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Dear Emily: Balancing a social life and academics

by on November 07, 2017 1:16 PM

Dear Readers,

My name is Emily Chertow. I am following my passion in journalism as I grow to be a senior at Penn State University. As I have a love for writing, I also have a love for helping others and giving advice. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to combine these interests in a column for you to read and enjoy. I want to use this platform to create conversation between one another.

In my column, I will give advice from my perspective as a young adult. I am by no means an expert or psychologist, but I welcome questions from anyone – students, parents, teens, adults, professors, siblings, etc. – who are interested in what advice I can offer. I hope from reading this column that you will learn some things, here and there, that you can bring into your daily life.

All the questions that I answer will be those that I have received from others, by snail mail, email, or conversation, all being real-life situations. Do not hesitate to send me questions – information on who is asking the questions will be kept confidential. You can send your questions to me at

I look forward to hearing from you.

Dear Emily,

As a college student that is involved, how do you handle a social life and balance with academics?

Dear Balancing Act,

With many tears and sleepless nights, of course! Oh, I’m only half kidding. Let me tell you my trick. It’s all about time management, ranking your priorities and making time for yourself. I learned all of these very quickly my freshman year of college and am still growing to be better at doing them. There is no doubt that there are many bumps in the road when you are trying to make it all happen but if you find balance in the right way it’s possible. Through all of the hours of studying, commitment to extracurricular activities, and time spent in my classes I have found that the most important part to this weird, overwhelming, amazing, and scary place we call college is taking time to take care of yourself. You must take time to do things that make you happy and keep you healthy. Don’t push aside a good workout because you feel like you don’t have time – the endorphins will keep you sane through exam week. At the end of the night allow yourself to watch an episode of your favorite show on Netflix, because you do deserve it. Take time to reflect on your day because in order for everything else to be productive and successful it’s important that you are standing straight up and able to catch your breath.

Now, time management. It’s something I never learned in my first 18 years of life but boy, I quickly learned it as soon as I came to Penn State. It’s OK to allow yourself to watch a few Snapchat stories before you start studying but you must know when to put it away and dive into your textbooks. Eventually, you’ll realize that spending time scrolling through Instagram or clicking to watch Snapchat videos does not matter and is irrelevant. But what does matter is to make the most of what time you presently have. It might seem crazy but I often schedule in my planner what I am doing every hour of the day. This helps keep me on track. Heck, on my busiest days I’ve given myself minutes and reminders to catch my breath, eat food, or even go get a shower. This makes me seem like a very Type A and organized person, but I’m honestly not. I like to consider myself a beautiful mess at times and that’s perfectly fine. For me, I need to make To-Do lists and number things based on what needs to get done first or the importance of each task. I highly recommend this for you too. That leads me to my next trick …

It’s valuable to know your priorities in many aspects of your life. People, time, and things are all factors in this. Let’s look at an example. On a recent weekend I was burnt out and exhausted from so many different factors in my life. I knew I needed to recharge. Friday came around and I could have gone to my friends’ cabin but I knew that I would come back and be even more drained. So, instead of going out I shut everything down and closed myself off from the world. I treated myself to a dinner from Panera, made my room cozy, and had a movie night. Alone. On a Friday. It was exactly what I needed but I had to make the choice to sacrifice a night out for the time to recharge. This may seem small but sometimes those tiny sacrifices are important when you are trying to create balance. Know who is valuable to you and make them a priority. Know what you need to get done in a day and make that a priority. Make yourself a priority because you are worth it and you deserve to be healthy and happy.

Dear Emily,

My daughter is a senior in high school and it’s likely that she is going to be going to Penn State but wants to apply other places. The Penn State tradition runs very deep in our family and I’m not sure if she should go somewhere else. What do you recommend us doing in the process of figuring out the future with college?


Dear Parent of a Potential Legacy,

Let your daughter explore all options that interest her because she needs to end up where she is meant to be. Although you may feel like her future is in your hands, it’s not. She deserves to create her own journey because it’s not your story to write, it is hers. Although, you should share your wisdom and life experience with her to guide her in making that big decision for herself. If there is a small inkling that she wants to look at other schools then allow her to go for it because if you don’t it is possible she will resent you. That being said, helping her in this process is a parent’s duty because it’s such an overwhelming and scary time in any high school seniors’ lives. She may be acting like she knows what she wants exactly for her future, but she needs the love and support from her parents to get her there. If she ends up being a Nittany Lion, awesome. If not, then won’t it be great to look forward to the new traditions her choice will bring to your family!


Emily Chertow is senior at Penn State University majoring in journalism. She offers nonprofessional advice from the point of view of a young person. You can send her questions or comments at


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