College can be a trying time for anyone: tests, papers, researching, verifying you’re taking all the courses you need. Military service, obviously, has its own set of stressors, mental and physical. So how do you manage balancing college and life with Guard and Reserve duty?
It is a very unique juggling act. Many students accomplish much of their college work over the weekend, but this is a much bigger task when weekends are taken up by Guard or Reserve drill. Not to fear, however! The first thing to remember is that the military lifestyle of discipline will better prepare you to get it all done somehow; it’s a very mission-oriented mentality. In addition, regular exercise is proven to fight fatigue and boost energy, so you will have that on your side, too.
There are also practical steps that you can take to guarantee a successful college/service life balance. One is to find a college or university that has advisers with special experience in dealing with service member needs. You can check out the Military Friendly List for more information.
Even if your local college or university is not on the VSOC list, communication is key. Be sure to talk often with both your on-campus academic advisor and Guard or Reserve advisor, be it a Readiness NCO or Training Manager. It is very important that everyone is on the same page in regards to your schedule.
Also, many campuses offer flexible classes, whether it’s easier for you to go early in the morning, or in the evening. Again, communication and organization are important; you must know when you have drill and choose appropriate classes to both fit your Guard or Reserve schedule and most efficiently complete your degree.
It is likely that going to college and serving in the military are not your only responsibilities. You may also have a family and a job to keep up with as well. As all these other stressors pile on, it’s important to carve out some time for yourself. To avoid burnout, work time into your schedule to decompress as you like best, be it with video games, a pickup basketball game at the park, or singing some tunes at karaoke.
If you have chosen to participate in the National Guard or Reserves while going to school, you are obviously already a committed and strong individual. Mental preparation, knowing you are able to do both school and your service, even it if is tricky at times, is your best defense.