One of the things that makes college so stressful and overwhelming is that there is no getting away from it. It’s always clinging to us and, at times, it’s impossible to get even a little space from its constant need for attention. One second we’re attending class, the next we’re at home doing homework for that class and by the time we’re finished with that homework, we’re already being flooded with the same rinse-and-repeat process for the following week. Sometimes, it feels like it just never ends, and getting caught in the vortex of college life is enough to drive you mad.
Breaking free of this cycle of never-ending college work is not easy. The main reason for this is that there is a balance that has to be maintained, and it’s very easy to tip too far into one side or the other. On the one hand, there is the problem of being too committed to your work. Obviously, it’s beneficial to have a good work ethic and to be diligent in getting your work done, but as I said in my article “Rethink what it means to be ‘productive’ as a college student,” it’s easy to develop an unhealthy need to go beyond what is necessary. At the same time, you don’t want to become the student who is just barely scraping by in all their assignments, turning them in half finished or, in the worst cases, not even turning them in at all. It’s a fine line and one that can be best travelled on if you set some ground rules for yourself when it comes to balancing academia and life outside of college.
Planning is the first step in achieving this balance. You don’t have to break out your calendar and start reserving specific time slots for certain assignments — that’s overkill, in my opinion. Rather, start by picking at least one day that can double as a day of free time and a day of getting homework done. For example, I make it a point to always leave my Sundays completely open; this way, I can use them to both get work done and relax. In the earlier weeks of the term, I generally have less work to get done, so I spend most of my Sundays just rejuvenating mental energy for the coming week of classes. However, as the quarter churns on and the later weeks start to get busier, Sunday becomes a day where I sometimes spend a good portion of the day studying. Essentially, you want to pick one day that can act as a utility. It needs to perform multiple different functions, depending on what you need at that particular time. Having your schedule setup with multiple rest days and multiple work days can work, but you run the risk of having a schedule that isn’t very flexible.
The second step in developing a balance between college and life is doing things that take you out of the college mindset. For my freshman, sophomore and junior years of college, I would make a sojourn home to New Jersey every other weekend. I firmly believe that the very act of living on a college campus instills stress in students. It’s a claim that isn’t based in any real evidence aside from my own experiences, but it is just naturally how college works in my opinion.
It’s similar to a job, but with a job, you wouldn’t also live there. With a job, you can go home when your shift is over and get away from the atmosphere of that job, but with college, you’re trapped in the atmosphere. Yes, there is a difference between sitting in your Math 101 lecture hall and sitting in your Kelly Hall dorm room, but how much of a difference is it when you’re probably around the same individuals, still stressing together about the final exam that is two weeks away? This is just an example, but my point is that college is just as much about the work and classes as it is about the people you’re around and your physical location.
Since starting my senior year of college, I’ve only visited home one time (not including the holiday break), and I think this is because I now live in Stiles Hall and am very distanced from the main campus atmosphere. Yes, this could just all be in my head, and it may have nothing to do with me no longer visiting home, but moving to Stiles Hall is the only significant thing that has changed in the recent months.
So, take a look at your current situation, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed by college in a general sense, find some ways to distance yourself from it. And even if you aren’t feeling particularly overwhelmed, I still recommend finding ways to take breaks from college; just because you can’t perceive stress, doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t under any.
Moving outside the college atmosphere is different for everyone. For me, I have to get out of Philadelphia to be completely out of it, but you may be fine with just getting out of the University City campus and venturing out to Center City for a day. Because it varies from person to person, you’ll have to experiment and see what works for you. However, I think it is very much worth the time in order to help us maintain our sanity as college students. Sometimes, it can be easy to forget that there is a whole world outside of Drexel’s 10-week quarter, especially if you are constantly stuck right in the thick of it with seemingly no way out.