How to balance social life with full load of college studies?
September 26, 2007 7:59 PM   Subscribe

Little Sister advice for balancing new social life and college

My baby sister just started her first year of college. She graduated in may as salutatorian from a very small school. She is very intelligent and is studying to become a registered nurse. In a recent telephone conversation she mentioned to me that she is struggling to balance her very new social life with studies. She is from a small town and an equally small school. There she had a very limited social life. In her new town there is a big university, friends, activities like football games, and BOYS! I want to help her learn how to balance these activities but I have never been in that position. Do you have any helpful advice? What helped you to balance studying and having a social life in school? I think she needs to have fun but not loose any grade points over it! Thank you for any help!
posted by Snoogylips to Human Relations (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How committed is she to her work? If she's quite dedicated to it, then you should be encouraging her to get out more, allocate one or two nights a week for social activities, joining a club or society or something.

If she's the type that's inclined to get carried away in all that however, you should probably be encouraging her to stay in a few nights a week, try and get some work done early, plan to do all her reading a week ahead of schedule or something.

Finding the right balance requires knowing which side of the balance she's on at the moment.
posted by twirlypen at 8:35 PM on September 26, 2007

Heh. My personal experience in this predicament was a disaster. I went to a new high school where I had real friends for the first time ever, and I enjoyed my new social life so much I completely neglected my classes. Worst mistake of my life, because on account of my academic performance, I didn't end up going back to that school..

However, friends are important, and focusing exclusively on one's studies is an investment in regrets that'll pay out with interest a decade later.

Surrounding herself with good people is probably the best thing she can do. She needs to find a group of friends who take their own studies seriously and will respect her for doing the same. When schedules line up, they can hang out, but they're not likely to guilt-trip her for putting work first.
posted by Myself at 8:50 PM on September 26, 2007

My little sister has also just started college this year, she's a serious overachiever trying to take on the world in her first semester. Which means, sports, friends, perfect marks, the works. She's also been a very upstanding, slightly sheltered teenager. This is what I've told her so far over many hours worth of Skype conversations:


Don't think you have to do everything perfectly. My first semester wasn't stellar in any sense, I was just getting my feet wet, academically speaking. Don't talk too much in class, that's fucking annoying - open your mouth when you have a legit question that you can't figure out from the text/classmates/on your own OR if you have a real insight. Pick a study spot away from social life, away from the dorms, and away from distraction. Libraries are there for a reason. You really don't have to do ALL your reading, but try to do enough so you don't make an ass of yourself. If you're going to skip class make sure you have at least one buddy in class who takes good notes and is willing to share.

Friends/love life:

Don't feel the urge to make friends with everyone in the school directory. Chill with people you genuinely enjoy, be friendly to everyone else and don't bother making enemies at all costs. Only fuck someone with a condom. Try to avoid fucking while partying. Don't fuck if you don't want to. Punch him in the nuts if he tries to force you to do anything you've said no to. Be sure you actually can and have said "no" without apology or guilt. Get LAID, but try not to fuck everything that moves. Don't fuck your friends unless you want it to be awkward. Don't dress like a ho, no one will be impressed. Don't make out with your girlfriend to get guys attention - do it if you really want to make out with her and do it for the right reason. If you realize you're not 100% hetero, that's cool. If this ends up being temporary, that's also cool. Any sexual partner who can't/won't take care of your needs in bed is a waste of time. Anyone in your life who makes you feel bad about yourself on a consistent basis is a waste of time.


Party a little but don't go crazy, don't do anything you won't be able to undo, and don't do ANYthing you feel pressured into. It will not end up being fun. If you're going to drink underage pick your place well - I've had friends get busted for being underage in bars, clubs, football games, tailgating before/after football games, at the beach, in the dorms, on the sidewalk outside the university president's home, etc. On campus you are much more likely to get away with a warning but may get fucked academically. Off campus and you will be spending a lot of money on tickets. Cops have a sixth sense for fake IDs and they will KNOW yours is fake. Learn to drink and enjoy at least two types of beer and one mixed drink. Figure out how you're getting home before you leave - drunk people are not good at this. Always save ten bucks in case you need to take a cab home. Try to wear comfortable shoes in case you have to walk. If you feel the urge to join the Greek system, wait until your second or third year. Seriously. Repeat this rule of thumb with every other group of people including Student Government, any student media outlet, clubs with an attendance policy and any kind of honor society.


Everyone I know who played college sports says it stops being fun - half of the ones who quit regret it a lot. Yes coach is an asshole, they are basically payed to be this way. Decide whether you want to quit playing next semester once you're less stressed and better settled in. If your body hurts, stop. If you feel you need a doctor, stop. If you can't breathe, you're dizzy or your chest hurts, stop. These rules apply to partying also.
posted by SassHat at 8:56 PM on September 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

I went to a school where everyone was smart and classes were tough, but boy did we party hard. Here's what I observed:

