Overcoming the Post-COVID Slump: How I Bounced Back After Campus Reopened

The pandemic changed lives — including those of college students. Discover how one student got back into the academic mindset after returning to campus.
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The year was 2019.

There I was, fresh out of high school an entire year early. Fresh off convincing my parents to let me enter college at just 17 and ready to seize the day and make the world my oyster.

The sparkle in my eyes shined brighter than ever as we made our way to the University of Kentucky — a place I was sure would be my new normal for the next four years. During my first year, I finagled my way into a couple of parties, made some friends, loved my classes, and even went home often due to being homesick.

But little did I know that after that first year, life and my relationship with school would never be the same — and I would get all the time in the world I thought I wanted at home.

A Never-Ending Summer

In high school, I was a straight-A student and graduated summa cum laude with a 4.5 GPA. I'd completed all my needed credits, plus a couple college credits, in just three years.

Unlike many other kids my age, I've always loved school. I love the idea of learning and never fail to acknowledge the fact that education is a privilege not everyone has access to. I've always been an avid reader, had a love for writing, and enjoyed challenging myself in my courses.

Attending such a competitive high school, I took AP courses and wanted to have the same challenges in college because I knew I could handle them — and I was right.

My first year of college, I aced all my classes, built rapport with my professors, and went above and beyond to get my assignments in on time and in tip-top shape.

Until the pandemic hit.

What we thought was going to be just an extended spring break worth celebrating quickly turned into a time we thought would never end. As students, we had to promptly return to Lexington, Kentucky, to move out of our dorms. And thus, the waiting game started.

"My first year of college, I aced all my classes, built rapport with my professors, and went above and beyond to get my assignments in on time and in tip-top shape. Until the pandemic hit."

Quotation mark

I don't have a million complaints about this free time in the abyss we had — I actually learned a lot about myself. I nailed my makeup routine, spent way too much time on the clock app (which shall not be named), and even had a club quarantine-themed 18th birthday party.

It was a beautiful time, but I knew I was ready to get back to campus — after all, I'd spent the last year listening to everyone telling me these would be the best years of my life. But here we were spending all of our time at home, unable to even go get ice cream up the street with friends.

I spent several months at home, attending classes through a computer screen and being unable to go back to my own space when my family started to bug me just a little too much. By the time August rolled around, I was more than ready to return to Big Blue Nation.

Quarantine had felt like a never-ending summer. When it was fall again and the university announced plans to return to campus, I jumped at the opportunity.

Even though the world hadn't returned to normal, for some reason as I packed my things, I thought that when I got back to Kentucky everything would be just as it was. Instead, I'm pretty sure I saw a tumbleweed on my way to Starbucks one day.

Campus was nowhere near the place I'd left.

For the first time in my life, I experienced a slump I'd never felt, and I had no clue how to escape it.

Reality Hits

For starters, my sleep schedule became virtually nonexistent, leaving me to be a zombie when it was time to wake up and join those early morning Zoom sessions in which we were required to keep cameras on (sorry to my classmates — some days were a scary sight).

I had zero motivation to get my work done. Most days I'd just crawl back to bed and go to sleep. It also didn't help that my roommate decided to stay home that semester, so I was going through the motions alone.

I began to get stuck in this "It'll get done when it gets done" routine. And that routine began to win. Some days I didn't have the energy to join my Zoom meetings, and I'd put off doing my work to the very last minute — even more last-minute than normal.

My procrastination reached record levels during this time, and I got my first (and so far only) C in my college career. I knew I had to shake this funk off, but I didn't know how. I was only a sophomore. There should still be morale!

Skyy Walker-Davis celebrates the start of her senior year on campus.
Skyy celebrates the start of her senior year on campus.
Image Credit: Skyy Walker-Davis

I went home for the summer, let off some steam, and relaxed a little before coming up with a game plan for coming back better than ever my junior year.

I created a PowerPoint to convince my parents to let me live off campus in an apartment — and won the battle. I invested in a journal, a planner, and a whiteboard calendar (because I feel like that's the ultimate symbol of having your life together), and then set out to take junior year by storm.

My first order of business was to get organized. I sat and wrote out all of my class schedules on a calendar on my wall, in my journal, and in my phone calendar. I made sure there was absolutely no way for me to miss a beat.

I set up an actual sleep schedule and forced myself to be in bed by midnight (because things got out of hand during quarantine). I also started eating out less and staying in to cook healthier meals to better monitor what was going into my body.

Getting back on track wasn't easy, but you want to know what the real solution was? Slowing down. I know, it sounds counterintuitive. But starting from scratch to get back on the same page with my first-year self required a baby-step approach that ended up being exactly what I needed.

I got involved again in campus life, tried out new leadership roles in three student organizations, and used all that time I'd previously spent on the clock app to garner nearly 20,000 followers in the last year.

I picked myself up following the most unmotivated season of my life. In the end, I realized it was mind over matter. Organization and structure are the biggest keys to success in this college journey.

I'm grateful to everyone who has motivated and supported me as well. Don't forget to use your village. And good luck, college kids! We've got this.

Meet the Author

Portrait of Skyy Walker-Davis

Skyy Walker-Davis

Hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina, Skyy Walker-Davis is a senior at the University of Kentucky. She plans to graduate in spring 2023 with a major in U.S. culture practices and a minor in African American and Africana studies.

In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with her friends, exploring new restaurants around her college town, attending football and basketball games, and going home every couple of weekends to see her family.