For me, high school was a quest to find out how many things I could juggle at once. I played a sport, I was in at least four clubs at a time, and I was taking various Advanced Placement classes. Then there was dance or a football game to attend or even just a sleepover with friends. There was dating, family events, eating, and also sleeping. There were hobbies like reading or even just time to lay on the couch and relax. Juggling all of these things was stressful, yes, but I knew that doing all of these things would help me get into college. I enjoyed all of my activities, but I never narrowed them down to just a few. I would instead spread myself thinner and thinner as my high school years went on, desperate to fill my time to achieve an end goal that I wasn’t even sure that I would achieve. I thought that being overwhelmed and stressed was going to be worth it.
I did not end up getting into my top schools, but I ended up at UMass, where I am so happy with my major, my life and my friends. I have become involved since last year and I am starting to see my behavior shifting to my behavior in high school. I want to do everything. I feel like I have to do everything. Why? Do other students feel the same way?
It is interesting to me that after all of that hassle in high school, nothing has really changed. I am still very involved, I am taking difficult classes, and I am doing internships for the end goal of reaching law school. While I understand why graduate admissions look for an overall well-rounded applicant, I cannot help but wonder the effect this has on students. I wonder why specifically each upcoming class of freshmen feel the need to be so involved in everything right when they arrive on campus. Why do we place so much emphasis on the overall student and overall participant, but not enough on the overall well-being of a student?
As one of these students who aspires to do everything, I feel anxious, overwhelmed and frequently ill due to the stressors in my life. I fear that if others are doing similar things, they must also feel the same way. As a matter of fact, 14 percent of college students have been diagnosed with, or treated for, anxiety. Many students suffer from anxiety and depression. I feel that both of these things stem from more than just schoolwork. Being on your own for the first time and working a job while taking classes are other issues that many students struggle with.
Now it seems like college is stressful overall, especially when you begin to spread yourself too thin in order to fulfill an obligation within yourself or for others. For anyone else who is suffering from this urge to be in everything and be everyone, it is not the only way to spend college. College is about finding that balance.
My purpose for this article is to call for a more supportive structure in our student body. As a student, we are told by our resident assistants, our families, and our professors to take care of ourselves. Over and over again, we are told to take care of ourselves. Going to the gym and eating healthy are not the only things you need to do to take care of yourself. Mental health is also important and is not only impacted by your studies, but by your life.
So for all of my friends out there who are struggling with this urge to be perfect and do everything, allow yourself to step back. Extracurriculars are meant to be for your wants, not to cause you more stress. So do what makes you happy and do not do things just because you feel like you need to.
Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]