Attending College in a Pandemic World: Tips to Get By

Hi, I’m Erin Martin! I am completing my last semester at Grand Valley State University, graduating in April 2021 with a degree in Health Communication and a minor in Advertising and Public Relations. I have had the privilege of leading Grand Valley’s Health Communication Coalition as President this year. The Health Communication Coalition is a student club that hosts networking and educational events that allow students to explore the Health Communications field and build relationships with peers in the major program. I have also had the rewarding experience to lead as a PR director, for the Miracle Network Dance Marathon at Grand Valley since 2018, working to mobilize and inspire GVSU and the surrounding Grand Rapids community to raise funds and awareness in support of pediatric patients and their families at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in downtown Grand Rapids. Finally, I’m honored to have received the Excellence in a Discipline award for Health Communications at GVSU this year. 

Before I went off to college, I could have never predicted that my senior year would take place during a global pandemic. COVID-19 flipped our world upside down, causing college students to adjust to an almost unrecognizable college lifestyle. As someone who has spent four years on Grand Valley’s campus, one during the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to share how I have supported myself academically, prepared for my future, as well as how I protected my mental health. 

  1. First things first: You’re doing great. I have observed over the years how hard college students are on themselves. It is important to know that your best probably looks a lot different from your peer’s best. Try not to compare your successes to other’s successes. College is stressful, especially this past year, and you deserve to pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for making it this far. 
  1. Network, Network, Network! One of my favorite ways to connect with professionals in my field is to reach out to them on LinkedIn. I search for people who have established a career in the field that I am looking into or who works at a company I’m interested in and connect with them by asking if they would be willing to meet and have an informal informational interview over coffee or on Zoom. It is a great way to make connections in your field and learn what’s out there. There are also more traditional networking methods such as career fairs, involvement in organizations or clubs, and connecting with professors. Do not be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone!
  1. Find your motivation and personal time management methods. We have all learned how essential time management skills are now that many classes are online and schedules are looser. I use an online scheduling tool called Skolar to help keep me organized. It will help you measure your time management skills and figure out where and how you might be able to improve them.
  1. Get out of the house if possible. During this pandemic, I have discovered the importance of exploring different locations to peacefully study and relax. It is important to clear your head, change the scenery, and find a spot where you can get away. It could be a local coffee shop, a special spot in the library, outside in a hammock, or anywhere else you can think of, just make it yours!
  1. Do not be afraid to ask for help! Whether it’s academically, financially, or mentally, GVSU has great resources that are free to you as a Grand Valley student. As a health communication student, public and community health means a great deal to me, and knowing that Grand Valley has these resources makes it easy to advocate for my peers. Did you know you get 10 free confidential sessions with a certified counselor if you’re a registered GVSU student? To quote the best, “I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.” – Maya Angelou. Be your own biggest advocate. GVSU also has a Lakers Together page filled with resources to help you succeed and stay informed on the latest COVID-19 updates.

To learn more about student clubs in the GVSU Health Communication program please visit: