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5 Tips for Treating Your Academic Career as a Full-Time Job

In college, it is easy to feel like you are constantly falling behind. Maybe you didn’t get the internship you wanted, or maybe you haven’t even thought about an internship. Meanwhile, everyone around you seems to be soaring to the top of the charts in every area: exam scores, internships and social life.  

Feeling inadequate and unprepared as a college student can be incredibly demotivating. But you are not alone! Here are some tips to treat the career you do have going for you, a college career, as a full-time job, and hopefully find your motivation again.  

Wake up early 

As simple as it seems, waking up earlier than you think you have to goes a long way in maximizing room in your schedule. 

If you normally wake up at 8 a.m. for a 9 a.m. class, just imagine how much time you would have after waking up at 6 a.m., for instance. This is time you could fill with beneficial and productive things, like ensuring you have enough time for breakfast or going to the gym with the early crowd (while still having time to shower and start fresh).

Those routines may take some time to get into the swing of if you are new to waking up early, but even using that time to sip on some coffee and organize your tasks for the day can be an essential step in a successful day.  

It is always much better to start the day with time for yourself, rather than rushing around. The choices you make after waking up have the power to influence the rest of your day, so choose wisely! 

Set Daily Goals

It is incredibly easy to look at the calendar on Canvas to know when assignments are due. However, many professors say that they wished students would not solely use the Canvas calendar to know when work was due. Invest in a daily planner, or use an online system to analyze your tasks and prioritize them efficiently. 

Although it can be deceiving, the Canvas calendar is still an excellent stepping stone in crafting your own task list. Prioritize your tasks for the week based on several factors, such as how long they will each take and which will be most challenging. When you analyze your tasks in this way, the daily to-do list emerges quite naturally. 

Schedule tasks for yourself that fill a 9 to 5 daily agenda. Consider these hours as dedicated to your academics. This also allows you a specific time to transition away from your work and prioritize eating, social life and extracurriculars. 

Work on Your Personal Development

Whether you do this through a club or on your own, having something personal to dedicate yourself to will keep you on a detailed schedule, while also not being as daunting as doing well in your classes or thinking about when you will graduate. 

Things like joining a club or working out are extremely beneficial to treating school as a full-time job. It gives you another responsibility to juggle, and in this way, gives you practice in future work and social-life juggling.  

I always find that I do and feel my best when I have at least two other things I am involved in besides academics. If you join a club that holds weekly meetings in the evening, it can give you an excuse to stay on campus and make time for your schoolwork before you must be there. This is the first practice you will have in finding a work-life balance.

Find Your “Office”

Naturally, you are going to be more or less productive depending on what space you are in. Some people work perfectly fine in their own room, apartment or dorm. Other people prefer the library, and some prefer very niche spots on campus that they found one day and have never abandoned since.  

Assess yourself. It can be tempting to go home as soon as your last class lets out, even though you know you would get much more done in the library. (This is where the general 9 to 5 rule mentioned earlier might be able to make the decision for you.) 

The issue with working in your bedroom, especially a dorm room if applicable, is that there is rarely enough space to keep you focused. Your room should be reserved for you to rest and destress from a long day spent dedicating time and energy to your academics.  

Wherever you choose to study, make it consistent and structured to turn it into an effective habit. 

Communicate With Your “Superiors”

As a student, your professors will urge you to attend office hours. Think of attending office hours as attending a meeting with your boss to discuss your performance. What could be some areas for improvement? 

When thinking about treating your academics as a full-time job, you must make it about more than attending classes and submitting work. While you can still get by just fine by checking off those boxes, communicating and building relationships with your professors and other members of your field is vital to any metaphorical “advancement.” 

Networking is key to any career path. Start out small by communicating with your professors and your advisors. 

To conclude, it is okay to not have everything figured out, or to struggle with finding growth opportunities. Being a college student can give you useful resources and support for these struggles.

However, when it feels like a bunch of different things are pulling for your attention but you feel stagnant, sometimes it is acceptable and beneficial to give all of your energy to your schoolwork. You are not falling behind by crafting an intricate and dedicated work ethic for yourself. Build on yourself before building a career.

Sophomore at Pennsylvania State University with a major in Advertising