Juggling Campus Activities and Life After College: Prioritizing You

You go to college to get a degree. It’s that simple. Yet along the way, you’re tasked with perusing every club imaginable, finding a group of friends, dedicating yourself to your passions, discovering your talents, applying yourself to build a resume, subsequently participating in things that make you joyful, and then giving up these aspects of college at the end of our undergraduate studies. The four-year cycle seems to be a check box list:

  • Identify your major
  • Join a club
  • Make a friend
  • Join another club
  • Create memories with your friends you won’t be able to share with your parents for years
  • Obtain a leadership position in said club
  • Continuously boost your GPA
  • Have a senior year moment
  • Graduate

Person holding white scroll Photo by Ekrulila from Pexels College life is over. A whole way of life is over. At the end of four years, you either get a job or you attend another school. The college culture is left behind in a fever dream, referred back to as your “glory days” filled with memories you can’t relive and inaccessible feats for the adult world.

Yet, you’ve been preparing for the last four years to enter your next stage in life. While it’s sad to leave behind something you’ve known for the last four years, the purpose of college is preparation. The classes, the experiences, the clubs – they all are geared to preparing you for an aspect of your life outside of college.

What’s hard is balance. How can you choose between experiences that are aimed to prepare you for your future and experiences that are unique to college life?

Greek life is a huge part of thousands of college students’ lives across the United States. Yet, most positions within a fraternity and sorority don’t closely relate to real-world jobs; sure, being the president of your sorority will look great on a job application because of the skills that come with being president. But you can’t become the president of a sorority for a living. Greek life involvement and the experiences that accompany it are one of the unique college experiences that end once you graduate. Sure, the friendships and memories remain, but chapter meetings, educationals, socials, formals, sisterhoods… they are left behind as you grab your diploma.

The same can be said for most organizations across a given campus. Their social value provides a renewed sense of purpose for the participants and is a unique facet of college life. But realistically, what direct career skills are these organizations giving you that your future school or employer will see, besides involvement? You’ve now devoted your time to an organization that does not directly apply to your future career endeavors because of the joy it brings you to be a member.

polaroid pictures of friends Original photo by Emily Nelissen We NEED joy. We NEED experiences. We NEED social interaction. So how do you explain your decision to donate your time to a social organization to an employer?

First, you need to know the merit of getting involved. Leadership positions communicate that you are a driven, reliable, and committed person.  

Second, it’s important to recognize that your mental and social health status will affect all aspects of your college experience. If one is lacking, it is going to impact your career advancement. You have to be involved with things you are passionate about – not because they add to your success as a candidate, but because they bring you joy.

Third, know that you do need to have something to show for the degree you spent four years working toward. Do you need to be involved in every organization that remotely relates to your major? No. But you need to be able to explain why your activities make you a competitive candidate.

This isn’t supposed to sound like a tutorial; balancing my own need to focus on my future career rather than college life affects me daily. How can I give up one of my passions that takes up a large amount of time to find the time to devote to applying for internships, job searching, working on my resume, building my portfolio, writing cover letters, and so many more things that seem to be a part of getting a degree and moving on with my life?

The truth is, your degree is not supposed to hold you back from your joy.

Your degree should bring you joy. What you want to do with your life should bring you joy.

Amazon When you’re struggling to identify if you should join a club, or if you should run for a position, or if you should go out – ask yourself how it contributes to your joy. If it does, great. How are you going to contribute to your future through your activities that week? Can you find time somewhere else to write that cover letter, look through the internships page, or practice your elevator pitch? If you can, do the thing.

College is not about building yourself into a model for career success – it’s about finding your way to success in all aspects of life.

Your ability to succeed does not depend solely on your college resume. Build it with your passions.