College - Merging Your Personal and Work Lives
There are five important boundaries I suggest setting as college freshmen to prevent your personal life from spilling into your student life, and your work from limiting the amount of fun you have in your free time.
1. With Your Roommate(s)
But it wasn't a disaster, and here's why. After biting my tongue for a little while, I ventured into a real conversation about some room rules. We negotiated about containing our own messes to our areas, using headphones, and I stuck around more so that I was comfortable with her friends being over.
My suggestion is to have it out from day one. Just ask each other about pet peeves, preferences, and agree to divide up chores. If nobody ever thinks it's his job to take out the trash, you and your roommates will just keep piling it up in the tiny room trash can, until you have some precariously-balanced Mount Garbage situation on your hands.
2. With Your Parents
You're also allowed to set some boundaries regarding what they ask and how often they bring it up. For example, if you are not comfortable discussing the person you are dating, or you're sick of talking about your classes, let them know what you do want to talk about. Better yet, ask them what's going on at home. How's the dog?
Also, let's not make the mistake of assuming your parents will positively languish in your absence. If you call home and nobody answers, it's because they are out living their lives. Let them know if you need more regular contact and how you would prefer to communicate (phone, email, Skype).
For students who are nervous about leaving home, I suggest a school a few hours away. It's the right distance so that you can't just run home every time something at school upsets you, but it's close enough that you and your parents can get to each other quickly in an emergency.
3. With Your Money
You know this, so I won't belabor the point: school-related expenses include things like books, computers, pens, notebooks, additional classroom supplies, car payments / public transportation, gas, housing, and groceries. If your school has a major activity tied into its campus culture (like a sports team), you can probably count tickets as well.
Establish a budget for all the extras - bar tabs, Chipotle runs, new clothes, dates, the Game of Thrones complete series on Blue-Ray...
Some ways of setting boundaries include setting up a bill pay schedule, deciding the amount of fun money you can afford a month, and picking up a job to cover non-school expenses.
4. With Your Course Work
Maybe you agree to work on homework after your last class ends at 4pm until dinner, where you break for an hour to eat with your friends. Then you resume working from 7-10pm. After that, you're free to join your friends for a late-night frisbee game, ice cream, or The Bachelor. Or maybe you enjoy your free time until 9pm, and then work diligently until midnight.
This requires you being conscious of when and how you work best. Can you work in the room, even with distractions? If not, head straight to the library and pick a quiet corner. Are you falling asleep by 10? Then maybe you start your homework early in the day, and study between classes.
You get to have a life. I had a friend who used to work all Friday afternoon and night so that Saturdays were completely Homework-Free. I knew someone who was equally successful by doing no homework after his last class Friday through Saturday night. But come Sunday morning, he chained himself to his desk and got everything done. Personally, I resolved to never be forced into an all-nighter, which often required me to start homework assignments well in advance of their due dates.
5. With Your Job, Internship, or Assistantship
Even if you're not working through the school, it's ok to negotiate with your employer about conditions that allow you to be in class and study. When you are interviewing for a job, ask how they feel about having student employees. The good bosses will always tell you, "School comes first." Give them times you absolutely can and cannot work. And when you are at work, be a star employee so that your supervisor is more willing to accommodate your scheduling needs in the long run.
I know - you need to pay for school. But what's the point of having money for school if you're failing classes, too tired to attend, or your work schedule prevents you from doing your course work?
Making and Enforcing Boundaries
Fortunately, it will always be in your power to make and enforce boundaries for yourself and with others. Your college experience will be significantly enhanced if you decide early on how to maintain your individual optimal Work-Life Balance.