The College Seesaw: Balancing School & Your Internship

These days, I have a “To Do” list that has been staring at me for quite some time now.

I look back on the schedule I managed when I was still a college student, and college me (circa 2009) would most likely tell the present me to step away from the Netflix and be more productive. And you know what? College me is totally right.

FindSpark seesaw

Photo courtesy of Gabriel Pollard
During my spring semester of junior year, here’s what I had to balance: 17 credits (homework, group projects, papers, exams, one-on-one meetings with professors). I was a Resident Assistant, which meant overnight duty, incident reports, programming, and open-door hours. I was the President of the most active fraternity on campus, which meant meetings, trainings, and events. I was a member of a dance performance group, which meant rehearsals and even more rehearsals.

And to top it all off: I had an internship on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:30am – 6:30pm.

I slept somewhere in there, I promise. And I also somehow managed to maintain a social life (hard to believe, I know). I wasn’t exhausted then because I literally never had a free moment to be exhausted.

It wasn’t until I was out of a school setting that I realized just how much one can do within 24 hours. Balancing class along with an internship may seem difficult to you right now, but here’s a little secret: it’s supposed to be. And if it isn’t, you’re probably either letting your school work fall by the wayside or you’re not being challenged enough at your internship. Balancing the two should be “manageable,” not “easy.”

Here are a few tips to help you balance school and an internship.

1. Keep an organized calendar mapped out by the hour.

Your calendar should give you a perfect snapshot of your workload. On the surface, you may feel like you have a lot on your plate, but viewing your calendar almost like an appointment book will help you avoid missing deadlines and double-booking.

2. Take advantage of your commute.

Most likely, you’re taking public transportation between school and your internship. Do some homework or readings during your commute. It makes the trip seem shorter and you would be earning productivity points! If you drive to your internship, look for other moments to sneak in some schoolwork, like lunch breaks. It’ll be good prep for the “working lunches” you’ll get to know well once you start full-time work.

3. Notify your internship of important school-related dates.

Don’t walk around your internship with butterflies in your stomach just because you’re afraid to tell your supervisor that you have a huge final exam later that day and you need to ask permission to leave early. Be proactive and notify them of dates that you either may not be able to come in or would need to leave early. They’ll understand – they know you are a student first and foremost, and they’ll appreciate you being considerate.

4. Do something that makes you happy.

All this work is a lot to handle – and it’s important to reward yourself. Make sure you’re still able to make time for yourself and what makes you happy. Maybe it’s the gym, maybe it’s blogging. For me, it was dancing – and no matter how exhausted I was after leaving rehearsal, I was always happy. These moments will help keep you motivated throughout the semester.

5. Be honest.

If you have too much on your plate, be honest with yourself. Maybe you need to step down from a leadership role in a student club you’re involved in, or maybe you need to miss a social activity because you need to work on a paper that’s due. It’s better to manage expectations and avoid dropping the ball on certain things especially when others might be affected.

Have any other helpful tips to add? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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