Managing extracurriculars and academics in college can be a juggling act. Classes are hard enough without trying to add in your social life and sleep. Throw in activities, sports, volunteering, and student jobs into the mix, and scheduling your life can get complicated pretty fast! Here are a few tips to make striking this balance just a little bit easier.
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1. Assess What You’re Currently Doing
When thinking about balancing your schoolwork and other commitments, first make a comprehensive list of all of your involvements. That can include sports teams, publications, Greek organizations, jobs, clubs, or anything that routinely takes up your time.
Think about which activities might be most helpful to you in achieving your goals, either personally or professionally. For example, if you want to be a journalist, then your position as editor for the school newspaper could be really important. Or, if you love to play the saxophone and it relaxes you, joining the orchestra can be just as much of a priority even if you don’t want to study music or be a professional musician.
Ask yourself what groups make you the happiest and what people you like to be around the most. Go through your list, see which activities can help you grow, and chose these as your focus. If there are some that truly add no value to your time in college, then simply quit. After all, you can only do college once and your time is valuable!
2. Make a Schedule
After you’ve decided which activities to prioritize, get organized! A key component of managing your time is keeping a detailed schedule. Physical planners and online calendars are the most useful for planning out meetings, classes, and other commitments. Think about how much attention each of your activities need every week. This will give you a better sense of how much free time you will have to study, catch up with friends, and relax.
If you aren’t sure how much time you spend on an activity each week, set a stopwatch on your phone and turn it on each time you start to work on that activity. Follow this for an averagely busy week, and you will have a pretty good benchmark for the rest of the year.
While extracurriculars are really important, so is taking care of yourself and your schoolwork. While you could cut out checking your phone so often or binge-watching Netflix, it is not always great to cut out activities that are meaningful to your wellness. For example, if you love running, don’t cut it out just to fit in another volunteer activity. Exercising, eating well, and resting should always be a priority, and if you can’t balance an activity and keeping yourself healthy, then maybe it’s just not a good fit.
3. Look for Leadership Opportunities
If you are an underclassman, think about your activities. Which can you see yourself leading someday? If you can think of places where you can step up and take on more responsibility, then focus your time on these clubs, teams, or jobs. Initiative is always really impressive to older students, so don’t be scared to talk to students in the role you want in the future. Ask them about their paths and how they manage their time in that role.
If you are really itching to advance in the organization, ask what you can do to help on top of what you are already doing. Taking on more work during your less busy weeks can really pay off, and club leaders will think you are reliable and driven. Making friends with older students is always great, too, as they have so much knowledge and can be great mentors.
4. Look for Unique Opportunities
Having your extracurriculars line up perfectly with your major can be great, especially if you are passionate about what you are studying. If you are a biology major and love doing research, that’s awesome, but you might want to think about adding on something unique that expresses a different part of your personality. This could be small, like playing intramural sports, but it is important that you branch out a little. Having diverse activities will allow you to meet people outside of your major and from all corners of campus. Most importantly, it will make you seem more interesting in job interviews and on resumes.
It is never too late to try something new! Many schools have extracurricular fairs, but you can also talk to your friends and see if they know of any organizations that match your interests. Ballroom dancing, painting, or rock climbing are just a few examples of cool things you could be doing on campus to help you build new relationships and explore your hobbies.
Extracurriculars can be one of the most fulfilling parts of college. You meet new friends, contribute to your community, and grow as a person if you put in the right amount of time and effort. With these tips, you will be able to better balance your academics and activities. But, don’t forget to save time for yourself along the way!
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