels difficult to stay motivated or fully engaged when all of your instruction–and many other things–now happens on your computer screen. Read a physical book. Write out your notes by hand and study that way. Doing so will break up some of the monotony and help you keep your brain sharp.
Stay curious, as well, about yourself. Now is a great time to take ownership of your own education and motivation. It’s certainly easier to stay interested and invested in ideas when you spend most of your time in an environment carefully built to foster such thinking. But to be the type of person who doesn’t just take in facts but who can see connections and ways to solve problems and add value–to be a leader–you need to learn how to care and how to try your best no matter the situation. For some people, that will mean creating and following strict schedules. Other people may find writing out their goals in a visible place to be helpful. The key is to figure out what works for you and to hold yourself accountable.