It’s not always easy being the one to say “no.” Being in college is all about seizing the moment; from parties to higher-level courses to club leadership opportunities, this so-called moment seems to be incessantly reaching out to us. The opportunities on a college campus seem endless, but “endless” does not mean that a student should take on everything. There is a great deal of emphasis on being well rounded, causing so many undergraduates to get caught up in the swell of being desirable in preparation for the workforce. And a swell it is, leaving many students feeling swamped with responsibilities out of the classroom. Is being an extracurricular maven worth the stress? Is it really wrong to say no sometimes?
In a study on college students’ sleep habits conducted by Brown University, seventy-three percent of students reported sleep deprivation problems. Lack of sleep can be extremely detrimental to anyone’s work habits, especially to a college student who is trying to maintain a good GPA and participate in other activities, social and extracurricular. As the old saying goes, there aren’t enough hours in a day, and college students can attest to this. Sleep affects everything we do, and the amount of activities a student is committed to can affect how much sleep the student gets. Students feel pressure to overload their schedules and thus limit their time to devote to studies, which often get completed in the late hours of the night to the early morning. In addition to lack of sleep, the American College Health Association reported in a 2006 study that forty-five percent of female and thirty-six percent of male students found themselves so depressed it was difficult to function. The pressure to succeed in many outlets of the college environment is the main source of this depression and stress, according to Harrison Davis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Counseling and Coordinator of the Community Counseling master’s program at North Georgia College & State University. The pressure and the competition to be the best, in academics and in extracurriculars, can cause a student to crack.
That is not to say there is harm in getting involved; in fact, extracurricular involvement is usually integral in a college student’s experience. Clubs, Greek organizations, intramural
sports, among others are often where a student finds his/her/their “place” on campus. These extracurriculars offer new faces and experiences that sometimes the classroom cannot, but the problem of pressure is evident. Students are almost trained to gravitate towards extracurriculars, because—in high school—being well rounded is what will get them into college and when in college, being involved will make them competitive post-graduation in the job market.
The important thing for a college student to realize is quality over quantity. It’s not about how many things you were involved in, but about the commitment and leadership shown in a few activities that cater to your specific interests. Many students get caught up in the competition of things – we often feel we are behind our friends if they are in more clubs than we are. This type of pressure is unnecessary. College should not be about trying to be the most involved, but instead, about enjoying new activities that were not available in high school. The only price of being overly involved is the loss of time to devote to the activities you actually want to involve yourself in.
It is not what you do that defines you, but how well you do it. It’s okay to say “no” sometimes when you just feel like you cannot do it all. There is no harm in trying, but when something becomes a source of overwhelming feelings and not enjoyment, it’s time to step back and reevaluate. It is important to embrace the power of choice, whether it’s choosing a movie night in with friends over a night out, or joining three extra clubs just for a résumé boost – there is always the option of saying no. After all, a “no” could lead you to something you enjoy way more and allow you to devote that time to something that could actually benefit you post-college. Embrace saying “no” and enjoy some time to yourself once in a while – you have probably earned it!