Long gone are the days of studying for the SAT and AP exams, but we collegiettes are still busy with basically everything. College is a world of opportunity, but if you choose to overload your schedule, it’s also where free time comes to die. From trying to maintain a healthy social life, keeping grades above average and participating in extracurricular activities, surviving a busy schedule is like balancing a checkbook: impossible. That’s why you should avoid overscheduling your life at all costs. For the sake of your own sanity, check out the following consequences of putting too much on your plate in college.
1. It can make you hate what you love
You know that urge to groan when a popular song comes on the radio for the millionth time? The same feeling applies to doing too much of the same activity. Cameran Bellamy, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spent a little too much time acting. “I auditioned for a bunch of student films and got into every single one on top of my 18 credit hours and sometimes on set I wouldn't be enjoying myself just thinking of everything else I could be doing,” she says. “It was miserable and made me hate an experience I should have loved.”
The old cliché too much of good thing can be a bad thing is actually right. Overloading your schedule with hours upon hours of the same activity can lead to boredom and restlessness. If you like to stay busy, vary the types of activities you take part in. Try a combination of extracurriculars that require different levels of energy and time commitment.
2. You might miss out on quality time with important people
With an overpacked schedule it’s hard enough to find time to eat a sandwich, so when you receive an unexpected invitation to go on a day trip, you’ll most likely have to decline. Jennifer Catalano, a freshman at Cornell University, reminds you to keep your plans flexible. “Some of the best moments in life are spontaneous,” she says. “If my schedule were so jam-packed that I had to pass up my friends’ offer to hike the gorges where I live, I would have never discovered one of my true passions in life.”
Not only can you pursue a previously unexplored activity or place, but you can also get to know your peers better. Especially in college, branching out from your core friend group can be highly beneficial. Making connections with new people can lead to potential friendships and romantic relationships. How can you fit in your hot SO when you barely have the time to use the bathroom.
3. It can limit the number of opportunities you take advantage of
Like we said before, college is the land of opportunity. If you’ve ever wanted to try a calligraphy class, join a Quidditch team or learn to juggle, go to college. Never mind the associate’s or bachelor’s degree you’ll earn, the fact that you can make the perfect meme, play a total of two songs on the trombone and knit a rainbow sweater makes the college experience worth it. However, hopping from activity to activity and spreading yourself too thin can prevent you from digging deep into a hobby you really enjoy. It’s amazing that you can do basically anything, but the hard truth is that you can’t do everything.
Rachna Shah, a freshman at Dartmouth College, encourages you to pick a few things you love and stick with them. “Don't burn out. You have so much potential ahead of you, and dedicating yourself to two to three things that you're interested in is a much better choice in the long-run,” she says.“Overscheduling can also restrict you too early - there are so many open variables in any situation, and you never know where a path might diverge!” You won’t regret blocking out time for new things because if they don’t work out one day, you can always take a nap.
4. You can suffer from stress-related health issues
At one point or another, every college student has felt stressed about something. A little bit of stress provides the energy boost necessary to get things done, but too much stress often takes a serious toll on your health, especially your sleep schedule Dr. Pete Sulack, America’s leading stress expert, says, “Even missing a few hours of sleep can result in a cascade of stress hormones—like cortisol and adrenaline. These corrosive hormones age your body, shrink your brain, and compromise your immune system.” Because you probably stay up late finishing essays and problem sets, high stress levels can keep you up even later. We know how much sleep we actually need, but an overly busy schedule will prevent the necessary amount.
Sophia Ye, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, gives you great advice on lowering your stress levels. “In college there’s this immense pressure to seem busy all of the time,” she says. “The result is a big mental health problem among students and incredibly high stress levels that create a toxic atmosphere. After experiencing this myself, some upperclassmen actually gave me the advice to just focus on a few things and improve on those rather than spending energy on an overly wide variety of activities.”
Dr. Sulack couldn’t agree more with Sophia. “We definitely live in a busy-ness bubble. Most people brag about how little sleep they get and how ‘stressed out’ they are. Somehow, we have begun to equate stress with success,” he says. “Nothing could be further from the truth! Successful people manage their time, their finances, their bodies, and their stress level. Management is all about making wise choices. In the end, eventually the stress will make you sick, fat, and tired.”
If no other factor convinces you to take another look at your super busy schedule, we think the health consequences are pretty clear and persuasive. No collegiette wants stress acne, trust us.
5. You won’t be able to take a breather and appreciate life
Whenever you’re overly busy, taking mental breaks is not only important for your personal health but also for your work ethic. After coming home from soccer practice and spending hours finishing an essay, letting yourself have some time to decompress is necessary. Whether you want to spend that time catching up on The Bachelorette, write a poem or take a walk across campus, relaxation helps lower stress levels and forces you to slow down.
Dana*, a freshman at Stanford University, says, “Overscheduling your life causes you to miss out on the little things in life that give it colors and music.” In other words, endlessly busy days whiz by and before you know it, your undergraduate experience will be over. You didn’t have the time to watch the sunrise from a building, go on an impromptu picnic with friends or just do something that brings sheer happiness. You won’t have much to be nostalgic about in the coming years.
Choosing to overschedule your life is not without consequence. Fewer academic opportunities, raised stress levels and less social time are just some of the results of a full calendar. That doesn’t mean we oppose busy lives in college. Filling your time wisely with rewarding experiences allows you to create fantastic memories and buy multiple cute planners. Who doesn’t want a cute planner?
*Name has been changed