Imagine you’re standing on the edge of a cliff, looking out at the world ahead of you. On your side is the bare and desolate desert. On the other side is the rest of civilization and pretty much everything you need to survive. The only way to get across is by a thin, rickety bridge that’s roughly 36.38 inches wide.
Stepping one foot out in front of you, you prepare to make the perilous trek. Oh, there are also the two sandbags you need to carry - one for each hand. And they each weigh roughly 30 pounds each. So there’s that.
To say the journey would be difficult is nothing short of an understatement. Carrying two heavy weights while being able to balance the rickety bridge makes the task a lot harder to accomplish. But what can you do? You need to do it or else you won’t make it to the other side.
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Isn’t this what many of us students go through every day? Aside from the load of school work, we have to juggle other things such as extracurriculars, scholarships and college searches (just to name a few). We have to do all of this and be able to make it to the other side - and that’s graduation.
This article should give you a few tips in helping you balance your academics and college search. No, it won’t teach you how to be able to lift heavy sandbags, but it will teach you techniques to make crossing the bridge of school a lot easier.
1. Know exactly what you’re doing.
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It’s easy to say, “I’m going to finish my math homework tomorrow and find at least three colleges that have programs I’m interested in!” on Friday night and then do absolutely none of that on the following Saturday. So many of us are used to saying we’re going to do something, but we never end up planning the specifics and it never gets done. At least, to the quality we’d like it to be.
If you want to keep up with your schoolwork and stay on top of college searching, make your plans detailed. Nothing in your to-do list should be vague, or else you won’t know what you specifically you have to do. A better way to plan your day could be like the following: “Tomorrow, I’m going to wake up by 9 AM and start on my math at 10! I’ll finish that at noon, take a half an hour break for lunch, then search for colleges till 3!” By having a strict schedule, you have a better idea of what you need to do and when you have to do it. This makes it easier for you to abide by.
2. Have a planner.
The key to balancing all the things you have to do is good planning. And with good planning comes a good planner, whatever that may be. Many people like to plan things out in a planner or a whiteboard or on their phone. Bottom line is: have some medium you can put your to-do lists in. Your head doesn’t count. Trust me, I’ve been there. You may think you can remember everything, and maybe you can, but not in much detail. You may remember you have math homework, but you won’t remember what math problems they are if you didn’t write them down somewhere.
By having a planner, you can write down all that needs to get done. Some people like to list them off in bullet points, others like check boxes - whatever floats your boat. As long as you can visually see a list of things you have to do, that helps tremendously. Isn’t it so satisfying when you cross things off after you complete them?
Writing down all the things that you have to get done takes a lot of stress off your chest, too. At least it does for me! After writing down everything, it gives me a sense of relief to know that I have a list of all that I need to get done and that it won’t go anywhere. Having a planner is extremely helpful because it keeps track of all you need to do and all you have done.
3. Set aside time.
You can’t get to work on your math homework if you don’t have time to do it in the first place. A good way to keep your academics and college search balanced is to set aside time for both. To do this, you don’t need to plan out every minute of your day to make sure you get everything done. You just need a general idea of how much time you plan to spend on each thing. Here’s an example of what you could write in your planner:
Volleyball practice: 3-4:30
Chemistry homework: 5-5:30
English homework: 5:45-6:15
College search: 7:30-8:30
It’s not crucial to follow the schedule exactly, as long as you’re spending the amount of time you allotted for each task. Setting aside time in your planner ensures that you have time to do what you have to do. It also keeps you on a schedule, so you’re not clueless on what you have to do next and how long you have to do it.
4. Know your limits.
No one else knows you best except for you. So, when you’re planning out the next day’s work, make sure what you plan is something you can actually do. Setting only one simple task for yourself in a 24 hour day probably isn’t the best way to get a lot done. And doing 20 pages of math problems and 4 hours of physics lab write ups and 4,000 words of an analytical essay on the iambic pentameter of all of Shakespeare’s works in one Thursday afternoon isn’t the best idea. Know how much work you can do before getting burnt out, and plan accordingly.
At the end of the day, balancing academics and college search all comes down to priorities. If you truly want the best for your grades and want to choose the perfect college, you’ll put in the work to get it. If there’s something else you want, your attention will be focused elsewhere that will reflect at the end of the year.
Keep yourself on top of your work by planning things and writing them down. Set aside time to do what you have to. If you follow these steps, you’ll be across the bridge in no time!