How to Achieve a Study-Social Life Balance

By Kaitlin Hurtado on September 24, 2019

When you think about how hard college can get – there are a wide variety of factors that can increase how difficult college can be for a student. One of them is how many time commitments students are expected to take up during their college years. Of course, there is the obvious commitment of being a student — attending classes, going to office hours, and studying to get good grades. But there’s also plenty more that college students are expected to do, including extracurriculars, internships, jobs, and keep up their social life.

Sound like too much already? It is. Spreading yourself too thin can lead to an extreme amount of stress or burnout, but it’s also recommended to make sure you are making the most of your time at school. An extracurricular or two to increase your networking and social circle, an internship or job to get experience, and excelling in school is the typical picture of a successful college student. So how can someone possibly be expected to manage any of those in combination? Building an effective study-social life balance.

It is much easier said than done, but with these do’s and don’ts in mind, getting closer to a proper study-social life balance in college will be all the easier:


Do get a planner (or something to keep track of your time commitments)

One of the biggest things that can keep you from achieving a study-social life balance is not being able to keep track of everything you need to do. The more time commitments you have, the more likely you are to let smaller tasks (or even big deadlines like exams or paper due dates) slide until it is too late. Our brains aren’t designed to have everything memorized – so it’s unfair to yourself to expect yourself to remember everything constantly.

When you get a planner, it is much easier to remember what you need to do and also properly plan out what you need to do to get a study-social life balance. Your options are endless. There are pre-made planners, even ones specifically made for students, that can help you plan out your life, from a scale as small as daily to monthly. Having a planner will allow you to have all your time commitments in one place, making it much easier to see if anything conflicts with another and if you need to rearrange your schedule.

While a physical planner is recommended, you can also go digital. Apps like Google Calendar will allow you to have your schedule at your fingertips as long as you have a device to access the app. With apps, you can design them to set reminders at varied times, allowing you to get notifications when a deadline is coming up or when you have a dinner coming up.

Having a planner that you consistently use gives you the chance to plan properly when you see what free time you have (and what time you absolutely need blocked off). Planners may seem a bit hard to keep up with at first, but with practice and figuring out what kind of planning works best for you, they may be your best friend when it comes to achieving a study-social life balance. If just glancing at deadlines doesn’t get the job done, for example, try breaking deadlines down into task lists. Give yourself smaller deadlines that look more attainable, breaking them down into tasks that you can finish daily.

Do learn to say no

While having a planner makes it much easier to keep track of your time commitments, it won’t help you achieve a proper study-social life if you do not learn how to say no to things. This doesn’t mean just saying no to friends when they invite you out because everything else is more “important.” It’s being able to assess all of your time commitments, seeing what needs more of your time and energy, and turning down things that stop you from achieving your goals.

Let’s say you have a test coming up at the beginning of the week but it’s also your best friend’s birthday weekend. Should you completely shut out one in favor of the other? No. But you should spend time thinking about how you can commit yourself to both if you want to. You don’t want to cram all weekend and pull unsuccessful all-nighters to achieve a good grade, but you don’t want to be out all night partying alongside your friends.

Think about how much studying you want to do, or should do and plan accordingly. You may not be able to join your friends on all their nightly excursions, but spending an hour or two out for coffee or breakfast with your best friend to celebrate won’t hurt you. Making an effective study-social life balance means finding a good middle ground and being able to divide up your energy accordingly.

A big part of achieving a study-social life balance is working to figure out what you need to prioritize and when you actually need to say no to things. Don’t let your FOMO (fear of missing out) overtake your rationality during important decision making.

Do plan ahead 

Part of effective time management is learning how to plan ahead. When you plan ahead, you will have more time to prepare for a busy week or an important deadline. When a school term starts and you get that class syllabus, don’t just zone out when the professor goes over it during the first day of class. Take notes. Not just on deadlines that you can find on the syllabus, but extra bits of information that your professor mentions. For example, if they talk about a big project that is due in months, they may mention certain things you may want to be doing now to start preparing. Jot those down on the printed syllabus or on a note for later.

