Balancing it out: How to make the most of your college experiences

People preach the importance of balance in life, but the guidance tends to stop there. College students are forced to figure out what “balance” means by themselves.    

We are immediately faced with an overwhelming number of options regarding classes, clubs, friends and off-campus opportunities when entering college. However, if we pick and choose what matters to us and explore different possibilities within our schedules, it will keep us busy and content. 

As a first-year, the sea of tables at ActivitiesFest crashed over me. I thought deciding my major was challenging enough—now I need to choose how I would spend my free time as well. I did not know whether to redefine myself as a timber sports player or a journalist. Maybe I would try both.  

I did not let fear dictate my choices. I threw myself into several clubs and explored the possibilities.

I started by joining the ultimate frisbee team, since I had played in high school. However, I also wanted to find a uniquely Vermont-esque club that I had no prior experience with.

I decided on the Beekeeping Club. Even though I had no beekeeping knowledge, I believe trying something new is all about what we learn from the experience and what we are able to make of our time there. My days with the club turned out to be short-lived, but I am glad I had the opportunity to try it. 

Not all new activities work out as planned but I discovered that trying new hobbies and putting yourself out there is always well worth the risk. 

Another risk I took was joining the Cynic. Before college, I had never written an article or column, and now writing for the Cynic has become a large part of my life. I am glad I took the chance.

When you join a club, you are able to be part of a community and find those who share your interests. 

Jom Hammack, a biopsychology professor at the UVM, spoke to the importance of clubs in his own college experience. 

“A turning point in my college experience was literally joining the psychology club,” Hammack said.

The club gave Hammack a sense of agency within the community which led him to realize his peers shared similar interests to him in the field of psychology and that he could have an impact on other people, he said.   

“Having control over your life is really important,” Hammack said.“It can be really easy for us to feel out of control given the responsibilities that we have.” 

Sophomore Skyler Sayers felt scattered and behind when entering college, but once she found her footing and joined the dance team, she felt more in control of her time and life. 

“When I have practice, I have time to make myself a little schedule for when I’m going to do work and when I’m going to relax,” Sayers said.    

However, a balanced college experience is about much more than club involvement, it also depends on social support to mitigate stress and having people around you that are good for your mental health. 

“I feel like [social support is] pretty important because it takes away from stress because college can be pretty stressful,” Sayers said. 

Without Sayers’ friends, she said she would be a “disaster.”     

Hammack also emphasized the importance of social support as a buffer to combat stress. 

Balance is about having a variety of elements that bring structure and meaning to your life, such as friends, clubs, family, courses, a significant other, work or research. 

Amounting your happiness to a singular part of your schedule is dangerous and not guaranteed to actually make you happy.

“There will be a higher probability that things are going to be still doing well in other parts of your life, so you’ll never be sucked down so low because you’re so dependent on this one thing for your mental health,” Hammack said.

As college students we all have difficult days, but if we maintain a diverse schedule, the positive aspects will outweigh the negatives. We will not be bogged down by one bad aspect but rather lifted by all the other great aspects in our lives.   

In the end, there is no universal definition for a balanced schedule—it depends on you. 

College is a time for trial and error. Take that super interesting class, join that outlandish club and hang out with your friends. Let these years be a time to find yourself instead of letting opportunities pass you by.