School and socializing

“I can’t go out tonight… I have to study.”

The sentence is common in university, usually right after your friend asks if you want to go out to that new club downtown. You’ve got the right intentions with that excuse—the essay for philosophy is due tomorrow at 8 a.m. sharp. Then your friend uses those persuasive words, like “come on!” and “we’ll only stay for an hour!” Later, you find yourself staring at a blank Word document at six in the morning, still slightly drunk, and completely out of time.

University is obviously about school: working hard to get good grades in order to graduate with a good GPA and go on to grad school or land a decent job. But part of university is having a life. Why else would there be so many clubs and opportunities to attend events? So that’s where the balance comes in. This may blow your mind, but you don’t have to study constantly. Of course, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this—go right ahead. If you can handle all that work, you deserve some kudos. But if you’re like most of the students around here, you need to have time for fun too.

Before you end up in the unfortunate situation explained earlier, you should come up with a plan. Most profs assign essays with plenty of time to write it and do some revising to stretch the paper to that word limit. So you get the assignment due in three weeks’ time. Start it that same week! I know—you’ve got three weeks, 21 days, 504 hours… “So much time! It’ll get done eventually.” But the truth is, that due date will come sooner than you can do the math to figure out how many minutes are in those three weeks.

You don’t have to write the whole paper in that first week, but just start an outline. Get an idea of what you want to write and gather all your sources. Read the material so when it comes down to the night before it’s due, at least you just have to make all your notes fit together in a coherent essay. Or if you’re feeling especially scholarly, write the entire essay early and then edit it to perfection. That way, you can go out to the club the night before it’s due with no worries. (Although really… a club on a school night? What would your mother say!)

Obviously, university isn’t just about essays. Exams are a major portion too. Don’t even get me started on finals. I’m going to repeat the phrase I’m sure you’ve already heard a million times: don’t procrastinate. This goes for writing papers and required assignments, but it’s especially important for exams. Your brain needs time to soak up the information before you’re sitting in class, staring down at a test that has suddenly gone from English to some foreign dialect you don’t even recognize. Putting information in your long-term memory, which makes it easily accessible, requires repetition. Starting to study for an exam the night before will not give your brain enough time to memorize all the information.

Start early—at least a week ahead of time—and make yourself notes based on lectures and readings to review as much as you can before the exam.

Now instead of spending entire days and nights doing last-minute schoolwork with no social interaction, you can have time to see friends every day. Try and do all your homework between classes and leave evenings for time with friends. Come up with a good schedule. Just don’t end up stressed and freaking out the night before an exam or a paper is due. After all, that won’t get you any friends. Happy balancing!

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