Home GRCC Back to School Balancing Act: Attending college during a pandemic

Balancing Act: Attending college during a pandemic

Chloe Peters' at home set-up for virtual learning.

Paige Bodine

A common denominator for students attending college is balancing life and working persistently for a degree. The uncertainty of what exactly we will do with that degree and paying thousands of dollars, which then can lead to student debt, can be frightening. Even though it is not guaranteed that we will get a job with the degree in the field that we wanted, it is a risk that many take. It is an investment that we are willing to bet will lead to success or at least food on the table. Is the dream job worth the college degree? After countless hours of hard work will you even end up getting the job?

These are the thoughts that pound in many students’ heads especially as the job market and our economy seem anything but stable. The economic downtown and the effect of graduating in a tough economical climate in addition to people’s wallets hurting can result in a mental health crisis. In addition to being college students, we are also on the brink of a recession and witnessing all-time high unemployment rates. We are also observing systematic inequalities coming to light. All of a sudden it has become evident, yet again, the prevalence of groups that are disadvantaged, forgotten, and this includes racism and sexism, just to name a few. Life can seem unreal and the lack of consistency of what is going on can be undoubtedly overwhelming. However, life continues and people continue to make a difference and don’t let the negativity and dreariness of the world affect their perspective on life.  

Through talking with students on campus, I soon learned a thing or two about how even with the stress of getting a college degree, it is possible to have a positive mindset, stay healthy, and continue chasing a dream.

Gabe Sanchez, 18, is a freshman at Grand Rapids Community College and is working on getting a business degree. He works over 20 hours a week at Pizza Hut. In addition to working, he also strives to go outside and workout, in particular, he runs.  

“I somehow manage to balance everything on my plate. I find focusing on one thing at a time way easier to manage everything that I need to get done,” Sanchez said when reflecting on how he manages to succeed in his extracurriculars and school. 

Sanchez recognized how important it is to take things day by day and that helps with not getting overwhelmed with all that he is trying to get accomplished.  

“Since I am focusing on a business degree, I feel like going to college will open the most probable opportunities for myself,” Sanchez said. 

Kevin Deleon, 20, is a sophomore at GRCC and after this semester is going to transfer to the University of Detroit Mercy. He, like Sanchez, also recognized the importance of getting a college degree to pursue his passion, dentistry.

“I never really had college in mind until my junior year of high school when I got my braces on. I decided then that I wanted to be a dentist. I knew that that required going to school and eventually graduate school,” Deleon said. 

This dream requires him to take high-level courses and have the endurance to work hard on his studies. School has become his full-time job. Deleon studies consistently working on homework from 9-5 Monday through Friday. 

“I try to get all of my homework done so I can take a break during the weekend. I also make sure to go to the gym which ends up relieving stress. My brain definitely gets exhausted,” Deleon said. 

The idea of working out and taking breaks in order to keep mentally healthy is something that Mariah Vos, 20, has tried to implement in her day-to-day life. She balances working more than 20 hours at PetSmart, volunteering for her church’s Sunday school, and taking 18 credits this semester. 

“Last semester I realized that I was getting burnt out. I found out that I do a lot better with some sort of exercise. I need a plan in place to go outside and forget about the stresses of the day,” Vos said. 

Recognizing the stress in her life and deciding to make a change was the first thing that Vos decided to do. She is a straight-A student but realized that the amount of work that she was putting into her classes, resulted in her not having time to make sure that she was mentally okay.  

“The biggest thing for me that I have been focusing on for this semester, is to allow myself some grace. I realized that it’s okay to not be completely invested in homework 24/7 and say yes to going on a hike and spending time with friends and family,” Vos said. “It is so important to put your mental health first. It is more important than your grades and your job. You need to allow yourself time to take care of yourself. That is the main thing that I decided to focus on this semester.”

Life gets stressful and can be a difficult time for college students who are just starting to pursue a degree. These students have shown how it is possible to balance a busy life and having a  passion. They all focus on taking breaks and healthy ways to release stress and work toward a dream. Spending time outside, exercising, and taking much-needed breaks, are ways that students can combat this crazy gloomy world and work on obtaining a degree. 


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