Balancing Academics, Social Life & Extracurricular Activities

In high school, you probably had a fairly strict schedule that was mapped out for you by your teachers, parents and coaches. Wake up, school, practice, homework, chores, sleep. There were allotted times for each activity, and not much room for you to make a lot of decisions or choices about how to spend your time.

College, on the other hand, brings a lot of freedom, independence and unstructured time outside of classes. Most students spend no more than 15 hours in class each week so even with time for homework, and possibly even a part time job you’ll be in charge of figuring out what to do with a lot of time. Of all of the lessons to be learned during your college years, one of the most important is that of balance. It might be tempting and fun to sign up for every club, attend every event, and go to every party. Or you might go in a different direction and avoid any extra commitments outside of academics. Either way, your first few weeks at college may feel like a whirlwind of different activities, orientation events, and checking out various clubs, but eventually these will likely wind down as you begin to prioritize and balance your schoolwork and other activities.

First and foremost, it is important to remember why you are in college in the first place: to learn. While you may be tired from a night out or really want to attend a club event, it is important to go to all of your classes and keep up with the work. Unlike high school, some of your classes in college may not require much “homework” and will instead require you to keep up with readings or other non-graded assignments. It can be easy to push aside the work that isn’t technicallygoing to be graded, but don’t let this go too far. It’s expected that you might skip a reading now and then but if you make a habit of ignoring or missing these assignments it could hurt you later when mid-terms and finals comes around and you’re so far behind.

When it comes to extracurricular activities, joining clubs and teams can be an amazing way to make friends, get involved, and learn more about yourself. And it actually can be a really valuable component of your education to participate in student government, student media, clubs (yes, even participating in clubs can teach you a lot about teamwork, social awareness, managing programs and budgets) and athletics-and having some fun is good for you too! But, if you start to feel overcommitted, don’t worry, you can always narrow the list down to an amount of extracurricular activities that feels more manageable.

One of the most important skills you can learn in college is balancing your academic and social life. This, in turn, helps you learn how to manage your time, stress level and even indirectly your mental health. At any point, if you begin to feel like you’ve spread yourself too thin and your activities are getting in the way of your sleep or taking care of yourself, it’s okay to take a break. Taking a night off from socializing to have some alone time or staying in to get some work done once in a while won’t hurt your social life but it will help your academic performance, stress level and emotional health. On the other hand, if you feel isolated or not busy enough, remember it is never too late to join a club, team, or group, where members will welcome you. Feeling exhausted, getting sick, or seeing a drop in your grades can all be signals that you need to work on balancing the different facets of your life-balancing time and commitments is a skill that will continue to help you long after you graduate. The key is to be aware of, responsive to and flexible with your needs, responsibilities and fun so you can learn and enjoy your time in school as much as possible.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.