The very first book freshman year of high school I was required to read was Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens which overall was supposed to help me balance the social and academic side of high school. One of the main themes that stayed with me from the book was prioritizing activities, or as it’s referred to in the book “putting first things first”. Looking back now, I prioritized more importance on academics especially freshman year being that I didn’t really join any clubs and skirted away from heavy involvements such as sports or theater in favor of low commitment clubs such as choir to get extracurricular activities on my resume but save time for academics. Part of me might not have immediately dived into being socially involved because my school was too small to have the one extracurricular that interested me which was football, but part of me must have focused on what’s internalized at a young age that good grades are how you get into good schools and I subconsciously decided to hone in on academics. Nevertheless, I managed to find a well enough balance for academics and extracurricular to get into Boston College where as one speaker in orientation said all of the students had “cracked the code of high school”. While I personally never got into the Rubik’s cube I had in a sense solved the traditional 3×3 cube of high school though the challenge being in college has been to figure out the 8×8 cube of balancing academic and social life in an elite institution as a first generation college student.
Going into freshman year, I had my sights set on making myself known socially on campus in order to get connected with people early. I tried out for a famous acapella group, a comedy group, and volunteer group on campus. Even though those didn’t go as planned, I joined the marching band, wrote for a newspaper, and was on the hall council for my residence hall. Being that BC doesn’t have any Greek life, people tend to meet upperclassmen and form relationships with people in some of the more than 200 clubs on campus. I got involved not just to make new friends but because I had an agenda to build a vast network of students and faculty members for when I applied to be a resident assistant. My plan socially went smoothly, however, academically I ran into several stumbling blocks including the heavy rigor of some of my academic courses that I didn’t really anticipate, the difficulty of trying to learn new material such as Calculus, which I didn’t take in high school, when the professor believes everyone is familiar with the concepts in high school, and realizing how even though you technically have so much free time in college if you’re trying to factor in work study and involvements then your time on academics is somewhat diminished. I ended up quitting most of my involvements near the end of my freshman year to spend more time on academics being that the only thing that gets you in and keeps you in college is grades not what clubs you’re affiliated with.
Sophomore year, I thought back to what got me through high school which was prioritizing activities in relation to academics and socializing and kept a balance even though I ended up being even more involved by volunteering, being in a club, working, and advising freshmen as a resident assistant. I’ve continued the same strategy this year as a junior though now I’ve gotten a little drained with the many directions my attention is called towards including the internship search, working two jobs, maintaining my academics, and socializing with people before they graduate or spend a semester abroad. Self-care is something I still grapple with being that in high school the only things I did when I was at home was to play video games, watch television, and work out in my apartment. I didn’t bring a tv or my Xbox to college being that it would be too distracting, however I usually don’t have time to read a book outside of my courses for pleasure and sometimes I feel too lazy to make the long walk to the gym. Leaving time to recuperate is a key part of the puzzle with college which is why I love having my own single as a resident assistant and why as a soon to be senior my plan for next year is to start saying “No” to certain things people want or expect me to do if it consumes too much time and energy. In a counter intuitive sense, sometimes learning when to do nothing or say “No” to opportunities is a major key towards living a productive college experience because as much as we focus on the binary of “academics” and “social life” a maintaining a healthy lifestyle through various forms of self-care is the catalyst needed to be productive.