College Diaries: Balancing school and life


Hannah O’Leary , senior, gives her input about the challenge of balancing school and life.

The beginning of a new school marks a time for growth and learning. As thousands of kids march through the hallways, accompanied by mechanical pencils with their erasers still attached and sparkling white high-top Converse, there is an underlying current of stress among a certain group of students: the seniors. It should be our year, where we reign over the school and assure that this will, indeed, be the best year yet. However, everyone forgot to mention, though, that there is one small thing that most seniors must do before they can coast through their senior year: apply to college.

Oh, yeah, that one small thing. That everyone claims will predict the rest of our lives. So follow me as I navigate the world of college applications, freak out over deadlines and look to my future.

As the school year begins to get into the true swing of things, I have once again remembered what it it like to balance the demands of balancing school, work, sports and clubs. The struggle is amplified by the fact that I am also currently applying to college, which is another draw on my time. This week I decided to take a step back from writing about college applications and look at the lifestyle of a modern teenager.

During the summer I always seem to think that school will be a breeze; I can keep adding stuff to my plate because there seems to be nothing else on it. Before I know it, I am overloaded with things to do. For me, though, this is not a bad thing. I love being constantly busy and always having things to do. Honestly, the worst thing that I could probably do to myself is stay at home every single night, bored.

This lifestyle, however, is not the perfect one for everybody. Some people like to dedicate all of their time and energy to a single activity, and that sole activity only. Others like to stay home and find things to do on their own, that are not necessarily organized by clubs or organizations.

I feel that we all, though, can sometimes struggle with the balancing act. This is especially true for current high-school juniors and seniors. Juniors are beginning the process of standardized testing, not to mention the first year with Advanced Placement classes. Seniors are in the midst of applying to college, along with taking on leadership roles in many of their extra-curricular activities.

So I can talk about this topic on a more personal level, let me give you a brief summary of my activities during the school year:

  1. Vice-President of Student Council
    1. four hours a week.
  2. Secretary of the National Honor Society (NHS)
    1. one hour a week
  3. Editor-in-Chief of Highlander Publications
    1. 12+ hours a week
  4. Athlete at the Milwaukee Rowing Club
    1. 18+ hours a week
  5. Cashier at Piggly Wiggly
    1. 12+ hours a week

Note: These are all school-year-round activities.

So, I would say that I have a fairly heavy extra-curricular schedule. Last year, I just kept applying for leadership positions because it never occurred to me that I already had several other roles to fulfill. How do I manage all of these things, you ask? Very carefully, I would answer.

I am lucky because all of these things happen at different times. For example, I have Student Council and NHS meetings in the morning, before school, while publications happens during the day and late at night. Rowing is right after school, and I work on the weekends. I was careful to not choose to do things that fall at the same time. If you have to miss one thing all the time to go do another, then you are not going to be able to do either of them well at all.

Secondly, (I like to think that) I manage my time well. Whenever I have a spare moment after school, before I leave for rowing, I organize something for Student Council. Before work on the weekends, I am writing college essays. Would I rather watch YouTube videos? Of course, but I know that I have to get essays done, while YouTube can wait. During lunch, I eat in the publications room, where I can edit articles and design the yearbook. 

I think that the most important tip in balancing your life, though, is doing things that you love. I love every single thing that I do (except for work, maybe.) I would hate balancing a busy life if I hated every moment of it. Except I don’t. I love rowing, publications and Student Council; it does not feel like a burden to balance all of those things.

I have had countless adults tell me to take it slow and enjoy my high school years. A lot of my teachers and family friends have told me that my generation is growing up too fast and not slowing down to smell the roses. The thing is, though, that we love what we do. Sure I don’t have a whole lot of freetime, but I don’t want it. It can be frustrating when people constantly tell us that we are living our lives wrong, just because it’s different from the way that they grew up. Us teenagers live in a world where we are constantly surrounded by ever-changing technology and instantaneous social media. The world is different from when my parents grew up, so I am going to have different experiences than they did.

The moral of the story is: live life as fast as you want to. If you love having days of lounging around, then create that for yourself. If you, like me, love to be constantly busy, then make that for yourself. The choice is up to you, and you shouldn’t let others’ opinions of your life change what you’re doing. Just remember to have some fun once in awhile.