“College is going to be the best four years of your life,” is a phrase that students have heard from older adults. But amidst the days over-scheduled with classes and clubs and endless nights of studying, it is easy to forget that college is supposed to be an enjoyable experience.
There seems to be a relentless force pushing students to take on harder classes and be more involved. Unfortunately, that force often comes from within the student. Expectations for one’s self are usually much greater than anything on the outside. As a result, students end up committing to more activities than they should.
This is not to say that students should not be involved—Tre Barr, a sophomore computer science major, said, “Most of the clubs on campus are ones that help you build connections, and the other non-academic ones help you balance out and find things you enjoy outside of education.”
Activities outside of classes can be an excellent way to relax and gain extra experience, but sometimes they consume students’ precious free time. Nidhi Naik, a sophomore biochemistry and computer science double major, said, “On Wednesdays I go to lab for 6 hours. Whenever I have a break, I do work, and when I come back in the evening I do work until around midnight.”
Some weeks may not be as busy as others, so it is easy to believe one’s schedule is balanced when it really is not. However, when the overwhelmingly busy weeks outnumber the balanced weeks, it may be time to reevaluate and re-prioritize.
Barr feels that he lives a relatively balanced life. He says, “I don’t feel like I have an overbearing workload. I feel like it’s manageable, and there are no times when I have no free time.”
Creating that balance can be difficult, but it is possible. Naik said, “know[ing] when to say no is just as important as saying yes to things, because you can’t do everything. No one is expecting you to do everything, but choosing the right things to do is important.”
This process of learning what is worth committing to takes time. The harsh realization is that no one can do everything. This can be a frustrating lesson to learn, but it is necessary to get the most out of a college experience.
Quality is always better than quantity. If being involved in more activities means that a student is not doing anything as well as it could be done, it is best to figure out what affords them the greatest long-term benefit or what they are most passionate about.
Along with grades and extracurricular activities, students must remember that they are also a priority. Naik advises her peers to “take time for yourself because if you don’t, you’re going to drown a lot faster.”
Every student wants to succeed at UMBC and beyond, but over-committing is not the way to do it.