College can be one of the most wonderful and stress-inducing times of your life. Between finances, school work, that tough class, and a social life, you can find yourself stretched too thin. Learning to balance it all takes years of practice, but here are some great tips to get you started on the way to “adulting” full time.
1. Make a budget.
Budgeting might be the most tedious task that you can think of but trust me, it’s worth it. Your funds are probably extremely limited as a student so it’s important to know exactly what you can afford to spend and where. Begin by looking at your bank statement. Note how much you make each week, how much you spend, and where you spend it. Maybe you cook most of your meals so there isn’t much money being spent on food. Great, write down approximately how much you need for groceries from each paycheck. Perhaps you like a wild night on the town every Thirsty Thursday. Record your average bar tab and subtract that from your weekly paycheck. Write down all the major categories of your spending and then average how much of each paycheck is going towards each category. Then add a separate category for saving or paying off the interest on your school loans. Create a list or spreadsheet of this information so you’ll always know exactly how much you have for groceries, bar tabs, and textbooks.
2. Schedule your studying.
It’s not enough to just say to yourself that you will study “whenever you are able.” This will result in your being mysteriously UNable due to an urgent nap situation. Figure out what time of day you work best and schedule a certain amount of that time to devote to studying. Always set aside at least twice as much time as you think you need and then dictate a day that you can take “off” from studying if you are truly caught up. For instance, if you schedule yourself three hours of studying from 3-6pm every afternoon but get all caught up on your homework by Wednesday, studied up by Thursday, and fully prepared for next week by the end of day Saturday, then take Sunday’s study time to do something nice for yourself. You’ll be able to enjoy it better knowing you are fully prepared to go into the next week and you’ll avoid stressful and ineffective last minute studying and all-nighters.
3. Work ahead.
This goes hand in hand with the last tip. It might seem silly to work ahead when everyone has taken the afternoon off to hang out. You would rather be watching the latest episode of House Hunters International and I don’t blame you. However, working ahead has more benefits than you may realize. The first is obvious: if you work ahead, you will never be behind. Even if you get sick, or have a killer hangover, you will be able to rest easy knowing that you have a few days before you will need to catch up. Plus, professors adore students who work ahead. A student who works ahead makes grading easier and shows that they are devoted to the class. Your professor will respect you as a student and therefore be more likely to be helpful if you have questions on an assignment (especially because you won’t be emailing them these questions at 11:30 pm on the due date). They will also be more likely to go out of their way for you. This includes providing feedback on assignments that aren’t due yet and directing you to extra resources. Importantly, working ahead and communicating with your professor forms a relationship that could lead to an excellent recommendation letter when you graduate and enter the workforce or grad school.
4. Learn self-care and anxiety management techniques.
It's important to know how to stop anxiety. Whether its a panic attack, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, or test anxiety, you need to be prepared to combat anxiety’s effects. Try taking classes on meditation and yoga. These classes will usually fill an elective requirement and you will learn valuable tips on deep breathing and calming your mind. If you are an introvert and being with people all day overwhelms you, then consider discussing an “alone time schedule” with your roommate or suitemate. In this situation, you both would get a certain amount of time each week or even each day where the other person agrees to leave the room and do something else for a while. You can also try finding a quiet spot on campus where you can study or collect your thoughts without being overstimulated by the press of people, noises, and smells. The library is an obvious first choice for this, but I also recommend lawns near the grad college. The graduate school is typically a quieter place on most campuses because it lacks the wild undergrads who are up to their pits in protests, tightrope walking, and gossip on the lawn.
The most important thing to remember throughout your college experience is that there is always someone who can help. University campuses are vast places where you can feel a little lost, but there are whole departments like advising, counseling, and the student health clinic that are devoted to helping you through this journey. If you’re struggling with something don’t stop asking for help until you get it and remember that other students feel the same stressors you feel. Talk it out, walk it out, or change your major three times if you need to. Your college experience is about you so don’t try to squish yourself into whatever box you think is necessary. Make your college experience work for you. If you feel in need of extra coaching, reach out to Student Coaching Services! We exist to help students like you make it through college successfully!