Balancing Research with a very Busy Senior Year

Summer is awesome. The weather is great, no classes or tests to worry about, and all week to focus on research!  Alas, Fall quarter is not quite so carefree.  With classes starting up again, it is difficult to find the time to balance undergraduate research and coursework, along with other extracurriculars.  For me, this quarter has been a particularly challenging one.  With 19 units of coursework, research, graduate/medical school admissions, and fall rowing season all at the same time it was difficult to find just a few minutes a day to relax.  But over the course of the quarter I found that there are many ways to manage all of these activities without compromising the quality of your work.  Here’s a couple of things I found useful when trying to manage a very busy quarter:

  • First, you have to plan ahead.  At the beginning of the quarter, try to print out a copy of your schedule and fill it in with where you plan to do all of your extracurricular activities.  Better yet, try to do this prior to setting your schedule for the following quarter.  A great online tool to do this for UCSB students is, which pulls data from GOLD and generates all the possible combinations of schedules you could have based on the classes you want to take.
  • Be Flexible.  Often, even though your schedule may seem to be set in stone, there will be times when you need to make changes.  Be it a medical emergency, a club event that requires travel, a research conference, or even a special experiment that requires uninterrupted attention: be prepared to make changes and don’t freak out about it!  The more time you spend worrying about missing a certain section of your schedule, the less time you have to make up for it.  There is always time to get things done, you just have to look for it in interesting places.
  • Wake up early.  During my freshman year, many of my dorm-mates were most excited about not having to get up early to make it to school by 8am.  While this is a dream come true for almost everyone, it also saps a lot of your extra study time.  During my time at UCSB I’ve tried both pulling the classic college all nighter and just trying to get up early in the morning, and the latter method wins every time.
  • Make time for yourself.  With all the stress of trying to balance all your schoolwork and extracurricular activities, it is important to make a little time for yourself to spend not thinking about school or work and just relax.  This should hopefully keep you from stressing out too much during the week, which when weighed against the time you spent doing nothing school related will actually work out in your favor.

Hopefully some of these tips might help out anyone having a tough time trying to balance their workload this quarter!