Real Talk: Work-Study-Life Balance, Feeling Unappreciated, and Cohabitation

Welcome to Real Talk, Subject’s latest advice column with senior psychology and sociology major Savannah Johnson. Each month, Savannah dives into your burning questions about anything and all, judgment-free and with love. Email your questions to or DM us on Reddit @subjectmediadotorg to be featured in our next column.

I just started a part-time job and am feeling completely overwhelmed. I often find that I come home from work too drained to do any work for my classes. Any tips for managing stress and staying productive?

Congratulations on the new job! I’ve had a part-time job all through college, and it’s a great opportunity to grow as a professional, meet new people, and have some extra income. However, it can be demanding, especially if you’re a full-time student at the same time. It’s totally valid that you’re feeling drained and overwhelmed – it’s a difficult transition and a lot to balance at once. 

I hope you’re able to take the semester break to relax from academics while continuing to learn and adjust to your new job. This time is a chance for you to reset and grow comfortable in your position as an employee. Hopefully, you’ll enter the next semester feeling at ease with the skills needed for your job. I’ve found that training at a job while being a student can lead to some intense cognitive overload. You’re learning multiple types of information at once and are expected to excel at them all! 

As I said, feeling comfortable at your job once you return to classes will play a large role in reducing your stress. It will be easier to settle into a routine this way. If you are feeling drained, it’s okay to reduce your hours or change your availability! Employers may make you feel guilty for doing something like this, but school and your mental health come first. I recommend reviewing your class schedule and planning out your work availability so that you can develop strategies to stay productive throughout the week without burning out. 

Second, this might be a little controversial, but it may help to primarily work on the weekends, rather than during the week. I think we tend to forget that attending classes is work, just as being at a job is! It makes perfect sense that, when you’re attending class and working part time, you’re going to feel exhausted at the end of the day. Prioritizing the majority of the school week for only classes and homework, while prioritizing your job on the weekend, may be beneficial for you. If your job isn’t flexible in that way, you could consider asking to take some hours as remote. This would allow you to create your own schedule and stay productive! 

This depends on where you work, but it’s important to know if you work better in the morning, midday, or at night. When I was in high school, I used to work from 6pm-midnight for our local grocery store. Now, I work from 6am-2pm on the weekends, and I can’t imagine working a closing shift like I did in the past. Since I thrive more doing opening shifts, I’m able to set goals for my day and be more productive. Plus, I’m not feeling like I’m waiting to go to work all day. You may feel the same way, or the opposite – you may feel more productive when you have to work at night, rather than in the morning. Having a consistent work schedule, whether it be down to the hour, or your shifts are typically during a particular time of day, can also allow you to schedule study sessions or hobbies around the shift. When a schedule is unpredictable, that can provide added stress for you. 

Hopefully these general tips help. Everyone’s strategies for balancing work and school are unique, but it’s important to plan ahead, know when you work (at a job or at school) best, and take care of your well-being first. Make sure to recognize when you are feeling drained or exhausted, try to pinpoint what is causing these feelings, and then adjust your routine to the best of your ability. You got this! 

I feel like I’m always the one reaching out to my friends to make plans. It makes me feel hurt and wonder if they even value our friendship. How can I encourage them to make more effort in our friendship, or at the very least, have an open discussion about this?

It’s discouraging to place effort into making plans with friends and to not feel the effort reciprocated. Your concerns about whether they value your friendship are completely valid. 

There are a couple of ways to look at this. If you feel that your friendship is valued when you’re spending time with friends, but don’t feel this way when trying to make plans, it’s possible that your friends may be oblivious to how much planning you’re doing. On the other hand, if your friends seem dismissive or uninterested when you’re spending time with them, something deeper in the friendship may be going on than just a lack of planning effort. 

Either way, it’s important to, as you said, have an open discussion about how you’re feeling. The conversation could be over text, call, or in-person – whatever is most comfortable for you. As I always say, try to avoid being accusatory in the conversation. Explain how you feel, and how the way you perceive their lack of effort is impacting you. It’s possible that this issue could have been a miscommunication, and you’re able to find a solution in which the task of making plans is equal across your friends. Make sure to give them an opportunity to respond with how they’re feeling and perceiving the situation, so that you can resolve the conflict together. 

One last thing to consider, because I’ve been in your shoes myself: you may be someone who is naturally gifted at coming up with ideas for socializing or recreation. I’m the same way, and when I get excited about something new to do, I immediately go to make plans and schedule a time to go. Some people aren’t naturally like that, and while they enjoy going on new adventures with you, they may not come up with very many of their own. When you’re the one coming up with lots of ideas, it can feel like you’re the only one putting in the work. This is something I’d recommend reflecting on internally and discussing with your friends as well. 

My boyfriend and I are considering renting an apartment together next year for our senior year. A part of me is really excited about the idea, but another part of me worries this may put a strain on our relationship. Is this a bad idea, or am I overthinking it? 

You are definitely not overthinking this! Moving in with someone, at any point in your life, is a major decision to make. Cohabiting, especially as young adults/college students, has been something that society has been pressuring in recent years, and has become more common. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the right path for every couple. 

It’s incredibly important to facilitate open communication and set boundaries with your boyfriend before making any commitments regarding living together. Apartments are small, and sharing space is never what you’ll expect until you’ve experienced it. 

Some things to consider prior to deciding to move in together include: 

  • Financial need: how will you be splitting the rent payment and any utility cost? How will both of you make enough money to cover bills and rent? If you decide to live together, I highly recommend formulating a budget to ensure that you’re able to live in a financially stable environment. 
  • Division of labor: if you’ve taken a sociology or history class, you’ve likely heard of this phrase. Tasks done within the household, like cleaning or making dinner, should be shared equally. You want to have a conversation with your boyfriend about how you’ll split tasks to make sure that neither of you are doing too much or too little. 
  • Socializing in the apartment: make sure that you have a clear plan of communication about spending time with friends in the apartment. This could include discussing academic schedules, assignment deadlines, or making yourself heard when you want a night to yourself. 
  • Personal boundaries: as I said, sharing space with your partner is unique across all situations. It’s important that you and your boyfriend are comfortable sharing when you need space, want attention, or anywhere in between. 

Hopefully, discussing these topics will provide some helpful considerations about making this decision. You are totally fine to be excited – spending extra time with your boyfriend and learning how you’d live together is exciting! Remember that you have plenty of time to make this choice, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to move in together until you’re ready. 

Finally, it isn’t unlikely that this transition would put a strain on your relationship. Living together teaches you a lot of things about a person you may not have known before, and that can be frustrating or overwhelming. However, it’s also an opportunity for your relationship to strengthen – you’ll run into conflict, but with clear communication and boundaries, as well as a plan prior to moving in, the two of you will be able to navigate struggles with ease, and you’ll grow from it!