Tips for Balancing Work, School, and Life

2019 FSM Ambassador Rachel shares her top 4 tips on maintaining balance in work, school and life! 

September 25, 2019

Hello and Happy Fall!

I’m glad to report that I rejoiced in the observation of the Autumnal Equinox early this week. This is my favorite season, and I plan to go all-out on the apple orchards, haunted houses, and pumpkin spice lattes (yes, I unabashedly subscribe to this trend, and I dare you to mock my joy). I’ve also officially returned to my studies at Washtenaw Community College, and I’m excited to get back into the swing of things!

Let me tell y’all though - I’m a little scared. Being a student while trying to keep up with work and family and relationships and other important roles can be incredibly difficult to balance. Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking about it, but it helps to take a step back and refocus. When this happens, I like to remind myself of a few important things:

School has to be my #1 priority. At the very least, it has to be in my top two. I, like many of you, worry about paying my rent, keeping up with bills, and generally taking care of myself and others. When you’re dealing with very real needs like these, it can be easy for school to fall down the to-do list. I have to remember that investing in my education will ultimately put me in a better position to take care of all of my needs in the future, and if I keep allowing other things to come before academics, I might not be where I want to 2 or 3 or 4 years down the road.

I need to take advantage of resources that are offered to me. There are so many resources available to students who have experienced foster care. We have access to pools of money through school scholarships, state funds, private organizations, and federal grants. A quick visit with an advisor or financial aid rep can, in some cases, drastically change your ability to pay for school. Funds are not only available for books and tuition - some scholarships can even help you to pay for things like rent, food, transportation, health, and computer needs. It’s important to check your eligibility for funds like Pell, ETV, TIP, and Fostering Futures, as well as to research whether organizations in your community have scholarships available. Our House in Washtenaw County, for example, is a non-profit that offers a housing scholarship and other non-academic resources for youth and alumni of care.

My campus coach is there to help. I’m lucky to have an on-campus program specifically designed for students who have experienced time in the child welfare system. My campus coach, like all other coaches in similar programs, exists solely to help support me and students like me. She is always accessible for both my academic and general needs. If I have a question about funding or classes or transportation or mental health resources, I can go to her. If she doesn’t have the answer, she can connect me with someone who does. There are campus support programs and designated campus champions at 28 post-secondary institutions across Michigan, and FSM is constantly expanding that network. Chances are, there’s someone at your school that can specifically help you – you just have to ask! If there isn't a campus program or designated champion at your school, let FSM know and we can reach out to establish a connection.

I can be proactive about my academic success. If I notice that I’m wanting to skip my classes, not understanding the material, having car trouble, being asked to do more at work, or experiencing anything else that might impact my ability to be a good student, I can take action to stop the issue before it gets out of control. I’d much rather get tutoring or drop a class than wait until the end of the semester when my options are limited and I’ve already done damage to my transcript. I can get connected with an organization that will help me repair my car or get a bus pass before I’m stuck without a way to get to class. I can make an appointment with my therapist if my regular coping techniques for stress or anxiety aren’t working before it gets to be too much to handle. We all inevitably face situations that make it difficult for us to be successful, and it’s always okay to ask for help.

Reminding myself of these 4 things help me to breathe when I’m feeling overwhelmed, and if you ever find yourself feeling the same way, I hope they help you too.

Wishing you all the best of luck this semester!

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Fostering Success Michigan is a program of The New Foster Care that aims to increase access and success in higher education and post-college careers for youth with experience in foster care. Learn how you can contribute to building a holistic network that insulates (i.e., strengthens protective factors and reduces risks) the education to career "pipeline." 

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