Balancing co-op and academics


Whether you’re a first-year student beginning your first co-op search or a seasoned student preparing for your final term, everyone, including me, struggles to manage this delicate balance. But with the right mindset and approach, you will be able to find a balance that works for you.

Create a weekly schedule

Creating a weekly schedule is one of the most effective ways to manage your time. Keep dedicated time slots for classes, assignments and applying to co-op jobs in a format you check often like an agenda or online calendar. When there is clarity on how your days should go, you can avoid any last-minute cramming or any missed application or ranking deadlines. When creating your schedule, always review potentially important dates like job postings, interview cycles, and rankings when approaching your co-op term. This way, you’ll have an in-depth understanding of the entire term while also being able to spot any potential conflicts or hectic periods.

Prioritize what is important

When making your schedule, you should know what and what not to prioritize. You have to individually assess the urgency and importance of each task and make your schedule accordingly. If you have a large assignment, divide it into smaller, more manageable chunks. You’ll feel less overwhelmed if your responsibilities feel smaller. However, it is also important to remember to set aside some extra time as sudden last minute tasks might throw off your schedule.

Utilize any organizational tools at hand

There are an array of productivity tools you can use to stay on schedule. Consider tools like Google Calendar, Trello, and Forest, which have the ability to sync across all your devices and also notify you when anything new comes up, helping you stay organized and manage your time efficiently. I personally use Google Calendar to keep track of my classes and anything I may have going on. It is convenient, reliable, and easily connects to all my devices.

Block time for work

Time blocking is a very valuable strategy, and refers to setting blocks of time for a specific set of tasks and ensuring minimal distractions. When in a time block, silence your phone, close all social media tabs, and have a dedicated workplace for maximum concentration and efficiency. This will help you focus and think clearly on what you have to do and when you have to do it. Many study areas on campus, such as the Davis Centre Library, Dana Porter Library, and the Student Life Centre, provide these types of silent study spaces.

Be connected with your peers

When you are feeling stressed, always remember you are not alone in this battle. Thousands of other students have gone through or are going through exactly what you may be experiencing, which means there’s always someone who will be able to empathize. So it is important to connect with other students who are also juggling co-op and academics. Share your experiences, tips, and challenges to build a sense of community and encouragement.

Make sure to reward yourself!

There will always be stressful times in university. Always remember to acknowledge your successes and reward yourself accordingly. Every success is worth a pat on the back. Complete milestones and celebrate your achievements. This will improve your mental health and benefit you in the long run.

As you embark on your journey at the University of Waterloo, remember to approach it with a proactive mindset, which can help a positive one develop as well. Embrace the journey with determination, perseverance, and a firm commitment to your personal development, and you’ll be great. Welcome to the University of Waterloo, fellow Warriors!