i participated in my last admissions telethon early last week! it was great to send out warm fuzzy greetings, but i received one question multiple times and i promised i would write up a longer answer.
the question was about work/life balance—is it stressful to balance everything at MIT? what if there is too much work? what if i want to just be a crazy college student?
it's no secret that coming to MIT is signing yourself up for plenty of rigorous work. someone asked me if there would be at least a little bit of time every day to have to yourself—the unsatisfying answer is that it depends on the person. many of my friends never experienced a need to think about work/life balance in high school because they had plenty of time for both... so being slammed with opportunities and open loops of extracurricular activity is especially taxing when you plunge into MIT.
but i think the trick is to define what the "life" part of work/life balance means. again, this depends on the person—some of my friends destress through acting or dancing or running 10 miles, but for a non-actor-non-dancer-non-runner like me i just find a bit of solace somewhere else. :) i define "life" as being able to keep up with my friends and family and drop everything if i need to make time for someone. "life" includes trying to keep up with my hobbies—illustration, design, rolling myself in a blanket, planning my super twee future apartment, eating doritos—but make peace with myself if there is a week or month where i simply do not have the energy to do so.
here is some of what i have learned about work/life balance at MIT with the help of many wonderful friends:
1) sleep—if you don't sleep you will cease to function as a human being and fall down. you can't cheat sleep. it will find you and make you pass out on top of your problem set.
2) join clubs and activities you find relaxing—all the meetings i go to are productive but also social and fun! work with people you like—you do not need to fill your resume with stressful situations.
3) try something new on (or off) campus with a friend or two—this is always better than being a burrito in your bed, although being a burrito in your bed is not a bad choice as well.
4) believe that your work will get done—there is enough help around campus to not stop trying. this will take care of the "work" part.
5) you can always spare an hour to eat, go to the gym and take a fabulous shower, run an errand or console a friend—these are the essentials.
this past week i followed the above and ended up in puerto rico with my sorority sisters for spring break! it is always tempting to take an extra day or week to cram in more work—but fun was had, sunburns were acquired, and i have finally experienced warmth.