College offers new experiences with many opportunities and responsibilities. But how does a student find balance between it all?

According to Sarah Dowd Dyer, director of campus involvement at Hiram College in Hiram, and Gina Todd, assistant director of enrollment communications at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, students should strive for a work and activity balance that works for them.

“You can’t have the full experience with just academics or just activities so (Hiram) makes sure we help them learn to balance the two so students can experience a full college life,” Dowd Dyer said. “We don’t want them to be over-scheduled on either end. Activities are a big part of the experience.”

Todd said, “One main thing is that after students graduate, employers look for well-rounded students. So, they look for students that are obviously great with academics but also other things that show they can balance their time. It makes them appear as a well-rounded candidate after they graduate.”

Dowd Dyer noted freshmen students tend to struggle the most with finding balance, though it is possible to achieve.

“Students, especially with freshmen, struggle to find that balance because it is their first year,” she said. “They are independent and it may be their first time away from their parents. We want to help them make decisions and let them know they can do both. Students don’t have to pick between academics and activities. It’s possible to do both. You just have to be strategic.”

Todd also noted balance is possible, but it’s a process of trial and error.

“Know that it is OK to join an organization, but if it doesn’t work out, you don’t have to stick with it,” she said. “Sit in on some meetings and see if you like it. But you can find that perfect balance as long as you’re committing to the right things. Commit to things that will help build professional relationships and make you a better person overall.”

Both professionals suggested students reach out to support staff for advice in finding life and school balance.

“We try to understand what works best for students in order to find that balance between academics and free time,” Dowd Dyer said. “Know your health and self-care is your No. 1 priority. It just takes a while to get used to a new schedule. If a student is taking on too much and feeling burnt out, it is our job as the student life staff to sit down with them, support them and let them know they can say no to some things.”

Todd said, “If someone is feeling overwhelmed, he or she could seek out our counseling center. When it comes to student organizations, it is not as hardcore as students think it is. But if they are overwhelmed, take a moment to step back and back off on your commitments. But if it’s something that is stressful, it is OK to decide not to be involved anymore.”

But as long as something is beneficial, Todd said it is worth to stick to it.

“You’re in college for a reason, you’re here to get your degree and that is your main goal,” she said. “If you’re getting involved in outside organizations, they should supplement what you’re studying. Or get involved in ones that give you a social outlet but also have networking opportunities.”

Dowd Dyer’s biggest piece of advice was to keep one’s priorities firm.

“Don’t let other people waver what you know is best for you,” she said. “You have four years at this college to go and try things and sometimes you may go through trial and error. Some things may work and some might not, but you need to figure out what works for you as a student to be successful.”

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