How to Maintain Balance as a College Student
College is a unique time because it’s essentially a giant personal experiment. You get to try out living on your own but you don’t have to research plumbers when something is wrong with your sink. You get to create your own schedule and choose what to do with your day, after selecting the prescribed classes for your major. You get to make new friends and join new social clubs but you can still stay in touch with the ones from back home during breaks. You’re figuring out how to “adult” without leaving your parent’s medical insurance policy. Valley Forge is one such location for the great experiment that allows you to develop your individuality and train for your future career in whatever field you’ve chosen.
At Valley Forge, you can join or create a student-led ministry. You can get a job on campus or speak with someone in the Student Success Center to help you find one off-campus. There are also student leadership opportunities in which to get involved, along with getting plugged in and volunteering with a local congregation.
With all of these choices and opportunities available, it can be a challenge to keep everything straight to ensure you are doing your best with each activity. The difficult lesson that I’m learning is that I am not limitless. I have two choices: I can give 100% of myself to the activity that I am involved in for the moment, and then leave it completely to give 100% of myself to the next; or I can divide my 100% honestly amongst my responsibilities, assigning importance accordingly. Either way, I cannot give to the extent that I neglect myself. If you’ve gotten to the point that you’ve spent yourself, seek help from a trusted friend or leader to help you to get back on track and to rearrange your priorities – YOU ARE NOT THE SUM OF YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES, YOUR HEALTH IS MORE IMPORTANT.
So, how do you maintain balance in college?
1. Learn to say NO. Learn your own personal boundaries, your triggers, and the signs that say enough is enough. Prioritize what is actually important and be okay with “letting someone down” by saying no to a commitment from the beginning instead of frantically preparing what isn’t your best just before the task needs to be accomplished.
Getting rid of commitments can be hard to do. Personally, I’ve found it helpful to write mission statements (objectives for the Ed majors out there) for the activities I’m involved in. If I don’t have a goal that drives my involvement, if there isn’t something that I enjoy or believe in connected to this activity, why spend myself on it?
2. Learn WHO is your source. Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.” If you haven’t yet learned how to withdraw to spend time with Jesus when you’re overwhelmed and exhausted, you’re going to stay empty.
Once you’ve properly placed boundaries by saying “No” and established a supply system in Jesus, you’ll still have to learn how to juggle classes, work, friends, and activities. Let’s move to the practical organizational strategies.
Whether this is on your phone, computer, agenda book, or a task managing app, having all of your meetings, homework assignments and commitments in one location will help ensure that you don’t overbook yourself or agree to do too many things within the same week that a large project is due. (I recommend connecting your Calendar to iCloud if you have Apple products so you can access it on all devices.)
Our school email has a calendar on it and you can look at appointments and meetings there after you’ve accepted their invitation.
Valley Forge compiles upcoming events into the UVF Weekly Email and Video Announcement so you can see when fun activities are coming up and can work ahead to give yourself a free night to attend.
Personally, every semester I’ve created a schedule with my classes and commitments blocked out to help me make sure I don’t overbook myself. Maybe you need to use a visual aid like this schedule for yourself or maybe you need to go even deeper and plan out when you’re going to accomplish each task. At the very least, you should have a running knowledge of where you are and when your next conquest is.
Set alarms for yourself to keep you on track if you tend to forget a daily task or run late to a particular activity.
Wait to add activities or jobs until you’ve figured out what the semester is going to be like so you don’t overwhelm yourself.
You can do it all, but you’re not supposed to. Be nice to yourself. Set realistic goals and keep track of your responsibilities so you aren’t always stressed and rushing to hand in work that isn’t your best. Work as unto the Lord and rest according to His commandment.
You are our source of strength – you call us to work and to rest. Help us to learn the importance of both. Refresh these readers today.
In Jesus’ name,