by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
College is one of the most exciting times, but it can also be one of the most challenging and scary times too. Use these 10 tips for coping, finding life balance in school.
Some college students feel that college life is like walking a tightrope — with many competing activities vying for your attention and time. You have your academic workload, your growing social circle and all their activities, your friends and family back home, career and/or grad school decisions to make, your physical fitness to monitor, and your spiritual well-being to nurture. Add to these things, roommate problems and boyfriend/girlfriend relationship issues, and you may at times feel overwhelmed.
How can you cope? Use these 10 tips for finding life balance in college to help you deal with the plethora of distractions facing you as a college student.
1. Set Realistic Goals.
Finding balance probably starts with setting realistic goals for yourself. If you set goals that are too high, you’ll end up wearing yourself out, feeling frustrated and disappointed in yourself for not achieving your goals. If you set your goals too low, you’ll have too much time on your hands and feel empty when you achieve your goals. The goals you set should be a bit of stretch, but not so much that you can’t achieve them. Consider setting goals for yourself — not only for your academics, but for other aspects of campus life. And remember not to let others influence your goals.
2. Learn to Study Effectively.
Your education at college involves more than countless hours of studying, so learn how you best study and prepare for exams — and then adjust your schedule accordingly. Spending too much time studying can actually lead to burn-out and produce a negative impact on your academic
performance. Too little studying and/or cramming can also lead to disaster. So, along with realistic goals, develop a study schedule that works best for you.
3. Learn to Better Manage Your Time. Avoid Procrastination.
One of the biggest reasons for feeling stressed and that our lives are out of balance is when the time management beast awakens within us. Develop a system for managing and prioritizing your time, remembering to block out time for eating, exercising, studying, and socializing — as well as some time just for yourself.
4. Eat Well.
There is no question that eating a balanced diet has a positive effect on a person’s well-being — and on a student’s academic performance. Avoid the empty calories of junk food and strive for eating good food — whether you prepare it yourself or eat at your school’s commons.
Doing some sort of physical activity provides many benefits — from stress reduction to increasing your brain’s fitness. Exercising increases blood supply and sends oxygen to the brain resulting in better memory, reasoning, and concentration. And the endorphins you get from exercising are great for improving your spirits. (Of course, before you jump into any kind of physical exercise program, check with your doctor first.)
6. Take Charge. Set Priorities.
Sometimes it’s easier for us to allow ourselves to feel overwhelmed rather than taking charge and developing a prioritized list of things that need to get done. You need to buck the trend and take responsibility. Develop a to-do list — even if that’s something you normally don’t do. Set priorities. And then enjoy the satisfaction of crossing things off your list.
It seems human nature for just about everyone to take on too many tasks and responsibilities, to try to do too much, and to try and please too many people. What you need to do is look for ways to simplify your life. Change your lifestyle. Learn to say no to requests for your help — it’s sometimes a hard thing to do, but sometimes you need to do it to protect yourself.
8. Let Things Go. (Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.)
It’s simpler said than done, but learn to let things go once in a while. So what if you skip a couple of meetings of the marketing club or that your clothes do not get cleaned every week or that you miss a few softball games. Learn to recognize the things that don’t really have much impact in your life and allow yourself to let them go — and then not beat yourself up for doing so. It truly is the big things that matter in life.
9. Explore Your Options. Get Help.
One of the great things about college is that you have access to all sorts of help — you typically can turn to your professors, academic assistance and tutoring centers, health clinic, and counseling center for the assistance you need. Do not be afraid to ask for help — and seek that assistance as early as you can. Don’t be embarrassed; we all need help at times, and that’s why all colleges have these resources available to you.
10. Know When It’s Time to Quit.
There comes a time when you are simply overwhelmed and there is no way out except to make some drastic changes. You should first look to your extra-curricular activities. Consider quitting an organization that is not important in the grand scheme of things. If you have cut back on all your social activities but are still struggling with your class, talk with your academic adviser about possibly dropping one of your classes so you can salvage the others.
Final Thoughts on Achieving College-Life Balance
College is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life, but it can also be one of the most challenging and scary times too. For many students, college is the first real taste of independence, and with that independence comes a long series of decisions about how to spend your time. Your goal should be to seek a balance that allows you to excel in school while still experiencing all that college life has to offer.