A juggling act: Mixing work and play in your first year of college


It's easy to fall into one of two camps when you're a college freshman. You either get caught up in the social whirl of the all-night gab fests, fraternity and sorority rushes, intramural sports and extracurricular clubs, or you're so fastidious about staying away from them that your life becomes all work and no play. The goal is a happy medium, and here are some ways to achieve it.

It's easy to fall into one of two camps when you're a college freshman. You either get caught up in the social whirl of the all-night gab fests, fraternity and sorority rushes, intramural sports and extracurricular clubs, or you're so fastidious about staying away from them that your life becomes all work and no play. The goal is a happy medium, and here are some ways to achieve it.

DO learn to manage your day. Schedule time for study and fun, classes and socializing -- and stick to it. Make sure you include time for sleep; the quickest way to get overwhelmed is to be overtired.

DO go to class. As tempting as it is to blow things off, especially when Mom's not hauling you out of bed, don't skip too many classes. You will eventually regret it, especially if you miss information about what to expect on tests, changes in class assignments and so on.

DO party in moderation, know your limits and be safe. Overdo it, and not only will your grades suffer but you may do yourself physical or emotional harm.

DO look at your habits and decide when you're most productive. Knowing when you'll get more tasks accomplished, particularly those that are most demanding, will lower stress and help you maintain a schedule.

DO get a calendar with large squares so you can keep detailed notes on your daily obligations, including job and class schedules, social, academic club and sports events, long weekends, deadlines for papers and test dates.

DO seek professional help when you need it. Colleges have health and counseling centers that can offer advice if you're feeling isolated, depressed or overwhelmed. There also are tutors who can coach you on academic subjects and programs that teach you how to study effectively.

DO get involved in extracurricular activities. They look good on a resume, help you meet people, build leadership skills and offer an alternative to too much partying.

DO find a quiet place to study or be alone, one where you won't be distracted by your friends or tempted to do other things.

DO drop a class if you have too much on your plate. If you sign up for 15 course hours a semester, you'll have the flexibility of getting out of one while still having enough hours to remain a full-time student. Drop before the deadline, and there's no financial penalty.

DO be open to meeting a lot of different people, rather than just sticking with those you know from home. Introduce yourself to everyone when you move in and leave your dorm room door open so people can talk to you or wander in.



DON'T go overboard studying. Schedule time to take a break and relax -- even if it's just to watch an hour of TV or take a yoga class. Continue to pursue hobbies you like to did at home; they can be a great way of dealing with frustration, homesickness or creative energy.

DON'T worry if you feel overwhelmed sometimes. That's natural. The trick, experts say, is remembering you're not the only one feeling that way.

DON'T sacrifice quality for quantity in terms of what you get involved in. Determine what it is you really want to do and if you will have sufficient time to do it right, and then commit to it.

DON'T schedule an early morning class if you're not going to be able to get out of bed on time to attend it. But remember, getting used to a morning schedule will help when it's time to get a post-college job.

DON'T turn to food or alcohol as a way of coping with stress or loneliness. Conversely, don't stop eating because you think you don't have time. Exercise is a great way to deal with stress and to combat the "freshman 15," those extra pounds some gain their first year away from home.

DON'T get involved in drugs, alcohol or other things that might violate school policy unless you're willing to lose your scholarship money or be kicked out of the school.

DON'T forget to schedule time for mundane tasks, such as doing your laundry, getting your hair cut or even catching a nap.

DON'T come to college with expectations about who you're going to meet or what you're going to do. Your first year should be the time to find out who you are, what you like and who you like to be with.

DON'T put yourself into situations that might result in pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual violence or emotional harm.

DON'T go home every weekend, even if you're homesick. Instead, open yourself up to new experiences and new people and force yourself to be social in situations where you might feel out of your element.

Sources: Dr. Randall S. Hansen, founder of the Quintessential Careers Web site; FastWeb.com, an online scholarship search site; ecampustours.com/Edsouth, a nonprofit organization that promotes higher education; Candace McLaughlin, director of Western Illinois University's Advising and Academic Support Center; freshinfo.com, an online scholarship search site; and University of Georgia Division of Student Affairs.