5 Steps to Simplify Your College Experience

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Caroline Yocum
A college woman sits looking at a calendar entry on her tablet.

While one of the most exciting times in life, college can feel like a place you’re being pulled in a million different directions. Managing school, extracurricular activities, a social life, and maybe even a job is both challenging and overwhelming.

When I first got to college, I dove headfirst into the social and extracurricular opportunities campus had to offer while also being a full-time student and working part time. While the organizations I joined on campus are some of my favorite parts of my college experience so far, the entangling of my social, work, and academic calendars soon became a huge point of stress in my life. I felt like I could never get ahead of anything. In fact, I refused to look ahead in my calendar more than a day or two in advance because it stressed me out knowing everything I was going to have to do that week.

Eventually I decided to start taking on my day rather than letting it overtake me, and that’s when I added 5 steps to my routine to help me tackle my agenda. I’ve found that these 5 things help me stay on top of assignments and activities, while making me feel better prepared for the week ahead of me.

Step 1: Choose a Calendar

In college you’re going to get sent what seems like 100 different calendars with 100 different dates on them. My school uses Canvas, my sorority uses Google, my job uses Microsoft, and I would get emailed about campus events left and right. Nothing is worse than having to shift through a dozen sites just to figure out the agenda for the day, not to mention it makes it easy to forget about things all together. By condensing all your assignments, activities, and meetings into one calendar, you will have a one stop place to tackle the day. I prefer using the calendar app on my iPhone because it pops up on my home screen, but there are hundreds of other calendars out there that might work for you. There are simple applications like the iPhone calendar, Microsoft Outlook, and Google Calendar, and ones with more features available like Power Planner. Some people also prefer to have their planner on hand with them in a physical copy, which is great too. Regardless of what you use, consolidating your calendar is key.

Step 2: Stay Updated

When getting constant updates through school applications, emails from professors, employers, and organizations, it’s easy for information to get lost in the shuffle. Set aside a specific time in the day to check your notifications on all platforms and add information to your calendar. I prefer to do this first thing in the morning, as well as around 5pm but the important thing is to find a time that works for you and commit to being consistent with it each day.

Step 3: Plan a Time Designated for Homework

It’s easy to get behind on homework in college with so many other things going on in your life. After you’ve chosen a calendar and updated your assignments and schedule, it’s important to assess time during each day you can set aside to complete assignments. This time might look different each day depending on your class or work schedule, but this will help you stay focused on your assignments and keep from procrastinating. Procrastination is one of the biggest causes of stress in college and setting aside planned time for homework can help prevent you from getting behind on assignments.

Step 4: It's Okay to Say “No”

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn in college is that it’s okay to say no to things. I tried to pick up every shift, attend every meeting, and volunteer for every event, and I found it being more detrimental to me mentally than it was beneficial. The great thing about college is that there will always be another opportunity, and it’s okay to say no. Even though you might have FOMO in the moment, taking the night off to prioritize rest or homework is okay and you’ll thank yourself in the long run. Making sure I was choosing the activities I participated in each day intentionally helped my days become less stressful and allowed me to really enjoy what I was doing.

Step 5: Get Some Sleep

The last part of my daily routine I changed that drastically helped my ability to balance the craziness of college life was prioritizing my sleep. It’s incredibly hard to be productive running on 3 hours of sleep. Along with this, it’s hard for your body to keep up when you go to bed at 9pm one night, and 3am the next. Once I started going to bed at a consistent and reasonable time each night, I saw my mood and energy boost dramatically. This goes along with planning out your homework time, so you don’t get stuck with a last-minute deadline having to pull and all-nighter.

College is an amazing time filled with once in lifetime opportunities, but no student is exempt from the stress and busy schedule that comes with this season of life. I know incorporating these five things into my daily life has helped me find the balance between my social, academic, and work life and I hope they will do the same for you. Everyone's schedule and preferences are different, so make sure to try out different calendars, study periods and sleep times to see what works best for you.

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