Two important factors both separate and apart. In this post, I’ll discuss the expectations I had coming into college about free time, commitment, and various activities’ time commitment. In the process, I’ll also clear up some misconceptions about life in college.
When I had an alumni interview for UPenn, I talked about how I hadn’t had enough time to properly focus on writing during high school, to which the interviewer smugly and skeptically responded, “And you think you’ll have more time in college?” If I could catch up with him now, I’d say (smugly and skeptically), “Yes, I have much more time in college, grouchy-pants. Thank you very much.”
Others, I’m sure, feel very differently than I do, but the truth is that my free time has increased exponentially since I got here. My high school life was overcrowded with obligations: school for most of the day, dance for the rest of it, and a job on nights and weekends toward the end of senior year. College has afforded me loads of time, and I’m considerably involved on campus for a first-semester freshman. I go to class either from 9:00 AM-12:00 PM or 10:00 AM-2:40 PM (much less of the day than high school) and have ballroom two or three nights per week. Each day, I’ll devote a few hours to class work and often write an article for the Daily Sun, or (as of recently) copyedit an article for kitsch, a campus literary magazine. It sounds like I’m doing much more than I did in high school, but you’ve been deceived. All of the time I spend on extracurricular (and even curricular?) pursuits doesn’t nearly approach the time I dedicated to ballet/school. So while many will find that college decreases the amount of free time at their disposal, I would argue that it depends on what you’re used to.
That brings me to my next point: most college activities require a minimum time commitment. Obviously, academics are the reason that people go to university–we’re here to get a higher education, which means there’s a greater emphasis on class and class work than extracurriculars. It’s not to say they’re unimportant, but most people are aware that these activities come in second place on the priority list. Ballroom is only a few nights per week, Daily Sun is weekly, bi-weekly, or whatever you want, and those are my biggest commitments. If you want to make it a bigger part of your routine, you can, but generally, clubs/organizations ask relatively little of each person involved. Again, that is a generalization (which athletics certainly do not fall under), but outside-of-the-classroom involvement is usually very manageable.
One of the most striking lessons I’ve learned since I’ve arrived at Cornell is the importance of commitment. Commitment to a class, to an idea, to a club, anything. It’s an all-inclusive term that is absolutely essential to success, and I’m no stranger to it. What I didn’t realize is how few people take commitment seriously–I’d always assumed that everyone shared my attitude. This is probably most apparent in the surprising fact that I had no difficulty adapting to college courses. I’ve taken every class (for the most part) since starting high school equally seriously, and perhaps that’s why I refute the common sentiment that junior year is killer and senior year is a breeze. Every year felt the same to me. If there was a significant shift in expectations when I got here, I didn’t notice because dedication is dedication, and that doesn’t change.
If you commit to something, it will happen most of the time. For a silly example, I’ve committed to reading for pleasure even while I read for classes. This is a task considered impossible by many (I know for a fact that most would scoff at the very prospect of reading for fun during college), yet I’ve read nine (and counting) leisure books so far. A lot of former bookworms will tell you they haven’t read a single book just for fun during their time here, on a campus full of over-achievers! There is no reason that you can’t do something you set your mind to and there are so many people who just don’t see how far true commitment can take you.
I’m sure these are all lessons that are learned at different points in time. Before I got here, I didn’t know what to expect as far as time and commitment goes. To those who haven’t gotten to college yet: You will have time to focus on your own academic and extracurricular pursuits (but disclaimer: that’s easy for me to say because my main pursuit is writing, and I get ample practice both in and outside of class). You will be able to manage your time commitments as long as you keep priorities straight. You will be able to accomplish most anything with hard work and commitment.