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It doesn’t matter if it’s been a few blissful summer months or a few years since you’ve stepped into a classroom: getting back into the school and studying mindset is hard. You’re using your brain in a new capacity, and like anyone who lifts weights at the gym for the first time in awhile, there’s bound to be some struggling.

All of this is normal, and it does not mean you’re not cut out for getting your degree. Every single person experiences this at some point or another — hitting a wall happens to the best of us. With these studying tips, you’ll be set to start your online classes on a high note, and be able to persevere through the semesters to come. Find some new ways to study from Pathways College, and enroll with our affordable online college in Pasadena to get your future started.

Figure out what distracts you.

Some of us grew up in big, loud families where doing work with tons of noise and the TV blaring was no big deal. Others need complete silence to get things done. By finding out what types of things are distracting to you, you’ll be able to set yourself up for success in future studying and online coursework.

Here’s a test: Take a book or an article you haven’t read before, and read some of it in the same place you plan on taking your online classes. If you read through it just fine, and are able to retain everything, that environment is probably a great choice. If you find yourself getting distracted, struggling to stay focused, or feel like you don’t really know what happened in the text, you’ll likely need to switch it up.

Set yourself up before you settle in.

There’s a secret that most people who have worked in the food industry know: Get everything set up before you begin. This means having the dining area and restaurant all set for incoming guests, complete with backup silverware rolls and clean plates ready to go. This also means getting all the kitchen tools and ingredients out before you start cooking.

The same concept should be applied to studying, because it limits distractions and interruptions. When you’re constantly getting up to grab snacks, water, or a different pencil, you’re not going to be able to hit your flow, and it’s going to take longer to get things done. By getting all the things you’ll need for a productive study sesh before starting, you’ll have the right frame of mind to get to work.

Take frequent, small breaks.

The old “20-20” rule states that for every 20 minutes you look at a computer screen, you should look away from screens for 20 seconds. This can be challenging to uphold, but it speaks to the importance of taking breaks. Even when you don’t think you need a break, you should make yourself take one — even if it’s as simple as taking 20 seconds to sip some water and look out the window.

Studying is kind of like swimming. If you try to hold your breath for a really long time, you’re going to end up gasping for air. But if you pace yourself and breathe regularly, you’ll be able to last a lot longer, and not feel as burned out, either.

Sort out “wants” from “needs.”

A lot of people think “online colleges” and they picture students in pajamas, taking courses at home, with some Netflix or Hulu show autoplaying in the background. We’ll be the first to admit that staying in your PJs and watching “Game of Thrones” sounds ideal, but it’s an important lesson in understanding your wants versus your needs.

One thing that’s actually pretty tough about online classes is that there’s almost too much freedom. You can make yourself at home when you’re at home, but a lecture hall is quite a different place. If you want to watch TV or do your work while laying down on the couch, you’ll need to assess if this is actually going to help you get things done. Sometimes you need to sacrifice comfort and having that mid-afternoon beer on a sunny September day for the sake of getting your work done — and getting it done well.

There are countless other studying tips that we’ll touch on in the future. By choosing our affordable online college, you’re getting a collegiate experience with mentors and professors who are committed to working directly with you — a way different setup than anything you’ll find at a big university. With degree programs in liberal studies and business administration, you can find the perfect academic trajectory for you at Pathways College. View our course catalog, contact our admissions department with any questions you might have, and enroll today with Pasadena’s choice in online colleges!