The Best New Year's Resolutions for College Students to Make
You might want to reconsider that typical New Year’s resolution. Instead of joining a gym or promising to give up chocolate, commit yourself to a goal that’s actually achievable: finding a better way to balance your work, school and social life.
Online students have a unique challenge when it comes to work/life balance. Many work either part or full time, and then must find time to complete their coursework and maintain a personal life. Too often, students think they can only have two out of the three. While it can be hard, having it all is doable, according to Lindsay Matias, assistant director at Drexel University’s Center for Learning and Academic Success Services (CLASS).
Matias recently graduated from Drexel’s online MS in Library and Information Science while working full time at CLASS, where she regularly helps students with issues like time management and study tips. Over the course of earning her degree, she learned a few things about managing her work life, her school life and her social life. Here are her tips for helping online students make work/life balance a priority in 2018.
Create a designated work space
Sorry to break it to you, but trying to do your homework at your kitchen table is a doomed effort. Instead, pick a designated "school work" spot and try to do all of your studying there.
"One thing that worked for me, and something we typically recommend to learners who aren’t on campus, is carving out a space in my home for work and letting my partner know that if I was there, it meant I was working. It cut down on interruptions and distractions," Matias explains.
Being able to separate your school life and your home life will make it easier for you to focus (and will let your friends and family know when they need to leave you alone and let you concentrate). And speaking of friends and family…
Bring family and friends into your school life
If you’re worried about the toll your schoolwork will have on your friends and family, Matias says that the best thing you can do is include them in the process.
"Helping people understand what you’re going through is really important," she says. "It brings the family into the experience. Giving them insight into what you’re working on, what the demands on your time are, helps them support you as a student better."
Having your family and friends there for support can also help to make online learning feel like less of a solitary experience, Matias points out.
Don't be afraid to work during non-traditional hours
There often doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day to work, attend classes and still have time to see family and friends. To fit in schoolwork, you’re going to have to get a little creative, and that may mean sticking to a nontraditional schedule.
"When you’re working is incredibly subjective," Matias says. "It’s about taking an inventory of, 'When am I already committed, when do I have some flexibility and how can I make that work?'"
Your best time for homework may be during your work commute, or later at night after the kids have gone to bed. Finding a study time that fits your life is key to making sure your work gets done and you still have time for all of your other commitments.
Commit to a regular schedule
While when you work is up to you, consistency is key.
"I always try to recommend that students find a regular schedule…you need to make [your work] part of your routine," Matias explains. "That’s something that’s really hard with online classes. If it doesn’t become routine, it’s easy to forget about it because it’s not there in front of you."
That doesn’t just mean getting your work done at the same time every day. It also means making a habit of logging on to your school email, or checking Blackboard for updates. The more your schoolwork becomes a part of your routine, the less likely you are to let assignments fall through the cracks.
Take time for self-care
Occasionally, "treat yo' self" is actually good advice.
"Having a social life is self-care," Matias says. So even though your schedule may be completely crazy, you shouldn’t feel guilty about putting time aside to hang out with family or friends, or even to pamper yourself a little bit. These breaks let you recharge, remind yourself of why you want to get your degree in the first place and help prevent you from burning out.
"If you’ve decided to take on an online program, there’s a reason, there’s a driving factor," Matias says. "You don’t want to come to resent the process of getting your degree and pursuing your education because you feel like it’s robbed you of all these other opportunities."
Invest in a good Calendar
Or a planner, or a set of post-it notes for writing lists. However you keep yourself organized, make sure to integrate your school schedule with your work and social schedule. By jotting down assignment dates in the beginning of the term, you’ll be able to look ahead and plan for big projects, instead of rushing to get them done last minute. You’ll also be able to better plan your life around your schoolwork. Matias relied on a term calendar that let her write down all of her assignments, making it easy for her to keep track of upcoming work. “It helped me figure out from the beginning, ‘What does my workload look like?’” Matias says.
Remember: your thesis changes everything
Getting ready to start your capstone project or thesis? Be prepared to have your school/work schedule get a lot vaguer.
“One of the really challenging parts about a thesis or a capstone is that it is simultaneously more intensive, but also typically less rigid,” Matias says. “One of the things that’s important with this type of project is breaking it down for yourself.”
During your thesis, you won’t necessarily be submitting work every week. However, that doesn’t mean you should wait until the last minute to tackle your project. Matias suggests breaking your larger assignment down into smaller ones that you can complete throughout the semester. This will make your work more manageable and help make sure you don’t procrastinate.