Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 04:16 pm

“Extremes are easy. Strive for balance.” In these six words, author and international speaker, Colin Wright, captured the secret of being a happy student

The extremes are, on the one hand, to be a total nerd chained to your desk with your nose glued to your academic books, and, on the other hand, to be a social animal who thinks that examinations are designed to ruin your existence as a human being and who is not willing to take the risk of that happening.

Somewhere between these extremes, you will find the well-balanced student who manages to perfect the stunt – swiftly finding the equilibrium between his books and his friends. But balance is not something that you find. It is something that you must create. Therefore, if you want to obtain good results whilst being surrounded by friends who do not feel neglected, you will consciously have to address the following:

Set realistic academic goals for yourself

Without goals, you will be without a compass, without direction. But a good goal should not ask more than what you are able to achieve. It is good to be ambitious, but why would you set yourself up for failure? Why would you put so much pressure on yourself that you become an anxious wreck who just cannot tear him- or herself away from frantic study sessions that lead up to nerve wrecking examinations in which you have no chance to be successful, because your definition of success is not intact with reality?

Your goals should not make you forget other important things in your life. You should therefore also set goals for your social life. Make it a goal to go out with friends or to go to a movie or the mall a certain number of times per month. Or make it a goal to eat dinner with your family every night.  To reach such a goal, you will have to avoid waiting until the last minute to study by setting in-between daily or weekly goals to avoid having large chunks of study work to study in limited time.

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Planning is crucial

Do not only plan your academic input, but also your social life. If you know when assessments are due and exams are scheduled, and you have a relatively detailed black-on-white plan of how you are going to approach it, you will be able to successfully juggle your academic and social commitments. You will schedule enough time to study or work on assignments and when you do take a planned break to socialise, you will really be able to enjoy it without anxiety, because you will know that, if you stick to the carefully planned schedule, you will get your work done.

A bit of both

Sometimes it is possible to combine your studies with your social life. It will help you to stay connected if you have hardworking friends who will not distract you and with whom you can study in a group. You can help each other with problems you come across and share ideas. You do not even have to be studying the same subject. It just helps to know you are not alone while “everyone else” is partying. Study buddies can share a strong bond. And after finishing a study session, you can chill together or go for a walk.

Resist the temptation to waste time

If you cannot manage to use short gaps of unstructured time productively instead of having meaningless conversations on WhatsApp, all of your longer periods of time will be needed for your studies. If you can force yourself to fit some of your shorter assignments or homework into short blocks of time and to stay focused, you will be able to free up larger portions of your weekends or evenings for fun and games.

All of this said and done, you must know that there will be times that your studies will need extra special attention because of a final examination or a make-or-break test. On those days you must be wise enough to neglect your friends, but only on those days…

Article by Ina Engelbrecht (Deputy Principal of Abbotts College Centurion)