Entering college, you will often hear a variety of the same euphemism: “Get involved! Try everything!”
The idea is to encourage incoming freshman to integrate into their new school, community and college culture by throwing themselves into the thick of campus involvement.
And that idea could not be more wrong.
In the generation of Mark Zuckerburgs and Lena Dunhams, the current generation is anything but lazy – idealists, maybe, but not lazy. Entering college, we anticipate taking the campus by storm through leadership, involvement and social prowess. We will start up movements, raise money for causes, write students by-laws and petition the cafeteria to switch from big box ingredients to locally grown produce. Or so we think.
The truth is that success in college is entirely dependent on your ability to bite off the amount you can chew, and not a morsel more. You don’t need to try everything and become involved in every club to integrate successfully on campus. You cannot climb the campus ladder, make the dean’s honor roll and start the next social media revolution all while maintaining your high school pant size. The truth is that you must strategically pick and choose the ways in which you will spend your time outside of class – equally dividing your time among a few choice interests and ambitions. You cannot do everything, but you can do some things and do them very well. This is the mantra you must carry with you into that important first semester – and throughout- your college experience.
A helpful way to keep track of your time is mentally dividing your day’s to-do list into five categories: academic, health, social, career, and fun. Every day, choose three that will have your attention. Maybe on Mondays your top three are academic, health and social: your top priorities include going to class, working out and dinner with your fraternity or sorority. The next day, you may choose career, social and fun: you choose to attend a resume workshop, participate in a campus club activity and then go shopping with friends.
Involvement, yes, is essential. But strategically choosing what you are involved in is even more important. When deciding which campus clubs and groups to become involved with, stick to three or possibly four (depending on your class and work schedule). Be careful to not choose all social clubs – like joining a sorority, interest club or being on the homecoming committee. Likewise, don’t make it all about career – like joining the engineering club, professional association and becoming a tutor. Oversaturating your involvement with one focus – social, career or academic – will only increase your likelihood to burnout. By diversifying your focus in campus involvement, you grow your social circle, network of potential friends, mentors and coworkers and have a higher chance of having the interesting, dynamic and enjoyable college experience you’ve dreamed of.