• A lot of students consider the day to be a workday. In other words, you don't have classes all day, so you study between classes instead of goofing off.
• No one goes out until at least 10 p.m. Take advantage of that by studying until, say, 9 p.m.
• Do study groups. They're slightly social, and they help.
• As for the partying: Go out no more than four nights a week. Even that is a bit much. If you've got early classes, get home by 1 a.m. and to bed by 1:30 a.m.
• It is super important to find a place where you can study well. Libraries may be too quiet, dorm rooms may be too distracting. I studied in the middle of the student center cafeteria, no joke. People thought it was hilarious, but the background noise was perfect for me there.
• Seriously, people respect your right to study and won't label you as a nerd if you choose to stay in one night. At least, the people you'll want to be with will respect that right.
• On most weeknights, try grabbing coffee with a friend instead of going to the bar. Save the big partying for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Thursday because there are drink specials and the weekend starts early in college, and Friday and Saturday because ... duh, it's the weekend.
• Never go out on a Monday night. There are no drink specials.
• Oh, and most importantly: Find friends who also study. You can study together, you can agree to stay in on the same nights, you can feel at ease saying, "Sorry, I've got work to do."

I knew a lot of kids who partied too much and didn't study enough and consequently didn't make it through. One last thing: Be sure your study skills are up to par. Taking one of those dorky study skills classes at the learning center or whatever they call it on your campus may actually be helpful. Get more work done in less time.

(Full disclosure: I myself left halfway into my senior year, but for reasons unrelated to this stuff.)
posted by brina at 6:45 AM on September 27, 2007

In the new environment she is going to have to test the waters – no stopping that.

What she needs to understand is that Monday – Thursday needs to be reserved for studying (and any organizational meetings) not partying. So long as she can balance the study load (studying/review before and after classes etc) she should be free to socialize.

The danger will occur when socializing creeps into mon-thur. I partied like a rock star for 3 years and got kicked out of an amazing school. 1 semester I only took racquetball. I should have been able to balance but I didn’t look at it like that. Regardless – I ended up at another great school 1600 miles away and graduated with honors this time smarter being able to balance playtime and school time.
posted by doorsfan at 7:31 AM on September 27, 2007

Get to bed on time! My biggest regret in college was that I was too tired from all my nighttime adventures to focus on morning classes. On weekends you can burn the midnight oil, but figure out how much sleep you need and what's the best way for you to sleep, and STICK WITH A PLAN for sleep.

Also: just as you'll later regret missing social opportunities, you'll later regret missing chances to grow intellectually (if you're not a lummox). Take classes you're not comfortable in, take a shot at the harder classes once in a while, pack your schedule a little (it's a lot easier to drop classes than add them), and push yourself. College is a period of total irresponsibility, basically, so take advantage of that to explore in and out of school.
posted by waxbanks at 8:19 AM on September 27, 2007

Also: always, always attend recitation. Always, always take advantage of your professors' expertise and extra help. Always, always take a chance asking that gorgeous guy/girl out, and when he/she invariably turns out to be a vacuous asshole, always, always DTMFA and blog about it.
posted by waxbanks at 8:21 AM on September 27, 2007

Heh. I kind of wish my younger brother had this problem. He just started his first semester in college, and despite going to a lot of concerts, activities and the like, he feels like he's behind socially, since a lot of people already have fraternity buddies (there's no way in hell he'd join a fraternity) and friends from home, whereas he doesn't really have anyone there to talk to yet. I felt the same way at about this point in September my freshman year of college, though. It must run in the family.
posted by limeonaire at 11:57 AM on September 27, 2007

Best answer: If she's smart she should take classes that are actually a challenge to her, rather than just coasting through. (The flip side, she shouldn't take so many that she feels oppressed)

Find out who the really inspiring profs are and take classes with them.

Don't date/be friends with people who are jerks -- especially if they're jerks to you, but also if they're jerks to others (because it will come back around to you in time).

Watch your drink at a bar/party, esp if it's a party where you don't know a lot of people. Go with a girlfriend and watch out for each other. This thread has some advice that might be useful if she is finding herself experimenting with heavy-duty partying.

Remember that you don't have to say "yes" to everything that sounds fun. For the next couple of years you will almost always have too many invitations; you'll need to say no when that makes sense for you. Be confident that the invitations won't stop just because you opt out of a few events. (If they do stop, the people issuing them are morons and you can do better.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:56 PM on September 27, 2007

It must run in the family.

I think it runs in freshman year of college. It always looks like other people are ahead, and you're always uncertain of your position. Things shift fast, there's nothing you can do about that but try to cultivate friendships with people who are good to you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:57 PM on September 27, 2007

How is she when it comes to school work? Does she usually function independently as an autodidact of sorts, or does she function better with typical class work, going to lectures?

My sister's the typical hardworking student so she's very diligent with classes - and she enjoys that structure, so that's fine for her. I'm the total opposite; I work better at my own pace and become completely bored and unstimulated in large lectures (where they are often nothing more than reading out Powerpoints).

If she's not gaining anything from going to lectures, then it may be worth skipping them and learning the material on her own, giving her more time to do her own thing. Of course, this depends on the subject, difficulty, lecturer, attendance requirements, etc - but don't feel obliged to stay in a situation where you learn nothing much, if you are able to learn better in some other way.

Also, get involved in things in and out of college! There are a lot of youth-based activities geared for uni students that provide valuable learning experiences, sometimes far more than what you'll get in school. (How to balance THAT is another story and something I'm still trying to learn.)
posted by divabat at 4:49 PM on September 27, 2007

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