Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Navigating Undergraduate studies, work, & home-life.

    Posted 01-29-2024 10:57 AM

    Hello everyone, 

    I am a new member and am a Junior at Liberty University in the Civil engineering program.  I am submitting this post in the hopes of soundboarding different strategies on how I can better balance these major parts of my life. I currently have a pretty demanding work schedule and my current job is the company I would like to stay with as an engineer when I finish school. I am struggling with being able effectively manage it all. If you have any suggestions I would love the feedback.  

    Best wishes

    Misty Bay S.M.ASCE
    CMC Steel Operator
    Mesa AZ

  • 2.  RE: Navigating Undergraduate studies, work, & home-life.

    Posted 01-30-2024 08:08 AM

    Hi Misty,
    It sounds like you have a lot on your plate. Undergrad is often one of the first times we come across other people who share the same classes or dorm rooms with each other, but aside from that, live very different lives from one another. It may be the reality that you simply have a lot more responsibility than many other of your peers. I personally don't think the academic world is optimized for students who aren't full time, particularly if you are studying in a STEM field.

    My "worst year" in college was sophomore year of undergrad – I was working 2 days per week off-campus and spent the rest of my time studying and staying up late to cram for classes that I didn't feel like I was keeping up with. It worked while I was a freshman, but I struggled with the classes as a sophomore much more. There was nothing elegant about my solution to this either. It ended up being the year where I had the lowest grades, and I failed a class I had to repeat as well. However, I passed on the second try, and by junior year I had saved enough money that it was not necessary for me to work while in school. This extra time was very helpful in providing me with more time and energy to focus on school through graduation. Junior year's coursework also made more sense to me and I had more friends to study with. 

    Only you know what your own social, financial, and college schedule look like, so the following suggestions may not be appropriate. I don't usually think there are too many "hacks" in the world. These are just ideas that you may or may not have already explored. 

    • Is it possible to work less or not at all for some period of time?
    • Depending on the nature of your job, is it possible to bring homework with you to work or get some other form of support from your employer? Some companies will pay for education for their staff. If that was an option for you, perhaps you would need to work less short-term while you focus on school?
    • Would there be a way to take something you work on at work and use it as material for school?
    • It is possible to take fewer classes at a time?
    • Is it possible to load more classes into certain days of the week to reduce the time needed to commute to and from school? (Not sure if your classes are online or in person).
    • Are there classes where working or studying with other students will help you learn faster?

    As a final note of encouragement, the fact that you made it to junior year shows that you have already been successful for over half of your undergraduate time-frame. I hope that you find yourself with more time or a less demanding schedule through the remainder of your time.

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 3.  RE: Navigating Undergraduate studies, work, & home-life.

    Posted 01-31-2024 08:04 AM

    I thank you all for the feedback and will definitely be using the advice to my advantage. This helped me so much especially with the feeling of being alone. I see now that I am not and I do have an outlet.  Thank all again.

    Best wishes,

    Misty Bay 

    Misty Bay S.M.ASCE
    CMC Steel Operator
    Mesa AZ

  • 4.  RE: Navigating Undergraduate studies, work, & home-life.

    Posted 01-30-2024 03:24 PM

    Hey Misty! 

    Many things are at play here and I don't know your exact circumstances, so I don't want to speculate. That being said, doing a priority list can often be helpful. You need a certain amount of food, water, and sleep to remain operational, even more to be performing optimally. You also need a certain amount of studying to perform well academically and you need to dedicate a certain amount of time to work to ensure long-term employment opportunities. Plus, you may or may not have other important people in your life that will demand some time and attention. Engineering is all about problem solving and life is great at creating problems. I would look at everything you're doing to see if there are things you can optimize. Can you shorten meal preparation times by meal prepping on a weekend or choosing meals that are easier to prepare? Are you able to effectively eliminate distractions from your work and studying to help you get more done in the same amount of time? I catch myself checking my phone and email often or getting distracted with lower-priority work from time to time and I need to remind myself of the more important tasks to make progress on. Have you tried time-blocking or scheduling different tasks to better get a handle on how long they take to complete? As Christopher mentioned, you could also approach your managers at work to discuss your needs as a student and/or you can meet with your professors to request extensions on work that is difficult to finish on time because of work priorities. I find that most people are understanding and empathetic and will work with you to find some happy medium. 

    In the end, sometimes it comes down to caffeination and shorter sleep schedules. Though not ideal, when done in short bursts, it can be just what you need to get it all done. 

    I hope your situation improves. It sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders. This too shall pass. 

    Cody Obropta P.E., M.ASCE
    Environmental Engineer
    Maine Department of Environmental Protection
    Bangor ME