When I was 8 years old, my mother took me to the circus for the first time. In between the acrobats and the lion tamer scenes, the juggler made an appearance. It ended up being one of my favorite acts. As he threw the pins in the air, it was miraculous that none of them dropped to the ground. A professional juggler, someone who dedicated his time to his craft, was performing in front of my eyes. And whenever it seemed like the act couldn’t be any more impressive, someone would throw an extra pin into the mix.
As students, life throws us additional responsibilities while we are already overwhelmed with schoolwork. Other obligations like love, family and work come flying at us when we’re busy trying to keep everything else moving fluidly in the air. Unlike the trained juggler, most of us are not educated in prioritizing our duties correctly and everything seems mere seconds from crashing to the ground.
Sometimes, we learn how to manage our commitment through hardships.
Soky Chhe, an ESL teacher and a graduate from Penn State, knows firsthand how difficult it is to balance full-time enrollment in school and part-time employment, while trying to maintain the basic necessities of survival.
“I struggled a lot because I was carrying 15 to 17 credits, above the minimum requirement, because I wanted to graduate on time,” Chhe said. “Because my parents hardly ever gave me money, just $100 every few months, I had to make sure I worked to earn money just to get by.”
Unfortunately, there are more than a few people like Chhe, people who don’t have the luxury of a bottomless bank account, on Main Campus. Some people have to work up to 40 hours a week on top of 17 credit hours in the classroom and about 12 hours of studying at home.
Another obligation that can sometimes obstruct scholastic achievement is love. When all the stress feels like it’s crushing you, your significant other can end up on the receiving end of your move to the brink of insanity, or even making it worse.
As a couple, the time you spend with your loved one is crucial. However, working and studying like a machine can make it hard to manage that, and can even make you resent each other for getting in the way of other priorities. If you’re not careful, this dilemma can sabotage a relationship indefinitely.
Other responsibilities students tend to commit to are extracurricular activities. Clubs and organizations are the backbone of the social unification of a university and can be a great way to meet new friends or develop skills or connections that can help you professionally down the road.
But you need to be careful to avoid overcommitting your time. Some college students inadvertently end up with way too much on their plate and not nearly the appetite they thought they had.
Prioritizing responsibilities can seem very daunting at first, but it will save your life in the long run. Take the time to schedule your workload, and if possible, do not commit to new obligations that you cannot handle. Do not be afraid to reject work that may interfere with your goals. Use your judgment. Even the best jugglers needed years of practice to learn to balance everything that well.
Edward Barrenechea can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.