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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

stretching yourself too thin in pursuit of the “perfect college experience”

Although I wouldn’t consider myself a perfectionist, I’ve always had a strong desire to put my best foot forward, no matter what I do. Whether it be the grades, the job or the social life, anytime I hear stories from my friends and family of their college experiences, it seems like they were able to do it all. I’ve convinced myself I can balance it all, so going into my freshman year of college, I was starry-eyed and ready to do just that.

From the outside, it seems like I’ve been able to accomplish this. I have an internship that I love, I’m heavily involved in two clubs, I have a great group of friends and I still find time to go for runs or dive into my favorite books. However, it’s never felt like I’m doing any of these things as well as I could be. I could study longer for upcoming exams, but then I wouldn’t have as much time to write for HerCampus. I could crawl into bed and read my favorite book, or I could spend that same amount of time doing work for my internship. This constant cycle of deciding where to best allocate my time is exhausting.

Perfectionism has always been portrayed to me as the most “desirable” flaw. It reminds me of an interior designer putting the finishing touches to a showroom, creating the alluring facade of the perfect future that could await potential clients. Yet, in my experience, the high standards I hold myself to in everything I do has built a steel barrier between me and my goals. Even writing this article felt daunting. I’m constantly thinking about how my writing could’ve been phrased better, or how I’m not doing my topic justice. This mental block of feeling like my work isn’t good enough has prevented me from putting so many of my thoughts onto paper. It’s not often that I’m frightened by the criticism of others, instead, I’m clawing to reach my own towering standards. This desire to be the best extends into all my activities from struggling to press submit on a homework assignment to starting up a new hobby.

Like many college students facing the overwhelming pressure to do it all, I oftentimes push off assignments if I don’t feel I have the time or brainpower to complete them perfectly. I know that if I had fewer commitments in my life, I’d be able to put all my time into one or two tasks and probably do a better job than I currently am. However, I’m happier splitting my time between a variety of interests, rather than giving 100% to only one of my passions. I know that I’m already doing plenty, and if I added any more to my plate, I’d have no time to sleep or truly enjoy all the activities I’m currently doing. But the lingering feeling that I could do better or do more is difficult to completely escape.

As my final year of college looms only a few months away, I often find myself contemplating whether I’ve been able to accomplish everything I set out to do when I first started at UW-Madison. To my surprise, I’ve been able to check off many of the boxes to goals my younger self dreamed of. I get to share my thoughts, big or small, through writing and hopefully reach others who can relate to my experiences. I’m taking courses in topics I’m genuinely curious about and getting to deep dive into my love of all things weather and climate. Being able to look at where I am in life from a bird’s eye view allows me to appreciate what I’ve been able to achieve. 

Personally, I’ve dropped the idea of the “perfect college experience.” I know I’m not alone in comparing my college experience to the lives of those around me or what’s being posted on social media. At the same time, my path is not the same as anyone else around me, and neither is yours. There’s always another major or student organization I could’ve joined that would have led me to an entirely different four years at UW-Madison. However, there is no alternate reality where I’m the best at every activity I throw myself into; it’s unrealistic. Knowing that everything I do might not live up to the high expectations I set for myself shouldn’t stop me from making the attempt. It is enough to just do our best, and that’s all we can ask of ourselves as we meander through our individual life paths.

Bella Onsi

Wisconsin '23

I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison double majoring in Atmospheric & Oceanic Science, as well as Environmental Studies. Along with being a managing editor for Her Campus, I'm also the Vice President of the American Meteorological Society chapter on campus. I'm a huge fan of the New England Patriots, reading, iced coffee, and running.