Tips For Balancing Studies And Life

Wake up, school, homework, sleep.

Does this routine sound familiar? During school, it sometimes seems like classwork and homework can take up the majority of your life. If you’re in school for five to eight hours a day, and doing homework for three hours each night, four to five days a week, how in the world do you set aside enough time for the activities that keep you healthy and sane?

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? … you get the idea.

When you’re a student, balancing time for friends, family, hobbies, and personal interests can be challenging. Last quarter, my sister worked two internships, had a full-time course load, managed the university café in the quad, and was active in her sorority. Yet she still had time to go to the gym, and hang out with her boyfriend regularly. From my perspective, she seemed like a total magician. Recently, I asked her how she was able to spend at least six hours per week perfecting her six-pack on such a jam-packed schedule. (I have trouble getting myself to the gym two flights up from my apartment.)

“Sweetie,” she said endearingly. “I would die if I didn’t go to the gym.”

I was struggling with what to do with this information, the key to my sister’s existence. Would I use it for good? Evil? Would I force her to be my reluctant gym buddy? I was pondering the matter furiously, when she elaborated:

“I get totally cranky if I don’t have my hour on the Stairmaster. Some people might find working out a chore. I find it super relaxing. It’s the oasis in my day.”
Oh. She wouldn’t die, but she certainly makes it a priority. Her response got me thinking about other ways students can find time for individual pursuits during a hectic school schedule. For the purposes of this article, I asked my college-aged sisters, Vanessa and Patricia**, for tips on how to balance life with academic commitments.

Tip #1: Prioritize what you want to do, and do it.
During summers, I read a book a week. When my first semester of school started, it felt like I barely had time to shower, let alone read for pleasure. I came home one day after a crazy shift, and picked up an unopened copy of a book that I had bought before the school year had started. When I finally put the book down, it was one in the morning. Since then, I spend at least fifteen minutes a day reading for myself. – Patricia

If school is getting in the way of something you really love, set aside a few minutes every day to do that thing, whether it’s watching television, playing guitar, or texting a friend. My sister maintains her reading ritual, even on the busiest of days, because it makes her feel good. And that good feeling provides the motivation for her to carve out time for herself, something she’d normally neglect during a busy quarter. There’s this misconception that leisure time is impossible during a busy schedule, simply because a huge chunk of the day isn’t available to do it. Doing something rewarding comes from prioritization and effort, rather than having nothing else going on. The next time you think your academic routine is getting the best of you, spend fifteen purposeful minutes involved in an activity that makes you feel good. You’ll be surprised at what those fifteen minutes can do for your mood, self-esteem, and energy levels.

Tip #2: School isn’t only about going to class and grades.
My school has over 140 clubs on campus, including a bowling team, a film society, and an improv-hybrid-acapella group that performs around the country. When I picked the clubs I wanted to join, it was basically like picking who I wanted as my best friends for the next four years. Oh yeah, and I’m taking salsa dancing as an elective. There are a lot of things I wouldn’t be doing if it wasn’t for college. — Vanessa

Where else are you going to have a bowling team, a film society, and an improv-hybrid-acapella group in one place? School isn’t merely a place for studying and class; it also provides a forum for students to explore passions, pick up new hobbies, and figure themselves out. You can potentially do all that when you join a club that corresponds to something you like. Extracurriculars are so much more than activities for beefing up your resume. They’re outlets for developing professional skills, socializing, playing sports, creating art, or participating in new experiences. To have a life while in school that isn’t solely defined by grades and tests, consider joining a club to enrich your academic routine.

Tip #3: Eat healthy, and get enough sleep.

A conversation between Vanessa and Patricia:

Vanessa: A day without breakfast is the worst. I can skip it, but then I go to class hungry, and I’ll only be thinking about eggs and toast during my teacher’s biochemistry lecture.

Patricia: Breakfast and sleep are the dynamic duo for me. During school, I’ll hate the world if I don’t have a good breakfast. I won’t wake up for breakfast if I don’t have a full night’s sleep. Starting a day with an eight-hour internship on an empty stomach is the same as asking me to play tennis against Serena Williams – a setup for failure.

It’s tempting to power through busy school days on the fuel of youth and enthusiasm, with fast food and sugary drinks thrown into the mix. Although harnessing the advantages of your metabolism certainly isn’t a bad thing, you’re likely to accomplish more during your day with proper sleep and a nutritious diet. Instead of crashing and burning due to a combination of sleep deprivation and sugar highs, you’ll have a substantial supply of energy that allows you to be fully present in class, as well as during extracurricular and social activities. If you really want to have a well-rounded schedule while in school, start with eight hours of shut-eye, and a nutritious breakfast. That way, you’ll have the fuel you need to really make the most out of your time as a student.

I hope this article provided helpful tips for students looking to have a well-rounded schedule. Thanks to Vanessa and Patricia for help with this piece (love you both!).

**Names have been changed, because they’re famous now, and they might get mobbed on campus or something.


About the author:

Dana Silverman credits her passion for travel to Girl Scouts, which provided her with amazing opportunities to attend summer camps throughout the United States during her childhood.  She’s lived in Australia and New Zealand, and she’s planning a trip to Japan around her appreciation for the country’s cuisine and temples.