Managing College Life
“Solitude is very different from a ‘time-out’ from our busy lives,” said Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and prolific writer. It can often seem like a challenge to find time for solitude when I’m trying to balance classes, extracurriculars, and my own well-being. As a college student I often feel like I barely have time to take a breath, let alone to enjoy solitude. However, finding time to step away from the hectic race that is college is one of the most valuable things I have learned in my college experience thus far.
It’s important to manage your time well in college, because if you don’t have a clear plan of when and how you’re going to do your assignments, your life will be not only busy but also stressful. If you have two essays to write and 100 pages to read, do not wait until the night before to write those essays and read your assigned reading. because then you not only have a busy night, you also have a stressful night. Busyness does not have to be associated with stress, although it is often spoken of in conjunction with stress. Scheduling and balance are key to avoiding the feeling that the only thing you are doing is schoolwork. Designate a certain amount of time for homework, and then take a break. For example, you might say, “I will work on my homework until 7 p.m., and then I will take a 30-minute break to clear my mind.”
Now the next question is, once you take that 30-minute break, how will you spend your time? Take those 30 minutes and write in a journal or spend time with God through prayer, quiet reflection, or reading scripture. Take time to reflect on what your life looks like in its current state. Spend time experiencing solitude instead of watching your favorite show on Netflix because your favorite show is merely a “time-out” from your busy life. Netflix is a temporary solution, but I find it much more beneficial to take a step back and reflect instead of just blocking everything out by watching a television show.
While solitude can be beneficial to balancing the busyness of academics, it isn’t the only fix for when it seems like you have too much going on at once. I have found extracurriculars to be one of the best parts of college. They do take up some of your time, which does, in a very literal sense, make you “busier.” However, you cannot spend 24/7 in your dorm room regardless of whether you are doing schoolwork or something else. Extracurriculars make you a good type of busy. They help you form relationships with others who are going to feel just as overwhelmed and busy as you are.
Yes, you are meant to work hard in college, but you are not meant to become so busy that busyness becomes synonymous with stress. Balancing fun and academics creates a “good busy.” Busyness only becomes a bad thing when it becomes synonymous with stress or starts to affect your well-being. That is when it is time to step back and evaluate if something has to give in order for you to be busy without being stressed. For some people this may mean they have to spend less time socializing on the weekends and more time doing work. For other people this may mean getting involved in an extra-curricular activity in order to balance their academics with fun. There is not a magical solution to managing the college schedule, because the reality of college is that you will be busy. The key is learning how to balance academics and fun in order to be a “good busy” and not let busy become synonymous with stress.