Open Letter to the Busy College Student

Open Letter to the Busy College Student

ERIKA ONG

We all know the feeling. It’s 10:32PM and you’ve just gotten home. You’ve been running from class to meeting to work all day since 8AM, and the battle isn’t over yet. You still have 2 assignments, 1 essay, and 2 exams to study for. Not to mention, you should probably find a way to eat dinner at some point.

Joining 3 organizations and taking 15+ hours sounded like a good idea at the beginning of the semester. But now you’re having a *record scratch, freeze frame* type of moment and you’re wondering how you got here. As someone who has had plenty of these moments during my time in undergrad, I’d like to share what I’ve learned about being a busy college student.

1) It’s okay to not be okay.

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As busy college students who are constantly on the go, we feel the need to be “okay” all the time (whatever “okay” is). We feel the need to put a smile on during every meeting we lead and participate in. When someone asks us “How are you?”, we say “Fine, thanks! How are you?” when how we really feel is completely opposite. What I’ve learned is that it is okay to be completely candid with how you are feeling. Those around you genuinely care about how you are doing, and sharing how you really feel when you’ve got a lot going on is often more helpful than burying your stress within yourself.

2) Just breathe.

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It may seem like the obstacle in your way is something that you will never get past or never recover from, but the truth is — in the big picture, it probably doesn’t really matter. As I reflect back on my undergraduate career, I realize that there are so many things I gave way too many “cares” to when really all I needed to do was breathe. And that’s my advice — just breathe and don’t sweat the small things.

3) Work shouldn’t always be #1.

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It may seem like your work is more important than everything else in your life. Whether it’s a test, a 15 page paper, or a work deadline, it can feel like those are the most critical things on your list, but I can tell you they are not. Calling your parents to tell them you love them or grabbing dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in a while may actually be more  important than the work you have to do. Inevitably, you will have deadlines looming, and a whole to-do list to complete, but don’t forget that work is not always #1. Those who love and support you are just as important.

4) Surround yourself with those who support and build you up.

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People have continually asked me how I’ve handled a busy schedule throughout undergrad, and there is one reason I’ve gotten through the past 4 years — my support system. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and surround myself with supportive friends who will be there with me through thick and thin. They love me for who I am at my best and at my worst. They understand that I’m not always going to be free for dinner, but are happy to catch up over a 20 minute coffee. They know that Mondays are my busiest days, and I may not always be in the best mood on a Monday. The people you surround yourself with have such a profound impact on your everyday mood, and surrounding yourself with a good support system is so important.

5) You’re doing great.

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No one expects you to be 100% all the time. Being a busy college student is difficult. There are lots of ups, and even more downs. Remember your passion for the things you do, and know that what you are doing is worthwhile. You’re doing great.


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