College Life: Grades, Sleep, or Friends?


Before college, my friends and family warned me, “In college, you can only pick two: sleep, grades, or a social life,” and usually urged me to pick grades and social life to take full advantage of the college experience. I followed their advice during my first semester of college, but I soon learned that balancing all three priorities is possible and creates a much more enjoyable experience. Balancing all three can be tricky, so here are a few habits to help you juggle college life:

Do homework when you wake up.

When I have an entire day in front of me, it’s easy to convince myself that I’ll do my homework later. As we all know, later doesn’t usually turn into now until five minutes before the homework is due. However, when I use my mornings to start on my homework, not only am I more productive in my free time, but I have more time to spend with friends. As long as you can still receive a full night’s rest, leave a couple of hours in your morning routine to start on homework. This may sound like the worst way to spend your time right after forcing yourself out of bed, but your future self, whether he or she is sleeping, hanging out with friends, or watching your favorite TV show, will thank you.

Adjust your schedule as needed to receive a full night of sleep.

There’s nothing wrong with staying up extra late every once in a while to have adventures and make memories with your friends but avoid the temptation to stay up till three every night when you have a 7:00 am class the next day. To accomplish this, you will have to say “no” to your friends sometimes. Saying “no” might make you feel guilty or sad when you miss out on fun adventures, but trust me, a healthy body, a clear mind, and a happy mood are worth it, especially when they allow you to enjoy the times when you do hang out with friends even more. Your sleep schedule won’t be perfect, but allow yourself a full seven or eight hours of sleep at least four or five nights a week.

Avoid naps in the middle of the day.

If you barely slept and you can’t be productive without a nap, then take one. Otherwise, avoid naps and social media during the day, and use that time for homework instead. If you’ve hit the midday drag, don’t do homework in your room! Your bed will lure you in like coffee to a college student. Instead, find a library, dorm lobby, student common area, or coffee shop, basically any calm environment where you won’t be tempted to take a nap.

Find an environment where you can focus.

Even if you’re not tired, your room might not be the best place for you to focus on homework. Although I do homework in my room occasionally because I enjoy the comfort of my own space, my room can sometimes be too relaxing. I most strongly associate my room with relaxation and recreation while I associate the library and coffee shops with productivity, so when I’m in the library or a coffee shop, I focus easier and my phone tempts me less. Find an environment that has a similar effect on you. As already mentioned, libraries, dorm lobbies, student common areas, and coffee shops are good places to start!

Keep friends and homework separate.

Whenever I try to have homework hangouts with friends, we invariably begin focusing on each other more than our homework. However, when I do my homework by myself, I finish it much faster and am then free to do more fun activities with friends later on that day.

Be aware of how much sleep can improve your life.

Here are the two conditions that make me (and most of the human population) the most grumpy: hunger and a lack of sleep. Although sleeping seven or eight hours every night might seem like a waste of precious time in college, it will allow you to enjoy your day much more. Enjoying a meal with your friends is much more difficult when a lack of sleep has made you hyperconscious of their smacking, while a full night’s rest allows you to ignore small annoyances. In addition, permitting yourself a full night’s rest might save you time by sharpening and clearing your mind, allowing you to finish your homework much faster and keeping you from making mistakes. Finally, it can also strengthen your immune system, protecting you from illnesses that would otherwise slow you down.

Don’t let one of the three trump the other two.

Grades, sleep, and a social life are all very important aspects of college and they are all necessary for your health and success, although there will be weeks where one of these will dominate over the others. For instance, grades might trump during finals week, social life during homecoming, and sleep during the first week of summer break. Despite the push and pull of these three priorities, fight the urge to consistently prioritize one of the three over the others and work toward a balance to enjoy the best college experience possible!

Katelyn is an editorial intern at Potential magazine and a senior at Faulkner University where she studies English. She enjoys writing and she is excited to work with Potential to share her experience and research about college life, self-improvement, budgeting, etc.

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