How to balance your relationships and schoolwork in college
Quizlet is proud to partner with real students and recent graduates to showcase authentic voices on our blog. This guest post is by Nicolette Kier, who just graduated from the University of Pittsburgh.
Time moves differently in college. You can’t sway my opinion about that.
You don’t spend as much time physically in classes (or in online meetings, if you’re doing remote schooling right now) as you did in high school. So, you should have more time to yourself, right?
And you have more freedom to see your friends whenever, so you should see them more than you saw friends in high school, right?
A lot of the time, the answer is no.
You had to stay in one place for eight(ish) hours a day, but there wasn’t so much work to do outside of class. You were stuck in one place for a good chunk of time every week, but you were stuck with your homies. You had a stricter schedule, but within that strict schedule, you knew exactly when you could see friends or (possibly) romantic partners.
Now that you have so much work, and no guarantee that you’ll regularly see your friends or romantic partners, you have to make the time to see them. You also have to preserve a lot of time for studying. Balancing both appears to be an Olympian-level task, but keep these tips in mind and you might become the Simone Biles of scheduling.
Use your finite amount of energy wisely.
You don’t go to bed feeling as energized as when you wake up. And you might not feel as mentally sharp in the morning as you do in the middle of the afternoon.
With this in mind, you should focus on how your energy levels ebb and flow throughout the day. If you notice that your brain is at its peak productivity at a certain time of the day/week, don’t schedule anything during that time.
Tell your friends that you’re drinking the sweet, sweet nectar of motivation and that you can’t see them at those times. If they’re in college, they’ll understand. If they’re not, they’ll still understand.
Those (sometimes rare) bursts of energy are almost Beyoncé-level valuable. (Just kidding. Nothing is even remotely as valuable as Yoncé.)
Study with others, but in a way that doesn’t cause mass procrastination.
I don’t know why, but for some reason, sitting in a room full of other people doing things makes me feel productive. Or, maybe it makes me feel like I should be productive.
It also makes me feel like I’m not alone in my suffer...I mean studying. (I'm kidding. School on the whole isn’t all that bad, but sometimes homework can be a drag.) Even if no one is saying anything, it feels better that other people are there.
When studying with other people:
- Choose a distinct time and place to meet. This will keep all of you on a schedule. Most campuses allow you to rent a group study room at a certain time. If in-person group studying isn’t an option, schedule a Zoom meeting.
- Make sure your study venue has everything everyone needs (i.e. whiteboard, outlets, etc.)
- Schedule breaks. (Stretch during breaks. Your 50-year-old self will thank you.)
- Consider making studying some sort of competition. For example, whoever keeps their concentration the longest can choose where you all go to eat, or what movie you’ll watch later, or what TikTok dance you’ll learn next.
There are two types of study groups, though, and the group you end up with depends on whether your study partner(s) are in the same class or not.
If your study partners are in the same course/subject:
Every relationship is special and important to you in some way. But your class friends, who have notes, answers, and anecdotes about the class itself? They’re the real ones. Treat them well, and they’ll treat you well.
It’s almost always better to study with someone else in the course.
When you get together to study, you both have the same goal, and the same amount of time to reach that goal. It’s not like one of you can “take it easier” than the other, because your tests/essays/homework assignments are due at the same time. You can motivate each other, check answers, and talk each other out of any class-related panic.
If your study partners are not in the same class:
If you don’t have a friend in the class you’re doing work for, it’s slightly more difficult to be productive. You’re not working on the same stuff, so you can’t rely on each other to keep the study session on track.
There is one potential good thing about not being in the same class though: sharing knowledge.
For example: If you are in calculus, and someone in your study squad has already taken the class (or is just weirdly good at math), you may have just bagged a tutor. Ideally, you’ll have some knowledge or skill set that’s useful to them, too. Maybe you’re good at proofreading essays, or maybe you just quiz them on what they’re studying. Sharing knowledge is for the good of the squad, and for the good of your grades.
Make other daily activities social.
The first and most important person to be honest to is yourself. If you really, truly cannot stay on-task with friends, partners, etc. in the room, then you just have to study alone.
In this case, really focus on maximizing the rest of your time. You only have so much time in a day to devote to eating, moving your body in healthy ways, and extracurricular activities.
Do some of those activities with friends. Invite a romantic partner to lunch. Bring a friend along to swim laps. Convince the whole squad to join a club, charity initiative, whatever you can all agree on.
To make sure the rest of these activities don’t overtake your study time:
- Set a specific time and place to meet and spend time together.
- Make sure you’re actually doing whatever you set out to do while hanging out. If you get together to exercise, choose an activity, something like walking, that allows you to talk at the same time.
- Don’t lose track of time while together, especially if you have an exam to study for. Set an alarm (or ten) for when you have to leave, and stick to that.
Do not surrender to the idea that you should always be productive.
While there is always something due soon, always something else to do, and always some success to strive for in school, you do not have to be a hyperproductive person who exists solely for your coursework.
Your grade will not hang in the balance if you decide to take two hours on a Saturday afternoon to do art, or veg out, or throw a football around with your friends. Your life is not over if you stand in your friend’s doorway for ten random minutes and talk to them.
You just can’t be sucked into a conversation for the next three hours while your essay sits sadly on your desktop, half-baked and due by midnight.
I highly suggest setting aside specific times to spend on anything but school. Your relationships are as important as your grades. You have to take the time to nurture them.
So the overall theme of this post is time: It’s hard to balance your time and energy. But if you can, then you’ll earn a metaphorical gold medal. It’ll just be in the form of a high GPA. You can’t hang it around your neck, but you can awkwardly pull up your grades on your phone to impress people.
Nicolette Kier just made it to the other side of a degree in physics and writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She reaped the usual rewards of college: knowledge, a job, and debt. She thinks it was worth it.