The pros and cons of being busy in college

The+pros+and+cons+of+being+busy+in+college

by Ethan Humble, KSTM Radio Station Manager

As a college student, I like to pack my schedule. In fact, I think a bunch of college students enjoy doing the same thing. There’s a type of comfort that comes from knowing exactly where and when you need to be at what time each day. 

From Abby Ludwig’s editorial from earlier this fall, it’s quite clear Simpson students really are a different breed when it comes to staying busy. But what are some of the biggest benefits and drawbacks to having this type of lifestyle at a 4-year institution like Simpson?

Take it from me: a junior here involved in playing on the tennis team and in the concert band, giving tours around campus, being an SC leader, being the radio station’s manager and reporting for SCTV, among many other things. I have somewhere to be at least eight hours every weekday, and when you add homework on top of that it becomes more structured time than a typical full-time job. 

It hardly feels like I ever left high school with how much of my time is blocked off before the sun has even risen for the day.

But I love how busy I am, and there are plenty of positive outcomes to come from this type of schedule transitioning from high school to the workforce. Being super involved serves as an excellent way to make a bunch of friends super fast. 

I formed a number of communities around campus so fast, from my teammates and friends in the percussion section in the band to the other guys living in my hall. I never truly felt alone, and this was one of my biggest fears about leaving my home back in Minnesota and paving a completely new path for myself with people I’ve never met before – all of my activities helped that.

My involvement has also forced me to stay smart about the different ways I’ve utilized my free time. When you have such little downtime for yourself, it becomes so important to get work done when you can. This is something I’ve had to work on mastering over time since spending many very late nights with my friends in Holy Grounds freshman year. I output so much more when I’m busy, and I know a lot of my friends feel the same way about this.

The last and possibly most beneficial pro is that I’m getting the true “college experience” through getting my feet wet in just about everything this campus has to offer. Employers in the journalism and marketing fields love seeing involvement in a number of things, and what better place to try new things out than at a small, liberal arts college like Simpson? I feel fulfilled when I think about all the new experiences I’ve gotten from expanding my circle of comfort from an activity standpoint.

However, over the years of being here, I’ve noticed there are a number of drawbacks to the “work hard, play hard” mentality. First, it becomes much easier to get overwhelmed and fall into a mental health funk. Fall of 2020 was my toughest semester of college so far; from a bad roommate situation, relationship issues, learning my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer, to quarantining, life seemed to just not be bouncing my way. Most people would take the time for themselves to handle these issues and take an appropriately-sized break.

But I simply wouldn’t let myself. I always had somewhere to be with something to do. 

Often, college students like to think being in “grind” mode is always such an empowering experience, and we glorify pushing through life and getting work done as this godly experience. I’ve learned this is straight-up ludicrous. I push myself so hard all the time and often feel like I’m not getting that “college experience” I alluded to earlier because I’m too busy editing a video or doing other homework.

Second, I never put myself first when I’m this busy. With this much time spent towards helping other people and organizations, I quickly feel like all my time is being put towards things I’m either not super passionate about, or putting an incredible amount of time into activities takes the fun out of them. It sucks being spread out so thin sometimes because there’s never time for the fun things, like playing disc golf or just watching the Sunday football games.

Lastly, when I do have that downtime, I notice myself feeling guilty about it. Relaxing feels wrong. When you program yourself to such a heavy workload, taking even an hour to yourself feels unproductive and selfish. I learned this the hard way, and now whenever I sit around for a while, in the evening hours especially, and enjoy myself, I feel like it was a waste because it was unproductive.

To all the underclassmen reading this, think about the type of student you want to become here. There really isn’t any single right answer. You can be like me and keep yourself constantly busy with all sorts of campus events and activities, or you can find a balance between the busyness and college life while still keeping time blocked off for hobbies and fun. Whatever approach you choose now, though, will impact your future life in so many ways you don’t even realize. 

But like many other things, there is one key here: balance.