Managing School and Life Responsibilities

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Being a student can be difficult and time-consuming. The roles students take on at school may include being enrolled in multiple classes, engaging in clubs or sports, professional development opportunities, and establishing a life in their new environment. However, these are not the only roles students have. Many students engage in outside employment, have relationships, assist in the care of family members, and have many other personal obligations. Due to this, students may feel pulled in different directions and have difficulty juggling a lot of competing priorities.


Students may expect to have irregular hours and last-minute projects or assignments that take time and coordination with other students to complete. However, their life responsibilities may expect them to provide a significant amount of time and attention away from schoolwork. Expectations for attention, emotional support, and affection from your friends, family members, or partners can cause strain in the relationship when trying to balance school and life responsibilities. Students may experience additional stress and frustration when significant time is spent away from school work. They may feel that they don’t have enough time to fulfill all of their responsibilities to the degree they would be able to without juggling priorities. The ability to be flexible as well as the ability to establish and readjust expectations/boundaries can assist in managing different roles. Below are some tips that may make multiple responsibilities a bit easier to manage.

Communication: Maintaining quality in most aspects of life requires communication. It can be beneficial for students to learn how to effectively communicate with the various individuals in their lives while also being able to balance their own needs, dignity and self-worth. Romantic, familial, and friend relationships thrive best with open communication. The ability to express positive feelings, negative feelings, complaints, needs, and above all, affection can benefit all parties in the relationship. In addition to this, academic relationships emphasize the importance of independence on academic activities and asking questions/seeking clarification as needed. Finally, employers tend to appreciate notice and open communication about responsibilities, scheduling and works tasks.

Boundaries: Boundaries, especially boundaries with time, are important. While working on their education, students may find that there are always additional tasks that can be completed. This perpetual cycle of task completion does not end after graduation. Therefore, learning how to set limits while in school is important. Ironically, students will probably be more effective in school and in their career if they adopt a lifestyle that allows time to take care of their work and relationships. Above all, schedule regular and specific times to spend with family, partners and friends as well as use self-care and alone time regularly.

Engage with Your Support System: Engaging with your support system can be helpful for stress management and engaging in healthy coping strategies. In addition, engaging with professional mentors can be helpful to learn about balancing academic, employment and personal lives.

Prioritize: Students today often have an unlimited amount of options for ways to spend their time. Many students engage in after-class activities, such as clubs or sports, in addition to time spent at work, spending time with friends or their partners as well as traveling to their hometowns to spend time with families. It is important to note that no student can be involved in every group or committee. Students may find it helpful to prioritize these options by importance for the day, hour, or week.

Maintain a Schedule: Maintaining a routine and schedule can be a helpful way to stay organized and cultivate healthy habits. Attempting to have a consistent sleep schedule in addition to designated time for self-care, work, studying and time spent with friends/family can promote positive results.

Be Flexible: While students are in school, life outside of academia does not stop. Although maintaining a schedule on the day to day is helpful, it is important to remember that sometimes life events can happen that are outside of the student’s control.

Invest Time in a Hobby or Coping Strategy: Although time can feel like a limited resource when students are managing school and other life responsibilities, investing time in a hobby or coping strategy can assist in increased wellness and stress reduction. Engaging in activities such as exercise, journaling, reading books for fun, or crafting can help students manage the impact of daily life on campus.

Frequent Concerns

Having additional priorities outside of student coursework can be daunting at times. Many students may have thoughts such as “just try harder,” which can cause a significant amount of stress or worry. The following is a list of frequent student concerns related to managing life and school responsibilities:

Money Concerns: No matter how carefully students budget and save, they may experience financial concerns. Managing employment, student loans and bills can be difficult and cause students a lot of additional stress. Engaging in some financial counseling from the campus financial aid office or from a community referral can be beneficial to better understand money management.

Comparing Yourself  to Others: The variety of student’s roles and commitments, in addition to the pace of academics can make things unduly hectic. In order to maintain a healthy, constructive balance between school and other life responsibilities, students may find it necessary to take longer than they originally planned to complete certain tasks. It may be unreasonable to expect to keep the same schedule as peers who have different responsibilities. Learning how to set a realistic pace can be beneficial and reduce unnecessary stress.

Communication Breakdowns: No matter how hard we try, everyone will have at least occasional communication breakdowns. A communication breakdown occurs when the speaker’s intent doesn’t correspond with the impact of the message received by the listener. To begin resolving a communication breakdown, the listener needs to identify the impact, describe it to the speaker, and ask if that impact was intended.

“Adulting:” Balancing daily chores and responsibilities related to being an adult can be frustrating. Engaging in planning, prioritizing and open communication are essential in working out agreements with others (e.g. family, partners, professors, employers, etc.). Specifically, during stressful periods, such as during midterms and finals, it can be helpful to be aim for flexibility. This openness can allow students to feel more balanced while also ensuring that everything that needs to completed, does.

Being Critical of  Self: Being overly critical of yourself can cause a lot of negative repercussions. Students are often most critical of themselves, which can lead to feelings of failure or “not being good enough.” Learning to love and care for ourselves increases self-esteem and can assist in establishing a healthy lifestyle that maintains balance between school and other life roles.

Want to Know More?

El-Ghoroury, N., Galper, D. I., Sawaqdeh, A., & Bufka, L. F. (2012). Stress, coping, and barriers to wellness among psychology graduate students. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 6(2), 122-134.

Gardner, S. K., & Gopaul, B. (2012). The part-time doctoral student experience. International Journal of Doctoral Studies. 7, 63-78.

Jairam, D., & Kahl, D. H. (2012). Navigating the doctoral experience: The role of social support in successful degree completion.International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 7, 311-328.

Stimpson, R. L., & Filer, K. L. (2011). Female graduate students’ work-life balance and the student affairs professional. In P. A. Pasque, & S. E. Nicholson (Eds.), Empowering women in higher education and student affairs: Theory, research, narratives, and practice from feminist perspectives (pp. 69-84). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Psychology Today: website includes interesting articles written by renowned psychologists, academics, psychiatrists and writers regarding psychology and mental health. can assist you to find a mental health provider in your area.