My name is Eliza Hawthorne and I am a senior student at Wilfrid Laurier University, in Brantford, Canada. I am working towards finishing my Bachelor of Arts with a Major in History and Minors in English and Indigenous Studies. I am also working on achieving my Bachelor of Education. I have had to work two or more jobs to afford to finish my 5- year program debt free so I feel that I am practiced in the art of balancing work, school and social life.
Everyone goes into college thinking that it’s going to be just like the movies. You will get there, set up your room, make interesting friends and join great clubs. Now, of course, those things will happen. College is a great experience where you can make awesome memories that you will cherish for the rest of your life; you can get involved with any number of sports teams or school clubs and find out who you want to be. However, one of the things that they do not show you in the movies is the pressure of trying to keep your marks up.
Now not everyone will have this worry, but for those of us that do, it’s a big one. It can be very difficult to maintain your grades when you want to hang out with your friends or when you have to chair a meeting. It can be even harder if you have a job to pick up the financial slack.
One of the things that you have to remember is that grades are important. They can be used to get positions on campus, to keep you on a team, or to hold on to your scholarships. If you keep your grades up to an acceptable level, you can apply for all manner of grants. There are so many endowments out there that go unused every year; all you have to do is apply and it may be yours. Eventually, your grades will play an enormous role in whether or not you get hired. In today’s competitive job market, the difference between getting a job or a phone call saying, “thanks’ for applying but the position has been filled,” could be one grade point.
That being said, college should be fun and not overly stressful. If you spend all of your time working or studying you are bound to feel it and it will affect your marks. It may not be in your first year, but by the time fourth year rolls around, your motivation to complete work will be sub-par. There is some truth to the old saying “all work and no play.”
In order to get that healthy balance between school work, employment, friends, clubs or what ever you may be into, you have to learn one word; scheduling. It may seem like an obvious answer but that is because it is! The only way that you will ever be able to have enough time to do the things you need to do is to manage your time effectively.
The first step is to get a hold of some calendars. You are going to want to make sure that your important due dates are posted everywhere possible so that you know that they are coming. I suggest a large calendar with at least four months to post on your wall and a small day planner so that you can check your schedule week to week. If you prefer a more technological approach, you can easily make calendars on your computer or phone with reminders. When you know what important dates are coming up you can plan accordingly.
The unfortunate thing about college is that everything seems to be due at the same time. You do not want to leave studying for five midterms until the day before. Knowing that the dates are coming up will hopefully prompt you to start some of your assignment earlier and work on them bit by bit. You can even use your day planner to designate parts of the assignment for certain days.
The next thing to do is to set some study periods. Pick some days where you have a few hours free and do your class readings then. If you have a Wednesday morning off you can do all of your readings for the next week on that day and you can focus on more percentage heavy assignments. It is also better if you tackle your work during the day because that leaves your evenings free for everything else. You can fit small things like research or class readings into gaps before or after class. Did you get out early from class? Do you have some time before the next one? Pull out your textbook instead of browsing Facebook and save yourself some headache. You could even head to class early to get some time away from distractions like roommates or T.V. which may prevent you from doing your work.
Ultimately, it’s hard to move around dates and meetings. Classes are offered when they are offered, practices and meetings are set and you only have so much leeway with your work schedule. The only flexible thing is schoolwork. Unfortunately this means that it is often squished into unreasonable time slots and it is reflected in the quality of your work and your GPA. If you plan your day, your week, and your month, this will not happen and you can have a happy life, pay for school and keep your grades. You really can have it all if you plan.