College life hacks: sharp-witted shortcuts or DIY disasters?


Influenced by the media, most college students use life hacks on a daily basis, especially in a society impacted by COVID-19.

Most people have attempted to incorporate life hacks into their daily routines, especially during the pandemic. Many have a life hack or two that helps them simplify their everyday life, no matter how bizarre it may sound on paper. 

This phenomenon may be, in part, influenced by the life hacks trend that has taken the internet by full force over the past few years. From using a fork as a laptop cooling device to propping a smartphone up with an AirPods case, life hacks have become the topic of countless Pinterest boards, Twitter threads and conversations between friends. Sharing such advice has become so popular that quite a few news media companies have started publishing articles about life hacks, grouping them under categories labeled “Life Lessons,” “Habits” or “Time Management.”

Senior Jude Juarez-Perez, an English and media studies major, shared their opinions on life hacks in the media: “It’s really cool to see people sharing their knowledge and skills to help out other people! It helps build a community, which I think is really great. So, I think life hacks are really more of a cultural thing.”

Of course, not all productivity and efficiency tricks are influenced by tips from media platforms. Many discerning individuals have subconsciously (or intentionally) created custom strategies to ease the difficulty of their daily tasks. This includes members of the Guilford College community, many of whom have developed their own traditions to reduce the stress of college life.

Senior and biology major Samuel Mott weighed in on what life hacks mean to college students.

“College students bear the weight of quite a few things,” Mott said. “I think we pick up any kind of trick we can use to make our lives easier.”

Various members of the Guilford College community shared their life hacks. As it turns out, students use these hacks for just about anything.

For those who have no trouble paying attention in a classroom but zone out when asked to stare at a computer screen for an online lecture, Early College junior Taylor Yang has a crafty solution to boost engagement during class. “When I’m on Zoom calls I knit just to stay focused; otherwise I know I’ll click on random tabs,” she said.

There is, in fact, scientific evidence that supports this conjecture. In his book, “Spark,” John Ratey, M.D. maintained that any kind of physical movement, even fidgeting the hands, boosts levels of neurotransmitters that are associated with concentration. Yang’s method is certainly a creative way to stay attentive and learn a new hobby.

After a long day, students may find it difficult to complete an assignment efficiently. Absorbing all of the essential details from a textbook chapter or writing an important essay are not simple tasks to begin with. Juarez-Perez has developed a solution for this dilemma.

“This may sound counterintuitive, but essentially, always work backwards,” they said. “If you read a chapter straight (through), you get a lot of puzzle pieces that you don’t know what to do with yet, but if you read the summary first it makes it easier to understand what information is really important.”

For writing assignments, they said that working backwards can also help establish a nice structure.

“Write your summary as if you’d already written the rest of it. That way you know where you want to go and you won’t stall as frequently trying to figure out how to get there,” they explained.

Working backwards has proven to be a generally effective strategy. Sharon Shapiro of Blake Education stated that the strategy is excellent for problems that include “a number of linked ideas and events, especially those that are not given in the beginning.”

After the pandemic began in March of 2020, most stores shut down. To Mott, this was simply an opportunity to come up with innovative ways to relieve boredom at home. He searched for at-home DIY workouts on the internet to make up for his missed gym sessions.

“I’m a student athlete,” he explained. “I wanted to play basketball but all the gyms were closed. I used life hacks so I could stay active and entertained at home.”

When Mott is focusing on his classes, he still incorporates life hacks into his daily routine. 

“I sleep a lot, which actually makes me more productive the next day when I’m working,” he said. “If I stay up and try to study I end up doing a lot less while spending more time.” 

Sleep is something that most college students could use more of, and it certainly helps with brain performance the next day. Mott emphasized that getting at least eight hours of sleep each night has been extremely beneficial for him.

Life hacks are used by many in the Guilford College community, but they are not exclusively for college students. 

As Yang puts it: “Anyone can use life hacks; they can be helpful in any situation.”