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How to Handle Moving Back Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak (for College Students)

This article was authored in partnership with wikiHow, the world’s largest “how to” site, and also featured here on the wikiHow website.

For better or worse, COVID-19 has switched up the daily routines of many people—college students, in particular. It’s perfectly normal and valid to feel displaced and disappointed, especially if you have to move back home in the middle of your college semester. Instead of focusing on what you can’t control, try to make the best of your remote college experience. You’re not alone in your thoughts and feelings, and you will be able to get through this!

Managing Your Mental Health

Remind yourself that this transition is perfectly normal. It’s easy to feel isolated or singled out during the COVID-19 outbreak, especially if you have to spend more time with your family members than you’re used to. Be open with your parents or guardians about how you’re feeling about moving back home, and remember that this process is a big transition for them as well. It’s completely normal and valid to be sad, and feel like you’re grieving the loss of a college experience; plus, countless people are in the same boat.[1]

  • Students all over the world are being displaced and missing out on their college experience. There are plenty of people who understand how you feel and know exactly what you’re going through!
  • It’s perfectly normal to feel like “failure” when you have to move back in with your parents or guardians, but this is the opposite of the truth! Countless people are having to adjust their living arrangements due to COVID-19, so you’re definitely not alone.

Call or video chat friends on a regular basis. Schedule a few times throughout the week to stay in touch with your friends. Set up with virtual study dates with some of your classmates, or schedule a fun movie night with friends. While it’s not the same as hanging out in-person, frequent virtual chats can partially supplement the college experience that you’re missing on campus.[2]

  • For instance, you can get together with some college friends and watch some old re-recordings of sports games from your school.
  • You may also enjoy marathoning movies or binge-watching a TV show.
  • If you’re in an environment that’s unsupportive of your orientation or gender expression, talking with friends can be crucial in keeping you safe and sane.[3]

Offer support to your other college friends. Remind your friends and classmates that you’re there for them, even when the going gets tough. While there’s no easy way to deal with the disappointment and loneliness caused by COVID-19, you can offer texts or phone calls of support to let your friends know that you’re there for them.[4]

  • For instance, you can say something like: “Hey! I just wanted to check in and see if you’re doing okay. I know that the pandemic has made things really tough, and I just want you to know that I’m here for you if you need anything.”

Call a support hotline if you need a listening ear. Don’t be ashamed if you’re feeling overwhelmed while attending college from home. Countless people are in the same position as you, and your feelings are completely valid and understandable. If you want anonymous support, reach out to a mental health hotline for advice. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK for general counseling, or you can text “START” to 741-741.[5]

  • For an LGBTQ+ specific support line, call the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or text START to 678678.
  • For a list of international mental health hotlines, check here:

Set and communicate your boundaries with your family. Be open and honest about how you’re feeling with your family. Let them know when you’ll need some time to yourself, and let them know what your class schedule is so they know not to disturb you. Double-check that you’re on the same page with the rest of your household now that you’re living at home.[6]

  • For instance, you may have some chores to do around the house now that you’re staying at home.
  • You can say something like: “I understand that this is your home too, but I’d really appreciate it if you’d give me some time to myself from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM. I have a class then, and I’d prefer not to be disturbed so I can focus.”
  • If you are quarantining with family members who do not respect your identity, you may have to set boundaries surrounding your name or pronouns as well.[7]
  • You can say something like, “Even if you don’t understand it, calling me by the wrong pronouns hurts my feelings and feels disrespectful. I’d appreciate it if you could respect my identity while I live here.”

Sort out your thoughts in a journal. Dedicate a blank notebook or journal to your thoughts and feelings regarding the COVID-19 crisis. Write out all of your thoughts, feelings, and disappointments, along with what you feel like you’re missing from your college experience. Writing out your feelings can provide you with a lot of comfort and solace during this tough time.[8]

  • For instance, you can write something like: “I know there’s nothing I can do, but I still feel really upset that I can’t participate in any Greek life events anymore. I’m going to FaceTime with some friends this weekend to try and make up for it.”

