Do you find yourself planning big hangouts with friends every weekend and scrambling to apply to five different clubs at once? And trying to keep up with homework? On top of adjusting to a new dorm or apartment? Everything is happening at once—after all, it’s fall quarter, the fun quarter.
Let’s take a step back. Is this really sustainable? No, absolutely not.
So why are so many of us burning out so quickly? It’s because we expect too much from “back-to-school.”
We live in a world where college life is overly romanticized, from Pitch Perfect to “perfect” college day-in-the-life TikToks. You have to remember that college life is still part of your normal life. You need to sleep, eat, exercise and keep in touch with old friends.
I understand that it’s hard. It’s my second year in college, and I’m still resisting the temptation to sign up for more clubs, say yes to every hangout and take on more responsibilities than I can juggle. “But everyone else seems to manage juggling everything at once,” you say. Keep in mind that most of the people who seem like skilled jugglers are also very stressed. Many develop depression or anxiety, and around 25% of college freshmen end up dropping out within the first school year, mainly due to stress.
Okay, enough of the grim statistics. I’ve been able to slowly resist my urge to meet all my unreachable expectations by having a reality check. Let me break that down.
When I know I’m juggling too many tasks at once, I write down a to-do list and order my priorities. Then, I go to my calendar and delegate blocks of time to each task. Pretty normal, right? But one thing I don’t do is to compromise the things I need: sleep, food, hobbies and time with important people. I don’t forget to block out a few hours in a day when I can have lunch with my close friends, take naps, sleep for seven hours or simply do nothing.
You realistically can’t function with less than five hours of sleep per night and substituting real meals with CLIF bars. Well, maybe you’re fine for one or two days. But after a week, you will burn out.
Erase rigid expectations of solely super-productive days. You might spend an hour trying to fix a broken charger, only to realize that this one-hour loss ruined your whole schedule and made you miss a deadline. Leave some free time in your schedule so that you still have some time to get back on track when the unexpected occurs.
Not everything is going to go the way you planned. You might make fewer friends than you wanted or not get into the clubs you applied to. You might not have the perfect roommates or the perfect partner. Honestly, fall quarter—the “fun quarter”—doesn’t have to be the best quarter. Instead, fall quarter is the “foundational” quarter. It’s the time for you to set a healthy work-life balance as the foundation of your college life.