A double degree: my experience and how to find a work-life balance

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Last year, like other few students each September, I began a second bachelor’s degree while still pursuing my first one. My initial motivation was curiosity, as I felt I could do two degrees simultaneously.  Here I’m going to write about the different things I have learned from this experience, that doesn’t just consist in learning twice as much academic courses. Keep in mind that not everyone develops the same set of skills while doing two bachelors, and that rather there is a set of constraints that will lead you to find your own way of doing!

Workload management

At first glance doing two bachelor’s degrees could seem to simply double your workload. Indeed, you have nearly twice as much courses and exams, and thus, much more group projects to do and study time required. However, it gets a bit more difficult once you understand that your study time cannot be expanded indefinitely, and that you cannot exclude every other activity. Therefore, you must get more efficient at studying and working.

The increase in workload requires you to increase the time spent for your courses, but the real struggle is productivity. In order to keep some time for the rest, you have to improve your studying techniques. It might seem easy, but here you must rethink how you have been working for years. This leads you to test different techniques and assess them based on various criteria. If by using a particular method you remember much better what you have seen today, but fail to make connections with what you have seen yesterday, is it worth it? In the end, you develop an ability to critically evaluate how you are performing and how to increase your efficiency.

Planning handling

Secondly as you have much more deadlines, exams and courses, you must adapt the way you use your calendar. The strain is not just set on the workload but also on the time you have in order to achieve these works. This causes intervals of intense or lighter studying, which requires you to adapt while keeping in mind other needs. For example, if you make the choice to shorten your night and do extra work, you have to plan in your week to recover from this loss of sleep, but also to do sport and take some good time with your friends. This forces you to have a serious planning of your days and weeks to meet your short-term deadlines, but also keep an eye on your monthly and yearly goals. You cannot plan 12 hours of studying per day for ten months a year. If you want to succeed, you must find of your own a complex mix between all these essential compounds of life. 

Strategic approach to exams

Developing good working technics and following a well-planned calendar are not enough. The final point which I consider capital is to clearly determine for each of your works and exams what you aim and how to reach your goals quickly. 

What you aim at really depends on what your objectives are for doing two degrees in parallel. There are many ways to adapt to your objectives, like focusing on the subjects ‘sections which seems more relevant to you or by doing the part in a groupwork which leads to the training of some specific soft-skills. 

Question your work-life balance

About personal development, a double degree teaches you much more than simply how to be efficient at working. 


By experiencing a sudden increase in your workload and filling up your google calendar, it gives you a better insight of what your life might be depending on your choices. Some might have taught that they needed a lot of free time and discover that being constantly active satisfies them. Others believed that working 70 hours per week in their career would be fulfilling and it is only when they face this workload that they reconsider their personal work-life balance. Same for your activities, it is hard to know what is important for your inner self if you never had to stop them. As an example, it is only when I stopped swimming due to the time it took that I felt how essential it was to release me from my stress.  It is an opportunity to identify what really matters to you while you are still at university and not committed to a job or anything else.

This is even more true for your social relations, as you have less time to see people. This might lead you to stop meeting someone, or less often. It will teach you which relations are important, and which types of relation matter for you. There are thousands of interactions possible and being aware that there is a choice to make will be defining. Good relations are a major driver of fulfilment and happiness.

Conclusion

It might be hard to tell what each of us could learn from doing two degrees simultaneously, it is a unique experience and there is not one standard outcome. Furthermore, there obviously must be an incredible number of other projects teaching you as much if not more. However in its own way, it is still an opportunity for you to go further in your academic path, meet new barriers and challenge them!

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