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Opinion

Ask Colleen: The college balancing act

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November 9, 2016

Dear Colleen,

 I’m really stressed with balancing school and work. Ever semester, I always say that I will cut back, but it never seems to work. I currently have two jobs, but I think I want to quit one of them. With classes and both of my jobs, I just always feel as if I am in a rush and I never truly get to enjoy myself. What do I do?

 From,
Running out of Time

Running out of Time,

This is a great question, and I think that almost every college student could relate. What’s funny is that I was just talking to my friend about how we can’t wait until the day in which we have one job. Just one job with regular hours would be the dream, wouldn’t it? College is the ultimate juggling act and I cannot tell you how many times I have felt the exact same way you do right now.

When you think about it, as students we have the most sporadic schedules. Some days we have 8 a.m. classes and then the next we don’t have class until noon. Not to mention that our work hours are all over the place. From my own experience and observations, typically college students work nights and weekends, leaving us with no time to do anything else. No time at all. Having to manage class, work, homework, a social life, a significant other, exercising, eating three meals a day and sleep is actually impossible. It’s like we have to pick and choose was is important and what isn’t. As sad as that is, sometimes that becomes our reality.

With your busy schedule, I can imagine why you feel like you are in a constant rush and aren’t enjoying yourself. I understand what it is like to be a working college student and there are days in which I go all day long without a break. If quitting one of your jobs would hurt you financially, that could possibly be another stressor in your life that you don’t need. Before quitting, I would really look at your finances and make sure you can swing it. If everything plays out and you can leave your job, I think that would definitely make things more enjoyable for you. Instead of spending that time at work, you could use if for one of the many other things you are trying to balance.

No matter what stage of life you are in, you will need to find balance. I’m not trying to sound like a parent here, but just hear me out. It’s really important to take care of yourself. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat as healthy as you can, go for a walk and take a mental health day if you need it. It will be impossible to manage your busy lifestyle if you are not physically and mentally healthy. Every college student knows the horror of being sick. There is no time to be sick in college. Missing a day of classes becomes a constant battle of playing catch up.

OK, I’m done being a parent now. But I’ll have to admit that no matter how annoyed I got with my dad for continually nagging me about eating right, getting enough sleep and wearing a coat, he was always right. I’ll never let him know that, though. The point is to take care of yourself so you can make this busy lifestyle work and have some fun while doing it.

If quitting your job doesn’t make sense, then you’ll have to make some adjustments in order to make all of this work. For me, I had to give up staying up until 2 a.m. watching Netflix and only reserving homework on the weekends for Sundays. Personally I think it’s inhumane to do homework on Fridays or Saturdays, but I’ve learned that sometimes that’s just what you have to do. I’m also in a very slow and reluctant processes of becoming a morning person. I just don’t think it’s in me, but I know that if I get up even just a couple hours earlier it will make time for homework or studying. Work with what you have. Take your hectic schedule and make it as routine as possible. A routine that works for you.

As crazy and stressful as college can be, it is important to make sure you are enjoying it. Not every class will be your favorite, and if you become too stressed or busy no class will ever be fun. It may take some time and it might not work the first try, but do your best to balance everything.

Remember, it’s okay to ask for help or to reach out to your professors when you feel swamped, although sometimes I get the feeling that my professors get together and make all their assignments due in the same week just to see their students squirm. I will note that I know this isn’t true just in case any of my professors are reading this. Please don’t fail me.

Anyway, do the best you can and don’t be ashamed if you need to cut back. There is nothing wrong with that, and being a student is a full time job in itself. Also, don’t let the stress of managing everything overtake you. Because once you graduate, none of this will matter anyway and this stressful time will be a distant memory.

Best of luck,

Colleen

Colleen Brown is a student at UW-River Falls.