A First Year’s Guide to Navigating Study/Life Balance

Freya Hugheson 16 October 2019
A First Year’s Guide to Navigating Study/Life Balance

You’ve had a taste of freedom with college and its abundance of downtime. You've also had your parents keeping a keen eye on your every move. Uni’s going to be a different ball game altogether...

No pressure to get yourself to lectures and seminars.

No parents to make sure you’ve gone in each day. 

What you won’t be told, as you turn your alarm off to ghost on your 9am yet again, is dossing for a whole year is going to get you in to proper bad habits. And don’t kid yourself – they will carry through and have a knock-on in second and third year.

First impressions

Straight after Freshers Week comes the lecture hall. You’ll meet coursemates, realise you’ve bought too much stationery (just a couple of pens, paper and laptop will do the trick) and get to know your professors and their quirks. It’s all quite strange at first, not much work to do and a lot of professors trying to remember everyone’s names. This is the week to show your face. Make it your mission to attend everything. 

One thing that’ll help you start off and remain on top of everything is to head back to your room after classes and write up your notes. It sounds dull and you might even think this is pointless – you made notes and you can remember it all, right? Trust, that’s not going to last long. Most of what you’ve just heard or seen will fade into nothing within a week. And if you’re doing an exam-heavy course, you’ll do really well to drill that information into your brain ASAP. 

You can make this fun. If organising is your kind of fun. Colour code topics and sections so you can refer back to them. It’s probably only going to take about 10 - 20 minutes to write up notes from an hour seminar or lecture, so take advantage of those annoying gaps in your timetable. And once you’re done, don’t forget to reward yourself.

Block out your week

This will be a useful practice to get into as you progress through your university career. Let’s say you spend four nights out of seven socialising. This is a good ratio of fun to chill time. Even if you are less strict on this some weeks, remember to give your liver and mind a rest a few days a week. 

So, to help, try and sway it so you see coursemates when you have a late start the next day. What about the notorious Wednesday sports and societies socials? Can you get all of your coursework for one module done before you head out to the club?

If you can get into the swing of a schedule for your social time, work out when would be best to fit in a quick gym session. Or perhaps study dates with your flatmates or coursemates.

University is, of course, about getting your degree. But if you work around your social life, you’ll feel more excited about doing other things when you need to do them. Prioritise deadlines, but try not to let your work feel like a chore. You’re committed to working on one subject for at least three years, so it really helps to enjoy it!

Duvet days

Don’t knock them... actually, you probably don’t. But the point is, never underestimate the power of being lazy every now and again. You’re human and you need downtime. Anyone on the go 24/7 is upping their chances of burnout. And when you’ve got a fast-paced course and other commitments, burning out will put you in a worse position than if you’d simply had a day off. 

When you’ve first arrived on campus, you might not realise how run down you’re getting. Late nights, early starts, parties, a whole load of new people to meet, and a massive amount of new information to take in. Be kind to yourself and let yourself just be for a day. Even an evening in with housemates watching a movie could help a lot. 

If you can’t afford to take any time away from your commitments, it’s time to reconsider how you’re spending your time. You’re going to achieve more and understand more if and when you take the time to let things sink in.

Clocking off

Sometimes you need to get a part time job to help get yourself through your degree. And even though you have a lot of free time throughout the week, you might be best off working weekends. You’d be surprised at how well this balances your life. 

At times, your job will provide a welcome break from worrying about essays and lectures, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a whole new group of friends from it. 

Let’s say you work at a shop in town on Saturdays and Sundays. You can use the nights in between to rest up and chill. Being restricted to the shop’s opening and closing times will force you into switching off for a bit. Even if you do spend your Saturday night after a busy shift unwinding at the pub, it’s a great way to get yourself away from your laptop screen. And don’t forget – work is much easier when you’re not hungover.

Freya Hugheson 16 October 2019