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    Keep It Balanced

    When it comes to college life, should you push hard or go with the flow?

    Lee Tobin McClain

    Which of these college freshmen has the best shot at success?

    "I read ahead in all my books and told my friends I couldn't go out," says Tanika. "It's only been a week, and I'm already tired, but this is college—isn't that what it's supposed to be like? After all, I have to keep my GPA up if I'm going to get into the education program."

    "I'd heard the profs take it easy the first week," says her friend Jodi. "So I'm not that bummed that I slept through most of my early-morning classes. And who knew books cost so much? I haven't even bought half of them yet."

    If you guessed that Tanika has the best shot at success, you're right … but only to a point.

    finding the right balance of work, school and recreation at christian collegeLet's face it: Adjusting to college classes can be difficult. You'll have to get used to different workloads and teaching styles from the ones you became familiar with in high school. If you're like Tanika, you'll probably start off working extra hard right away—and risk burning out. Or, if you're like Jodi, you may start college way too laid back—and risk falling far behind. The truth is, you'll need to find a balance between these two approaches to do well and still have free time for friends. Here are few tips to help you find a good balance.

    Start off Right

    Jodi's right about something: College classes start slow. The first week is usually light on course content and you probably won't be hit with any major assignments. Your profs won't ask you to explain the secrets of the DNA double helix or to analyze Paradise Lost.

    Tanika doesn't need to read ahead in all her textbooks at this point. She's working too hard, too soon. At crunch time—when exams are given or large projects are due—she may be too exhausted to make the extra effort that will lead to the grades she wants. She needs to slow down, take a breath and give herself some time to simply get adjusted to college life.

    But Jodi's headed for big-time trouble, too. It's still crucial that you buy your books, do the required work, and attend class even during the first week because you'll learn how the course is structured and what type of work you'll need to do. If you don't, you'll soon find yourself way behind and may never be able to get caught up.

    Plan to Succeed

    One huge difference between high school and college is time management. College professors rarely coordinate testing and due dates with each other to balance out your workload, so it's likely that many of your major assignments will hit within the same couple of weeks. Certain periods—the weeks before breaks, midterms and right before finals—are sure to hold some all-nighters. On the other hand, some weeks will feel rather easy and your workload kind of light.

    Your best defense is to be prepared. Each instructor will pass out a syllabus detailing due dates for tests and papers. Listen to the expanded descriptions given in class and note all the deadlines in your new planner. That will give you a visual view of when you really need to tell your friends you can't go out, or the best times to schedule a trip home.

    Often, you'll have choices about when to sign up for presentations or complete special projects. If you've written your exams and other due dates into your planner, you can see which weeks you'll have time to do extra assignments.

    Meet the Profs

    Make a point to meet your professors during the first week of class. Ask for more details about an assignment or a topic you're covering in a course. Doing so demonstrates initiative, and professors like that. It also shows that you care about your work and really do desire to do your very best. In a sea of students, the ones who make an effort to speak up always stand out.

    ... and other tips for staying healthy at college.