My alarm goes off at 8:55 a.m. I grab my breakfast and sit idly at my desk for the next five hours attending synchronous online classes. After my classes, I have meetings, workshops, seminars, and events to attend for various school projects, CCR goals, student clubs, and work. After dinner, I only have a few hours to get some homework done before I go to sleep exhausted and the cycle repeats the next day.
Every time I scroll through my social media accounts, I see my peers doing every possible project at their disposal. I often feel that I have to be as productive and engaged as them to make the most out of my time. And while I recognize that productivity is an elusive state during a pandemic and quarantine, I am talking about productivity as it relates to our future prospects.
In almost every one of these meetings, workshops, and seminars I attend, there is always one person that asks a question related to their resumes. Whether it’s if this event can be included in their resumes, or if they will get a reference or recommendation letter. Eventually, this attitude toward campus engagement led to student leaders addressing these concerns right at the start of workshops’ promotional stages. “Reference letters can be provided!” have been plastered on many workshop series posters.
I’ll admit, in my first year at UTM, I barely did anything. I kept my head down and only focused on my classes. As second year, and eventually third year, began, I started seeing my peers flood their resumes with all their accomplishments from the previous year. The fear of “losing time” threatened my entire perception of student life. I panicked, thinking that I only had a couple of years left to truly make my student life matter and do things that would set me apart from my peers.
So, I signed up for as many opportunities as possible without realizing that they all take place within the same few weeks. Just as I began to adjust to the workload after five months of break, I took on additional work that I wasn’t prepared for. Moreover, I only did it because I thought it was necessary to make my four years in university count.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong about making the most of your university life and joining as many clubs and projects as possible. However, you should take a moment to acknowledge why you are doing it. It is easy to become a robot, hit the self-navigate button in your brain and go through months of school without fully understanding what happened.
This pressure to compete and do everything possible to further your future prospects comes at the cost of your university experience. An experience where you should get to explore your interests, experiment with subject areas you aren’t familiar with, engage with people from different cultures, make lasting friendships, and interact with accomplished scholars.
Campus life is not a battlefield. You are not obligated to arm yourself with as much competitive advantage as possible. Take the time to consider your personal needs. What is it that you want out of your university experience?
If you just want to attend your classes and study, there is nothing wrong with that. Focusing on your schoolwork and avoiding overwhelming yourself with commitments is good for your GPA and mental health. On the other hand, if you enjoy and grow from doing multiple activities while also attending classes because it keeps you engaged, that is also beneficial. The bottom line is, do what is best for you and not what you think the future demands of you.