April turning into May marks the beginning of my last month at PLU _ever_ (!!!), and I don’t even know how to begin processing my time here coming to an end. I should be a pro by now, considering that I technically graduated last May as well with my undergraduate degree. Because I knew I’d be doing grad school at the same university, though, graduating didn’t really bring any significant changes to my life. In a way, this past year has just felt like an (extremely time consuming) senior year. But now… I have to leave???
College is notorious for introducing the challenge of navigating a work-life balance. Balancing academics, social life, self-care, athletics, laundry, etc. etc. etc. is entirely possible – but you need to be intentional about how you manage your time. For me, time management manifests through my planner. Some weeks I like to leave things as blank as possible to give myself a lot of flexibility with my free time, and other weeks I need to schedule my days hour-by-hour in order to get everything done.
This is a phrase I have heard _a lot_ over the past few years. It speaks for itself, but I think it’s a helpful and comforting reminder for when things feel chaotic; you don’t need to have all the answers! Whether you are unsure about your major, what you want to do after college, etc., try to remind yourself that it’s okay (and super normal!!!) to not have everything figured out!
THIS. You guys –
I spent a large portion of my undergraduate years being consistently burnt out, because my sense of priority and responsibility rotated entirely around my identity as a student. Don’t get me wrong; prioritizing school and being on top of things is great, but this is where that work-life balance comes in again… you have to make time for things that “fill your cup” personally too. Sometimes I like to pencil in specific activities in my planner, as a written reminder to make time for myself, although I recognize that this is a little much for the average person. Another approach I take is to set aside an hour or two of the day where I “have to” take the time off, and when that time comes around I just do whatever I feel like in that moment. In short, try to be intentional about taking care of yourself and your free time – and this looks different for everyone!
It’s not realistic that you will only take classes that you love and are passionate about. Frankly, I did not care about most of the classes I took at PLU (sorry profs!). That said, one thing I really cherish about GenEds and other classes you might not have an affinity towards, is that it taught me to think about a number of different issues from various perspectives. I do want to note that it is perfectly fine to not like a class and have that reflect in your motivation, I definitely allocated my time and effort into classes disproportionately, based on my level of interest. My point is that some classes you just have to endure, but you can also do more than just endure them; you can enjoy them! For me, this enjoyment came from exercising my ability to think about issues I otherwise had never reflected on. Because thinking is a skill, these classes allowed me to practice and broaden my critical thinking skills, which in turn improved my performance in classes I really did care about!
On a similar note, I would highly recommend taking a few classes just for fun during your time at PLU. I realize that not everyone is able to take classes outside of their major due to constraints with time and/or credit requirements, but if you have an available spot; try taking a class just because it sounds fun! My sophomore year I took a class with a professor who made going to class the highlight of my week. I would wake up in the morning and look forward to grabbing a coffee and sitting in her classroom for two hours. I loved the class (and professor) so much that every time registration came around I searched for any classes taught by that professor, evaluating whether any of them would align with my other required courses. I ended up taking four classes with this professor, and all four are ranked as my favorite classes I took at PLU. They had little/nothing to do with my major, I just really enjoyed the topics and how this professor taught her class. Long story short: take a class just for fun!
Once again, I’m sure we’ve all heard this one before – so no need to elaborate. As a self-proclaimed control freak, I found it difficult to deal with unforeseen changes in my life, whether that be a project for school, a friendship growing distant, a relationship ending, or what have you. Even though we all know that things don’t go as planned, I still think it’s an important reminder. This pandemic has resulted in a lot of sudden and startling changes for most people, so this lesson is still really fresh. That said, I find that “smaller” changes in plans can feel just as unsettling, making this lesson applicable to a lot of circumstances where things don’t go as you’d hoped or planned.
College is a time when many people are living “alone” for the first time, and it can be a tricky transition. If you’re used to having a lot of routine chores taken care of by your parents, like cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc., the addition of these small, everyday tasks can feel disproportionately challenging. Pairing that with the general stress of being a college student, it’s easy to get off-track and neglect essential activities. For me, making regular meals for myself was the first thing to go whenever I got stressed. If I was feeling really overwhelmed, I would justify that I didn’t have time for cooking, and would wait to eat dinner until it was “convenient” (i.e., McDonalds at 11pm). Aside from eating, there are many other things that can make us feel like we’re not put together, like falling asleep with our clothes on from the day before, not getting ready for the day, etc. I want to emphasize that these behaviors are perfectly okay in moderation, because nobody feels put together all the time. The problem is when the lack of routine becomes self-perpetuating, fueling a negative loop of behaviors that only make you more stressed and tapped for energy.