How to balance good grades and a social life as an undergrad

academic advice adjusting to college
By Reno

When I was a senior in undergrad, the number one question I got asked by first year and prospective students was: how do I get good grades while also enjoying my time at school? Is it even possible?

It is a fair question. Everyone wants to do well in their classes, and most first year students begin their higher education experience after years of excelling (perhaps with relative ease) through their high school courses.

But, your social life is a crucial part of the undergraduate experience. It is a time in which you will have more independence than you have ever had before. You will have to build a support network that is likely separate from the one you have had at home for most of your life.

With that being said, here are the five most valuable tips that I would tell any incoming first year before they start their university journey.

Do as many social activities as you can early on

This is valuable advice for two reasons. First and most importantly, the beginning of the term (and the beginning of the year) is the least busy time for schoolwork. By the end of the term, you will most likely have many deadlines and exams approaching. So, now is the time to go try new things and meet new people! This will also allow you to try different clubs and activities to see what works for you. It may be harder to give things a trial run later.

Get ahead (but not needlessly ahead)

Staying on top of your work leads to less stress and better grades. And, it can make assignments go by faster because it will give you time to get help with the difficult topics from professors or peers! So, bottom line: stay on top of things! But, there is one caveat…don’t waste time getting ahead! For example, don’t start on an assignment before you’ve covered it in lecture. You will take longer on the assignment and get less out of it.

Leisure effectively

Too often in my undergrad I would make the naïve mistake that I would be able to hang out with friends and also get work done. This often took the form of me watching NFL with my roommate while trying to write code or hanging out with friends while reviewing lectures. This sounds like a good idea, but it ends with you neither being fully present with your friends nor being productive. You’re better off just “fully investing in the leisure” and coming out feeling refreshed and relaxed!

If you’re going to procrastinate, do it efficiently

It’s bound to happen: you set aside a few hours at the end of the day to begin working on an essay, but you just can’t bring yourself to do it. If you just know you don’t have the will power today, don’t spend your time on your phone! Use that time you set aside to at least do something productive: clean your room, answer emails, exercise!

Schedule meals with others

This one is simple, but it is one of my favorites! It is an easy and quick way to stay in touch with friends, and it takes little to no time out of your schedule.

Reno is currently an MSc student at the University of Oxford University in the Advanced Computer Science program, where his research project focuses on transformer-based neural networks for genomic studies. He holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Notre Dame.

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