Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Over-committing: Classes, Clubs, Career

There's a big shift transitioning from high school to college. You have a lot more independence to pursue what you want when you want but more responsibility follows. Classes in high school were really easy for me; I could skate through lectures and rely on the repetitive style of teaching if I wanted to zone out for a day.

College is not like this.
At all.

The work load is more intense, especially since professors aren't holding your hand through the material. It's up to you to keep up with work and ask for help when you need it. Despite this, a lot of students coming into college try to replicate high school, signing up for tons of clubs and activities. While it's good to have things outside of lecture, the priority of a college student is their classes, in my honest opinion. Well, it's not just my opinion: it's the opinion of the faculty and advisors.

Here's some advice for the times when you've overcommitted in your classes, clubs, and career.


Coming into college, it's easy to think that classes will be like high school. A lot of high school advisors don't know what you can handle so you may be used to ignoring warnings of too much course work. Working as an Associate Advisor with freshman advising, I see lots of students think that they can handle five challenging technical classes while doing a varsity sport and who knows what else. Most of these students come back, a little bit humbled, hoping to drop their fifth class and transfer into a slower paced class.

My first suggestion would be to listen to your freshman advisor. Challenge yourself but don't overload on your first semester. If certain classes are pre requisites, it's for good reason; don't try to skip around. If the advisor suggests your course load is too much, consider them seriously. Weight what your advisors says with the advice of upperclassmen who have taken the class.

If you've signed up for too many classes, speak to each professor. Ask how you're doing in their class and ask what you can do to keep up with the work from now on. Make sure to email the TA, asking about what tutoring is available and their office hours. Your school may have a Writing Center or Tutoring Office that you can go to for extra help.

Finally, meet with your advisor, reporting back what each professor has said and how you feel about your work load.

If you need to, drop a class. There's no shame in letting go of something that you aren't enjoying or doing well in. Make sure you keep track of drop date and the necessary paperwork.

Extra Curricular and Clubs

If you've signed up for too many extra curricular responsibilities, there's no shame in stepping back. Speak honestly with your club about why you need to re-focus on your school work. Make clear that you want to stay involved with the club, but will be less active until your work is better in hand.

Don't just disappear! Talk to the club, even if it's just an email or a stop by at the next meeting. Having been on both sides of this, I can say that it hurts to worry about a club member who hasn't been seen in a long time and to scramble to take over their responsibility.  It also hurts to feel that you can't come back to the club because there was no clean break or explanation for leaving in the first place.

If you can't drop the commitment, ask another club member to split the work with you. Work something out to share the work, delegating parts of the project to others.

Plan out when things need to get done, organizing your time.


If you're paying your way through college, you may not be able to cut down your work hours. I totally understand that; I'm paying my own way with the generous help of scholarships. But what you can do is make sure that your work is either applicable to your major or allows you to do course work.

For example, I am a desk worker at my dorm. I can do a lot of my school work while sitting at desk, letting people in and out of the building. The pay is decent for the amount of double tasking I can do.

If you are just working for experience or extra spending money, remember that your course work is the priority. Plan out the number of hours you can do in the week. Some labs will let you come in on the weekends so if that works well with your class schedule take advantage of it.

Look at your syllabus at the start of the year and make sure to get time off for your exams. This might sound silly but you may have an evening shift that conflicts with a late evening exam time.

Wrap Up

The moral of the story is that coursework if the main priority of a student. Everyone's heard the story of a wise professor filling a jar with golf balls and then pouring in the small bits of sand to completely fill in the jar.

Block in the class work and let classes, clubs, and career work follow in to fill in your free time. Organize your time and don't sign up for things you can't follow through on.

I hope that this advice helps you. If you  have any suggestions that you want to share comment below!