Ms. Schmidt is a professional NYC-based actor and a proud magna cum laude graduate of Hamilton College, class of 2012. This past year, she relocated to Ohio for a season with the Tony-award-winning Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park as a member of their young acting company. Favorite CPIP roles include Mary Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, Mrs. Dilber in A Christmas Carol, and Bec (understudy) in 4000 Miles. When she isn’t on stage or auditioning, she does paralegal/assistant work at a law firm and occasionally sits on babies. She deems college the most informative years of her life and is ecstatic to be able to provide wisdom to current students through Admitopia.
Some of the most common advice given to college students is to take advantage of the unlimited resources and opportunities that are available. And it’s for good reason: college is a unique four-year experience where pretty much anything and everything is at students’ fingertips. You want to take music lessons: check. You want to try pottery: check. You want to play baseball on an intramural level: check. You want to invent a game and have the entire campus catch on and play together: check (shoutout to Hamilton College for our student-invented games like Korfball and Humans vs. Zombies).
But how do you get involved with all activities of interest and not stress about having to be in six places at once? In college I was rush chair of my sorority, president of my a cappella group, an actor in the mainstage productions, a tutor for local middle schoolers, an Admissions interviewer, and still found time to study hard enough to make Dean’s List every semester. I look back on my college years and have no idea how I did it. Trust me, I got plenty stressed. But I learned quickly that I would have to come up with a plan to maximize my time so that I could study while also making the most of Hamilton’s wonderful offerings. My college friends would joke that I must be a robot, or that I had a twin sister who showed up at some of my activities for me. But the true secrets are time management, prioritization, and knowing yourself. Here are some helpful tips to point you in the right direction.
1. Don’t feel pressured to commit to everything.
This may sound obvious, but a lot of students find themselves saying “yes” to everything that comes their way instead of honing in on the activities that really tickle their fancy. If a cool upperclassman invites you to a club meeting, absolutely attend. What do you have to lose? But in no way does this mean that you have to keep attending meetings if it’s not your thing. The cool kid will be even more impressed by your maturity if you tell him or her that you’re more excited to go hang with the debate team on Tuesday nights. Most college extracurriculars are big time commitments. Before you decide to devote a good chunk of your precious study or free time to something, ask yourself if it truly excites you. Can you see yourself staying up late for this activity when you have a huge paper due the next day? Can you envision waking up at 6am to jog 5 miles with the running club when you have a physics exam that afternoon? If it’s something you love, the answer will be yes. Leading me to my next point:
2. If it’s something you love, you will make time for it.
Try not to stress about all of the options that are being presented to you. The activities that are right for you will find a way into your life. And if you want them there, you will (whether subconsciously or consciously) make time for them. My friend really wanted to join an a cappella group our freshman year but ended up choosing not to audition. She was nervous, she thought it would take up too much time, etc. Sophomore year rolled around and she realized she had some extra free time so she auditioned. She was accepted, joined a group, and suddenly everything seemed brighter. She even claims to this day that because of those new rehearsal commitments, she was able to better manage the rest of her time. It’s never too late, and you have four full years to explore your options. There’s no rush to do everything in your first semester.
3. If you commit to something and decide it’s not for you, it’s perfectly acceptable to “quit.”
College is for trying new things. You are not obligated to like everything you try. If something doesn’t turn out to be what you expected, or you simply don’t enjoy it, why waste any more of your time? Respectfully (this is key) let the necessary party know that this isn’t for you, and go find something that is! As long as you are respectful and honest, you need not give it another thought.
Yes, there are one million amazing opportunities. But you are ultimately at college to get your degree. To further your education. Your schoolwork must come first, and if you are struggling to balance your work with your extracurriculars, maybe it’s a good idea to pull back and focus on school. Drop one extracurricular. Or drop them all but one and devote a full semester to your schoolwork and that important activity. Your intramural volleyball team and the Society of Democrats will understand. All students have bitten off more than they can chew at one time or another, and choosing to eliminate stress in order to maintain grades is a noble decision.
5. Listen to your gut.
You know you better than anyone else does. Don’t choose activities for any reason other than the fire burning in your chest. If none of the people on your dorm floor share your interests, it doesn’t mean your interests are not valid. In my opinion, one of the most fascinating and special aspects of college is meeting people from all walks of life who have an infinite variety of passions. And it’s a beautiful thing when those people can get together (or, let’s say, are randomly assigned to to live together) and can bond over their DIFFERENCES. Know yourself, and never stop getting to know yourself. Keep an open mind, but always make sure your gut and your heart have a say.