Watch and listen to the news sparingly. Don’t feel obligated to tune into the news all of the time. Chances are, the latest news reports won’t offer anything productive to your mental health. Instead, give yourself 10-15 minutes each day where you watch or listen to the news, then take a break for the rest of the day. Try to focus on your studies instead, and prioritizing your own mental health above anything else![9]

Establishing a Routine

Schedule each day so you can stick to a routine. Plan out your day as though you were still staying in a dorm or on-campus housing. Set your alarm for your classes as you usually would, and perform your usual morning routine, like showering and getting dressed. Even if you’re not going to a physical class, you can still keep a steady, consistent schedule for yourself.[10]

  • For instance, if your first class is at 10:00 AM, you can set your alarm for 9:00 AM so you have plenty of time to wake up and get ready.
  • If you’re still following a schedule, your mind will still feel like it’s in the college routine.

Set aside a specific area of your home for studying. Pick a corner of your home where you don’t spend a lot of time resting or relaxing. Choose a place where you can focus, like a desk or coffee table. Try to avoid learning or studying from your bed or couch, or else your brain may not separate relaxing from online learning.[11]

  • For instance, dedicate your couch to resting and relaxing and your kitchen table to studying.

Sleep at least 7 hours each night. Try to go to bed at a pretty consistent time each night. With this in mind, aim to wake up around the same time each morning. Get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, which will help you feel refreshed and energized as possible as you make your way through your semester.[12]

  • For instance, try to go to bed by 12:00 AM and wake up by 7:00 AM at the earliest.

Give yourself time to relax and recharge each day. Set aside at least 30 minutes where you can do something fun and relaxing. Spend some time browsing social media, playing your favorite video games, listening to a relaxing playlist, or doing anything else that helps take your mind off anything stressful. If you’ve had a tough day, you can also unwind by taking a relaxing bath or laying down in a room with scented candles.[13]

  • For instance, you may find playing video games relaxing, or you may enjoy kicking back with a good book. Do whatever you need to do to recharge while juggling your studies.

Staying Busy

Take up an outdoor hobby like birdwatching. Go outside and try to spot birds in your yard or neighborhood, even if they’re really common. Take pictures of each bird and compare them to birding guides so you can get an idea of what birds you’re seeing. When the pandemic ends, you can continue birding in larger areas, like your local park![14]

  • Gardening is another great outdoor activity that you can try.
  • It can help to have a long-term hobby during the summer once your classes are done. See if birdwatching or gardening can keep you active and entertained during the summer months!

Explore some new indoor crafts and hobbies while you’re at home. Visit your local craft store and try out a new hobby, like knitting, crocheting, sewing, embroidery, or something similar. See if any particular activity strikes your fanny. You may be surprised at how creative you can be, all from the comfort of your own home![15]

  • Jigsaw puzzles are another great activity to fill your spare time.

Watch a new TV show or documentary in your downtime. Look for a movie or TV show that really piques your interest, or is part of a genre that you really like. Set aside some time each day to watch this movie or TV show. This can give you something to look forward to while you’re finishing up your studies![16]

  • You can always invite friends to watch shows and movies with you virtually.

Cook or bake to pass the time while you’re at home. Check out the ingredients you have lying around your home, or visit your local grocery store to pick up more. Explore some cookbooks or cooking websites to find a recipe that you really like, such as a special kind of cake or bread. While you’re stuck at home, you can continue bolstering your culinary skills.[17]

  • Cooking and baking are great skills to have once you’re living on your own.

Play a musical instrument in your spare time. Rent or invest in a musical instrument to learn during the pandemic, like a guitar or keyboard. Practice a little bit each day—you might be surprised at how much you improve while you’re learning from home![18]


  • Postpone important events, like graduation parties, for after the pandemic ends.[19]

  • Download mindfulness apps if you’re feeling stressed.[20]

  • Whenever you go outside, follow the recommended social distancing guidelines in your area.[21]


  • If you’re feeling suicidal, call 1-800-273-TALK if you live in the US. If you live in another country, you can find an appropriate hotline here:

  • Cut back on alcohol and drugs, as they will weaken your immune system and make it harder for you to fight off COVID-19.[22]

  • Stop vaping if you vape regularly, as vape fluid contains some pretty bad chemicals that can hurt your immune system.[23]