How Following My Dreams Ruined My Semester

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Junior year can be one of the most stressful times in a college student’s life.

Well, at least it was like that for me. It hit me that I was finally an upperclassman and half of my time in school had come and gone.

That newfound awareness made something truly clear to me: I had two years left at Penn State. Two years left to give myself the best chance at finding a coveted job.

I’d just finished an amazingly productive summer. I scored my first journalism internship, balanced a part time job and still managed to have a social life. While I couldn’t wait to return to Happy Valley, I was anxious for the upcoming fall semester.

It started off hectic–as most semesters often do–and I had a lot on my plate. I would be studying abroad in Florence, Italy during the following spring semester and I was determined to stay on the path to success by landing an internship before I left.

In order to accomplish my overarching goals, I took 16 credits, worked at the school newspaper and maintained a leadership position in my sorority. Naturally, I threw myself into my schoolwork, while attempting to juggle the other components of my extremely busy life.

At the time, I thought I knew what I was doing. Sometimes it became a little like tunnel vision. Focusing so much on school left little time for a social life. Junior year was the year I had the most to prove, and I knew I had to make each moment count.

I put too much pressure on myself, as many students often do. There was a path I felt I needed to take in order to achieve the ultimate goal: finding a job after graduation.

The keys are balance and time management. No matter what year you are in school, every college student needs these.  There’s a time to concentrate on school and there’s a time to have fun with your friends.

These factors can sometimes be difficult to maintain, and I know that now better than anyone. At the time, I was taking mostly 400 level classes and wasn’t fully accustomed to the ambitious workload. I thought my friends would understand, but with my other responsibilities boiling over, my friendships retreated to the back burner.

By trying to stay on what I thought was the “right” path to success, I became so focused on my classes, preparation for my semester abroad and finding an internship that I lost sight of just having fun. I tried to give 100 percent to each piece of my demanding life, and as a result, everyone and everything suffered. I became more introverted and less interested in enjoying the college experience.  

I took on way too much for one semester.

At least it was a life lesson. Finding that balance is key to have a fulfilling college experience. For me, I’ve tried to implement strategies like making lists and providing small incentives like grabbing coffee or going to the gym to ensure that I complete each task in a way that allows for balance.

College is stressful. While managing classes and friends, there is the looming uncertainty of what comes next after your time in college is over. But these four (or five or six) years come and go quickly. If you don’t take the time to enjoy and make the most of them, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.

Rachel is a Penn State University senior studying print journalism. She loves John Hughes movies, Audrey Hepburn and all things travel.

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