The Vanderbilt Balancing Act
As many prospective students have been warned, Vanderbilt students seize opportunities to make an impact on the community and are involved in many activities and organizations. The forward-thinking, motivated air on campus is contagious, and before you know it, you’ll be running out of space on your own calendar.
Although it can be stressful at times, staying busy is one of the best things you can do in college. Not only does it push you to try new roles and challenge yourself, but it also forces you to utilize your time management skills and take advantage of all the resources around you. Personally, one of my biggest fears is looking back at these transformative four years wondering “what if” or regretting not doing enough, so life at Vanderbilt is a juggling act worth the ups and downs.
In terms of classes, I’m enrolled in 15 hours this semester, which is a manageable load. However, I’m also involved with the Vanderbilt Hustler, Vanderbilt Public Relations Society, and Kappa Kappa Gamma. When I’m not in class or working on projects for these organizations, I’m interning for a Public Relations firm that creates growth strategies for nonprofits. Oh yeah, and I spent the first half of the semester looking for summer internships like all of my peers. I know that next to many other Vanderbilt students, my workload is light. Being busy and at times overextending yourself at Vanderbilt is the norm. Asking some of my busiest friends how they manage it all has really aided me during times when I had assignments coming at me from all directions.
Whether you’re new to Vanderbilt and still figuring out your own rhythm (which is totally okay!) or a seasoned veteran at time management, here are a couple of my favorite ways to get through the busiest of weeks:
Schedule, and WRITE IT DOWN: As a fairly type-A individual, I’m always referencing my planner (which is always on me) and jotting down uncompleted tasks. As the semester progresses, you’ll find yourself with more and more commitments, especially during midterms and finals. Whether it’s group projects, advisor meetings, philanthropy events, or dinner with a friend, it’s not a good look to forget a commitment. However, let’s face it–we all forget sometimes. Avoid a sticky situation or awkward apology email for spacing on a deadline or meeting by writing down the plan right when you make it. Besides, crossing items off of a to-do list is a strangely empowering feeling–try it out.
Fall into a routine: As horribly difficult as my 9:00 am is to make sometimes (don’t laugh at me until you try waking up at 8:00 am MWF, people), I’ve gotten used to it and have my alarm automatically set. Some people hate routine, but without it I would be lost. Routine doesn’t mean staying inside your bubble and living a Groundhog Day scene over and over. You can still try new things, but a routine helps you find your own niche and to get things done day-to-day at Vanderbilt.
Collaborate: Balancing a social life amongst all of these responsibilities can be overwhelming and often take the back burner. However, I’ve found that you don’t have to sacrifice a social life for success in your academics and extracurriculars. Doing work together at a new Nashville coffee shop or taking your books to read with a friend in Centennial Park makes for a pleasant way to switch up studying. Of course, these study dates are rarely as effective and focused as when you’re alone (I have a habit of chatting every five minutes), but girlfriend time is always important and worth the at-times slower progress.
Take study breaks: Okay, when I say “study breaks”, I don’t mean binge watching an entire season of Game of Thrones or napping for five hours in the middle of the day. Although it can seem counterintuitive, I often find the most effective study breaks to be when I am the most overwhelmed. Doing a short task that makes me feel like I am accomplishing something helps me clear my head i.e. going on a run, getting lunch with a friend, painting my nails, cleaning my room, calling my parents, or going to the movies (you don’t have a “continue watching” option at the movies like on Netflix).
Reward yourself: Sometimes I get so caught up in what I have to do next that I don’t take proper time to celebrate my recent accomplishments or the present. After midterms, my friends and I still had some work to do but were so mentally drained that we decided we had to take a hike. We ended up spending the entire day hiking, getting lunch, and walking around 12 South. Was I a bit stressed about getting my work done later? Maybe. Was I thinking about it while I was enjoying the time with my friends? Not even a little.