Staying Balanced in College

Keeping a healthy balance between life, school, and work is what everyone hopes for in college, but how can you actually make it happen? Here are 5 tips to help you get started: 

1. Use a Planner or Calendar App
Keeping track of what you need to do for the day and seeing what’s on your schedule for the week can help you decide when to schedule work hours, accomplish tasks, finish your homework, and hang out with friends.  

Using a planner or calendar app can teach you how to prioritize tasks and not overbook yourself. It can also remind you of upcoming deadlines.  

For example, consider using your planner as a daily to-do list. So, every morning try writing down what you need to start working on or finish. Consider numbering your tasks by what needs to get done first. An assignment due tonight should be higher up on your to-do list rather than an assignment due 5 days from now. This may help you feel less overwhelmed. It can also remind you of tasks that you might otherwise forget.

2. Create Boundaries
Boundaries are the lines we draw when it comes to relationships, work, time, and so on to maintain our wellbeing.

For example, let’s say one of your boundaries is that you will not pull all-nighters. It’s 9 pm and your current assignment is only halfway done, but it’s due at noon the next day. Rather than staying up until 3am, struggling to focus and feeling exhausted, you can say, “I’m gonna go back to my dorm, set my alarm, and just finish this in the morning.” When the morning comes, you can feel well-rested, re-energized, and focused so you can finish the assignment by 10 am with ease. Rather than exhausting yourself with all-nighters, try to finish assignments early, ask for extensions if needed, and take time to rest. College is a marathon. Not a sprint. You have to take extra good care of yourself and plan time to rest and relax in order to stay balanced.

These sorts of boundaries are helpful when we’re in college, because it allows us to do what we need and want to do without spreading ourselves too thin. When we try to do too many things all at once, we may get overwhelmed and stressed and are more likely to burn out. 

3. Enjoy your social life
Going to college is primarily about academics, but it’s also a time where you are growing as a person on social, emotional, and mental levels as well. Making lifelong friends, coming into your identity, and learning to live on your own are all also huge events happening while you’re in higher education

Take time to explore these changes. Join a student organization or club sport, make time to hang out with new and old friends, and do things you enjoy.

Time with friends may be more limited because college can require more homework than high school, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying your social life. 

4. Find Your Community
In the simplest terms, community is a group of people you feel a sense of belonging to. For example, your Tribal community, your student organization, your major department, the town you grew up in, and the town you go to school in are all examples of communities you belong to.

Community is most important when you’re going through big life changes or challenges. This is especially true when you’re living away from home. Knowing and finding communities where you feel a sense of belonging is vital to getting through college.

Whether that’s becoming closer with your Tribal community back home, being a part of a student organization, joining a friend group, or participating in a community group off-campus, your communities will be there to support you when you need help. They also allow you to share your gifts and help others. Community and the support that comes with it is important for all of us. 

5. Ask For Help
Repeat after me: I do not have to do everything by myself. Just because you’re learning to live on your own does not mean you have to do everything on your own. In fact, the people who are living well-balanced lives often ask for help when they need it.

A lot of college students struggle because they do not ask for help. But there are so many resources available on college campuses specifically designed to help students if they are struggling academically, mentally, financially, or in other ways. This is because most college students come up against challenges during their academic lives. It’s normal.

Some ways of asking for help look like going to office hours, asking for tutoring or deadline extensions, signing up for disability services, scheduling a therapy appointment, asking for emergency funding, and just letting someone know that you are struggling. Life gets hard for all of us at times. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable and ask for help, but you owe it to yourself to get help when you need it. 

Additional Resources: 

Originally from Oklahoma, Summer Lewis is a Muscogee and Seminole woman working in Tribal public health in Northern California. She is preparing to start her first semester of her Master’s program at the University of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health and enjoys baking, beading, and being outdoors. 

As someone removed from a culture, language, community, how can I reconnect?