Haasch: Without establishing an effective work/life balance, something will break

Overcommiting can lead to consequences and a curtailed student experience.

by Palmer Haasch

I am the kind of person who wants to do every single thing while simultaneously being everything to everyone. 

This mindset has lead to a great deal of success for me in some ways. For example, consistently taking over 18 credits has allowed me to potentially graduate with two majors and two minors within four years. Unfortunately, it also led to me spending my nights holed up until midnight in Wilson Library while my friends spent time with each other.

I’m not so self-aggrandizing to pretend these are unique experiences. Many other college students I know are meticulously self-sacrificing, finding opportunity after opportunity to throw their health and social life under the bus in the name of resume building or gaining career experience.

This past week, I had what I thought was the first big consequence of piling obligation after obligation onto my plate for years. For a bit of personal context; I spent this past spring studying abroad, this past summer interning full-time and the past week at a professional conference in a different time zone. I’ve spent less than 20 days in Minneapolis, and it’s taken a toll on my academics going into my senior year as well as on relationships with my friends.

Ever since I was admitted to the University of Minnesota, I’ve wanted to write a year-long thesis for summa cum laude Latin honors. It was all but a given until this past spring when I was abroad for the entire period of time in which students typically reach out to advisers. After being told in May that I could likely still salvage a thesis despite failing to reach out in the proper time frame, I waffled and waited. Moving away to work a full-time job distracted and occupied me. Burnt out on academics and too anxious to reach out to an adviser, I waited — and waited — and placated myself by saying that I would focus on freelance work and developing my writing portfolio in the fall.

In the end, my indecision and the fact that I was torn between commitments nearly cost me my thesis and put significant strain on my mental health. I thought I wouldn’t be able to find an adviser despite my best efforts to blaze my way through my undergrad with few external complications. Finally, something had fallen through as a result of both my overcommitment and inability to balance my life as a student with my future career.

While it’s important to pursue career goals as a student, it’s impossible to do it all. Eventually, I encountered a consequence that truly shook me. No one — including myself — had ever told me no, and as a result, both my social and academic life has suffered.

As students, our purpose is to earn a degree that will prepare us for a future career. However, we also are meant to gain life experience and make valuable connections outside uncomfortable networking events. Piling everything on at once not only results in unanticipated consequences, but also prevents us from living as young people.

Luckily, I found an adviser for my thesis and am moving back to Minneapolis for the next eight months at least. While I’m ready to graduate and move on to my career, I’m looking forward to cutting back and reveling in my studenthood for one last year.