College: a brand new frontier, brimming with possibilities. When I started college I was armed with two suitcases, my favorite books, and ideas of what college had in store for me. “The whole package,” everyone said. “That’s what you have to look forward to. Friends, freedom, and an excellent education.”
After two weeks of being a college freshman I realized they’d made it sound simpler than it was. How was I supposed to keep up with my reading, maintain a college social life, and get enough sleep? My newfound freedom was intoxicating, and I wasn’t sure how to stop myself from falling into the trap of having too much fun — or, on the other extreme, being so cautious that I ended up with no social life at all.
Balancing a social life and a college education is an acquired skill, but I’m here to tell you that you can maintain a healthy social life and an excellent grade-point average, all without sacrificing your circadian rhythm.
Remember that the key to a healthy college experience is a balance between a college social life and your studies. My schedule often made it look like I had all the time in the world to study, sleep, and party. The truth is, if I didn’t pay careful attention to my schedule, time tended to get away from me. A simple sheet of paper with all of my study time and party time planned out did wonders for my time management.
Expect the Unexpected
My professors were the type to spring a quiz or two on their classes when they felt like it. I panicked whenever these quizzes popped up, until I decided to specifically put aside time for reviewing what was covered in class. The review wasn’t taxing — all I did was read over my book and my notes — but it really helped ease my anxiety.
In the same vein, spontaneous outings are a part of any social life. Having fun was great, but if I wasn’t on top of my study schedule, I’d return from a long day of window shopping to a long night of wondering how to finish a 10-page paper in four days. The best schedules are flexible — they have empty chunks of time that can be filled at a later date.
The truth is that you cannot do everything while you are at college. There were a lot of parties I never got to, a lot of Friday night dates I never made. There is only so much time in the world and, at the end of the day, my number-one priority was my education. A lot of times, the social activities I made a priority were the ones that looked good on my resume: student clubs, for example.
I do not study well when friends are around. I’d rather be talking to them than reading my notes. It’s easy to allocate two hours to study and then realize that you spent those two hours chatting with your roommate instead. When it’s time to study find a quiet, secluded, distraction-free area to set up your books, and don’t move from that spot until you’ve finished your work. My favorite place was in the very back of the library.
Planning and prioritizing gave me the tools to have a social life while maintaining my GPA. At the end of my college career, not only did I have a degree, I also had connections to network with, and friends who I knew would always have my back.
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