When you want to build a study-social life balance, it is vital that you learn to not procrastinate. Leaving something until the last minute can keep you from joining friends on a night out that you easily could have gone on if you had prepared more. If your friends are planning a trip close to a deadline you know you have months ahead of time. Prepare to finish that project earlier. If your project is completed before the deadline, you will be free to join your friends on a trip and not spend the entire time with an important deadline looming over your head, stressing you out.

Planning ahead allows you to fit more into your schedule without making you cram to fit in adequate studying time in favor for a night out with friends. Recognizing a deadline ahead of time and working on it over time can be the difference when it comes to making it out to see your friends and spend quality time together. When you are on top of your educational deadlines, you are free to hang out with friends without stressing over going home to finish whatever assignment you need to finish.

Do be flexible 

Planning things down to the hour can sound like it makes you life so much easier when you know exactly what you are supposed to be doing at whatever time, but it can also be disabling you from other opportunities. For example, let’s say you took the time out to plan out your week carefully. You set aside time every day to study for a big test next week, you planned out time for reading before a work shift. Your week looks solid, until a friend asks you if you want to go out to a movie you have been dying to see.

You don’t have to automatically say no if it’s not something you planned for, but look at your schedule and figure out what time would least be affected. Let’s say you have more time on another day to do more readings to make room for a movie night with your friend. Don’t be afraid to say yes and rearrange your schedule. Don’t be overinvested in your detailed planner that you forget to live in the moment and give yourself a break.

Know that it is completely okay to move things around in your schedule to make some time for some other area of your life as long as it doesn’t make you forget about what is really important.

Don’t let one small slip-up keep you up at night 

As much as you may want to have the perfect study-social life balance, it’s just not realistic 100% of the time. Things happen and may cause the routine you have steadily built up to momentarily slip. A sudden sickness like the flu may knock you out a few days, making you fall behind a few assignments or making you miss an important hangout with your friends.

Have no fear and do not let one small slip up cause your life balance to fall out of place. Look at what needs to be done objectively, and what you need to do to make sure it gets done. Plan accordingly. Prioritize what needs to be caught up. If you have a test coming up for one class, make sure you prioritize catching up on missed notes or study guides before anything else. When that test is over, spend your energy on catching up on missed readings for another class. Do not be afraid to reach out to a classmate or to a professor during office hours for some extra help on what you may have missed.

Accept that things happen and the only thing you can do is pick up where you left off rather than beat yourself up over it.

Don’t be afraid to say yes to something outside of your schedule

Life balance means nothing if you find yourself not getting any pleasure out of anything in your daily routine.

Routines can get boring pretty fast, regardless of how effective or efficient they are when they are created. A one hour class can seem a day-long when all you are doing is shifting between the library and the lecture hall. Or, hanging out with friends may feel forced when you go out to a planned event when you are no longer feeling up to it a week after saying yes. Learn when to break out of your routine for your wellbeing.

Whether it be going off-campus for a breath of fresh air and get your mind off a lurking deadline, or taking a spontaneous trip out with your friend group – breaking your routine does not have to be a negative thing. Not everything comes with a month’s worth of planning, nor should you expect it to.

Don’t forget to schedule me-time

Your efforts in creating a study-social life balance will not be sustainable if you do not forget to schedule me-time routinely. If you go about your routine of studying, attending classes, and hanging out with friends, you may just find yourself feeling burned out. You may be dividing time up properly between school and your social life, but you might be leaving out much-needed time for yourself.

Scheduling time for yourself does not have to mean blocking off a whole Saturday just to stay in your bed, being unproductive, it can mean several different things. It could be taking yourself out to a movie you have been really wanting to see, or treating yourself out to dinner at a spot you have been wanting to try out. It can be turning down an offer to go out with your friends to spend some time catching up on a Netflix show you missed – or taking your dog out on a walk.

Remember that spending time taking care of your wellbeing is just as important, if not more, than making sure you studied enough or have been spending enough time with your friends.


The big secret to the perfect study-social life balance is that is none. What works for one college student may not work for you — it’s all about trying what you can and seeing what actually works.

By Kaitlin Hurtado

Uloop Writer
Hello! I'm Kaitlin, a fourth year Literary Journalism major at UC Irvine. I'm a writer on Uloop's national team and a campus editor for UCI.

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