The Double Life of the Intern/Student: How do you succeed at both?

I’m having a bit of a problem.  I have less than a week to start and finish researching and writing a 25 page law paper (with proper legal citations…what does that even mean?) that will cap off my graduate degree. I haven’t started, and I’ve added more work to my plate. Come Wednesday night (after attending a gala I committed to weeks ago), I will likely be crying over a blank Microsoft Word document and a book on Napster.

I also have a job where I want to continue doing well, I’ve started testing the waters in the job market, my social media has skyrocketed and I’m picking up a few writing gigs to get my work flowing. This does not include the trips, visits, social obligations and other life responsibilities I have to accomplish this summer. I know if I was at home with just one job, I would be rattling my brain trying to think of new things to do. I usually end up torturing myself for a few days but making it out without much damage, which is why my pattern hasn’t stopped yet.

It’s a problem my mother always points out to me and has been an inherent part of my personality for years.

“Ladan…you overbooked yourself again. Cut out something so you have time for school!” she would say. As a college senior last year, I had the schedule of an executive–except worse (because I had homework!) I had a full class schedule, grad applications, I was the editor of a startup publication, mandatory sorority obligations, other extracurriculars and I had a long distance relationship that needed a lot of attention. This is the life of a grown up–someone with multiple types of responsibilities and an insatiable eagerness to grasp for more in life.

So what are you going to do if you’re a student trying to get good grades but also excel at your internship? Which is more important?

The truth is that both are extremely important, but one will always come before the other–Yes, you do need to do well in your classes, but not for the GPA–for the support of your colleagues and professors. You need to have work that you’re proud of that you can use when applying for a job later in life (granted, I will never see this evil law paper again…). At the same time, your performance at your internship will likely go much further when you’re applying for jobs.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind when playing this balancing act:

1) You can always combined topics to save time. THIS DOES NOT MEAN that you can re-use stories and sources. If you’re working on a story for work on the climate bill, why not write a story about local environmental groups for class? Different story, same topic, and you’ll likely have time to research both without looking like you’re working on school assignments at work.

2) When pressed for time, go for what’s most valuable to you. If you are in a program or class where professors are giving you vital tools and are offering their help post-graduation, it’s probably better to spend more time on your school projects. On the other hand, if you know spending more time on an assignment at work will get you published or on the air, go for it. Sometimes you’ll have slow days at an internship or you will have just done something spectacular–on those days, you can probably loosen up and dedicate more time to schoolwork.

3) A B doesn’t =Blew it. It’s ok not to get the perfect grade sometimes if it means going that extra mile at work or filling out that last application. In reality, when it comes to journalism, your grades will not get you a job–your CONTENT, NETWORK and SKILLS will. But also keep in mind, good grades often lead to scholarships and definitely matter when applying to graduate programs

4) Make meticulous lists so you reward yourself for what you do accomplish. It takes me forever to start a beastly assignment (at work and school) simply because I don’t know where to begin. I started making extremely detailed lists of what I had to do which #1) satisfied my need to be busy all the time by making it look like I had 10 times more to do and stopped me from adding more and #2) it helped me slowly but surely get through all the details with the satisfying swipe of the pen when I crossed them off. Separate them into categories like “work: social media  school: law class-find 4 sources by 11:00 tonight”

5) Look at the big picture. My friends can tell you that I’m the type of person who procrastinates because it’s hard for me to think of things long-term. When I see something I want to do, I do it even if I know I am putting off something that will come back to bite me. Nonetheless, things DO get done, even if you have to suffer a little, and you WILL get by if you think of the end result. What’s the end result of doing my law paper? A master’s degree and no more school! And the good news is that most of these assignments need to be completed within a week, so you only have to stress about it for a short amount of time.

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