Student Life

9 Tips for Creating a Balanced College Semester

In college, we are given more control over how we use our time, and there can be a lot of pressure that comes with that. Here are some ways to ease it. 

Student Contributor, Rachel Lechwar

January 29, 2022

9 Tips for Creating a Balanced College Semester
When structuring our semester, it helps to build in space to breathe.
I’ll admit it– I am the type of person who feels the need to fill my college schedule until it has little breathing room. I tend to overcommit, to believe I have more time than I actually do. In college, it’s easy to slip into one or another: a rigid self-imposed routine with little downtime or long periods of aimlessness. But balance is a crucial part of entering into a world where we have so much more control over how we spend our time. Here are some ways to both structure and destress college life.
  1. Speak with your college advisor before creating your schedule.

    And make sure to ask plenty of questions. I’ve taken classes that I thought counted for one credit but really didn’t fulfill any requirements. College advisors have also been able to warn if they think you have an overwhelming course load.
  2. Map out required classes.

    This is something that advisors can help with too. It’s a good middle ground between pre-planning every class you’re going to take each semester and being unaware of university requirements. Some people realize much too late that they had just one more Gen Ed or major-related class left to take, a mistake that delays their graduation another semester. It’s important to note that plans are subject to change. I’ve had to shift around my schedule plan so many times because of class availability or other conflicts.
  3. Balance between classes you’ll enjoy and ones that are required.

    I’ve had to come to terms with the idea that there is no such thing as a “waste of a class.” Even if a class doesn’t necessarily fill any sort of requirement, that doesn’t make it useless.
    Why not take that intro to documentary film class that looked interesting to you? Unless you are pressed for time or planning to graduate early, it doesn’t hurt to add a few electives into the mix. If you’re invested in the material, the workload will be so much more manageable.
  4. Tailor your class schedule to your needs.

    I like to block out lunch breaks and set a cap on the times I take my classes. Some people prefer the afternoon or evening, but I like to get them knocked out in the morning. It’s also important to pay attention to class locations. Some campuses are more walkable than others, so make sure you have enough time to get from one place to another. I made the mistake of accidentally scheduling classes five minutes apart, and the buildings were on opposite sides of the campus. Luckily, I realized this during drop/add week, which is the first week of school, so I was able to readjust my schedule.
  5. Find activities outside of classes.

    Depending on your major and workload, there may be more or less free time than you’re used to. On-campus organizations are a great way to fill the time and get connected with others with similar interests. Finding a sense of community can transform the entire college experience. Also, make sure to check out events hosted by the university, which can range from guest speakers to homecoming rallies and concerts.
  6. Take gradual steps towards career goals.

    This could be just researching opportunities or applying for internships or interviewing someone in a field that interests you. My advisor recommends looking into this during your sophomore to junior year to prepare for job applications when senior year rolls around. It doesn’t hurt to start early, but there is a caveat. When I applied for my first internships, it was difficult for me to assess how much free time I really had. I ended up trying to get involved with multiple organizations and spending more time than I had originally intended. So, make sure you are not overloading yourself.
  7. Take into account self-care.

    This is often neglected, especially in such a busy time of our lives, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Remember that it’s not selfish or unproductive to take a break. I have learned the value of naps in the past year and let myself try out different activities like painting, hammocking, and meditation to ease stress.
  8. Check in on your physical health.

    I like a sense of order, so going to classes and establishing this routine is helpful for me. However, we all reach our limit at some point. The pandemic has emphasized that it’s better to stay home if you’re feeling unwell, even if that means missing class or an event you were looking forward to.
  9. Find a good study space, library or your own bedroom.

    With an ongoing stream of assignments from essays to tests to midterms to finals, it’s important to figure out the best environment to help you focus. I know that the library is always there for me if I need a space to work on campus, but somehow, I am most productive when at the desk in my room. Others will say they can’t resist the temptation of sleeping or looking at their phone while at home. It really is dependent on the person, but once you find that space, or spaces, it makes work go by much quicker.
There are so many other ways to find balance in college, both in and outside of classes, but this was just a snapshot of what I have learned from the past couple years. Routines have been skewed due to the pandemic, and online asynchronous classes have provided even more space that we have to determine how to use for ourselves. When structuring this era of our lives, it helps to build in space to breathe. It is possible to both push through and enjoy this transitionary period in which we are still figuring out what works for us.

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