In the “Ask an Ambassador” blog, we showcase the experiences of real CSU students in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering. Read on to meet Kate, a CSU engineering major, and learn what she recommends to balance life as an engineer.
Diving into Engineering
Engineering is not always easy. Often our engineering studies require long hours and intense concentration. It can feel like a struggle to juggle work and personal life. That being said, it is not impossible to lead a balanced life! When studying engineering, balance often comes down to planning. Here are some tips that I personally have felt helpful on how to balance life as an engineer! (As a disclaimer, techniques work differently for everyone. But, who knows? Maybe one – or more – of these techniques will stick with you!)
Plan to be Extra
When it comes to planning, I have found it beneficial to be Extra™. Try starting with a visual calendar.
Using a format that works for you, input all your classes and daily schedule into one space. Include work hours, volunteer events, and club meetings. Don’t forget to go through your syllabi and schedules at the beginning of the semester to mark down exam dates! Try color coding by subject, and use bright colors that make you happy. Include events to look forward to as well.
Next on the agenda is meal prep. As a first year, you may not have had to worry much about preparing food for yourself. Yet after your meal plan ends, food-making can become a time-consuming activity. Instead of making a new meal everyday or spending money eating out, consider setting aside some time once a week to prepare your food for the rest of the week.
Finally, know when you are going home. Not just back to your room, but to your home home, the one off-campus. Plan ahead with studying and assignments so you can enjoy yourself while at home. Aim for a light homework load (or none!) over those breaks and allocate more time for catching up with friends and family. Fort Collins has great public transportation free to CSU students, including Groome, a bus service that can take you straight to DIA and back.
Take notes on what works
Pay attention to yourself and your schedule. What is working about your schedule? What is not? Where are your stress points and where are you most productive? It may take a semester or two, but eventually you will figure out how much you can handle. You will learn the ideal number of credits you can take and maintain your GPA as time goes on. Learn the amount of extracurriculars you can stay actively involved in. Learn the amount of social and down time you can enjoy within your week. Then you can craft a schedule that works better for you.
One strategy that has worked well for me is knowing my “prime study hours”. “Prime study hours” is what I call the window of time where your brain is on high alert and at its most productive. For me, it is between when I get out of class – around 5 P.M. – and 10:30 P.M. During these hours, I focus on the trickiest assignments that will take the most brain power. This way, when I inevitably hit a wall late at night, I have already completed the hardest assignments.
Make time for the little things
As fun as large-scale schedule planning is, it is also important to remember the little things. Make time to unplug, especially from your phone. This could mean simply silencing notifications on your phone, or turning it off altogether. Not only do notifications tend to distract when you are trying to focus, but they provide a convenient procrastination outlet. Though it may be difficult, consider planning phone “downtime” into your routine.
Always have snacks on you. Us engineers often have busy schedules, cramped classes, or plain strange study hours. You never know when those Goldfish you crammed into your backpack will become your saving grace. Make time in your daily schedule for meals, but keeping your favorite snacks around can provide an energy and mood boost when you need it most.
Take care of yourself
Don’t forget to take care of yourself! Among the bustle of college, remember to take time to practice self-care techniques. Find a creative outlet outside of engineering. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just something small you can focus on when you need a break – creative writing, sketching, painting, or working out.
Have a community. Engineering is not done alone. Get involved on campus and find your people to work, study, relax, and enjoy college with. Having a community to connect you to campus and to fall back on is one of the most important resources an engineering student can have. So, get out there! Hold your head high and be proud to be a CSU Engineer!
CSU offers many resources for students. Your student fees provide access to a wide range of mental health support resources at no additional cost. Visit Counseling Services on the 3rd floor of the Health & Medical Center, and they’ll work together with you to find the resources that are best for you. Students can learn more about what to expect when visiting Counseling Services at Health Network’s Counseling Services, as well as resources for Mental and Emotional Health.
Author: Kate Boyd
Kate is a second-year student and a committed Engineering Student Ambassador. She is studying Chemical and Biological Engineering with a minor in Spanish and hails from Boulder, Colorado.