College Life: Walking the Line Between Socialite and Outcast

Everyone is familiar with the pop culture images of college life: nonstop partying, rampant sex and, once in a while, a big exam that you cram for during a cheesy montage.

Some people are drawn to the idea of a wild party atmosphere; others are extremely nervous about college life because they expect overwhelming insanity both in their social lives and in the classroom.

Members of the first group are susceptible to too much partying and putting off homework; members of the latter group are susceptible to becoming shut-ins and hating their life.

Becoming Pop Culture Stereotypes

I have known members of both groups, and things haven’t turned out well for any of them.

The Socialites

The students who embrace the party scene go out without ever taking a couple nights off to study, not to mention miss classes regularly because of hangovers. By the time they get their first mid-term exam grades and realize they are failing, it might be too late. Many of these students parents bring them home after the first semester because the parents think that their kids can’t balance independence and school.

The Outcasts

The students who are overly afraid of failure never take the time to go meet new people and experience the benefits of life on their own. By mid-semester, these students are on the phone with their parents every night crying and telling them how much they hate life away from home. These students transfer to a school closer to home, where they fall into boring routines.

These might seem like over-generalizations, but in my years at school, I have seen these exact circumstances befall more than a handful of students.

Finding a Balance 

The trick is to know how to balance. The members of our two groups who somehow do make it to a second semester at school eventually do find a balance, but why waste a semester (whether it be with a low GPA or lack of fun).

Here’s 5 ways to balance fun and studying during your first semester:

1. Go out during your first weekend away. You have to realize that everyone is in the same situation as you: They don’t know more than a couple people, and they need to make new friends. This is the best time to meet new people. Even if the people you meet may not become your lifelong companions, they might eventually introduce you to people who will be. Welcome week has plenty of options: frat parties, dorm events and campus-sponsored activities.

2. Take advantage of your campus’ activities and organizations. If you don’t want to drink at college, that’s not a problem. You aren’t the only one. Every college has dozens upon dozens of organizations, many of which host free or cheap, on-campus activities every weekend. Get involved.

3. Make a schedule. I’m not telling you to tie yourself down to a weekly routine, but every Sunday, you should take a look at what your classes require of you during this week and schedule your week accordingly. If you have an easy week, you can allot yourself three nights to go out with your friends. If you have a hard week, at least you will know early in the week that you have to buckle down.

4. Make your own decisions. I don’t want to sound like an overbearing mom, but I have to say it: Don’t let your friends push you into doing something you don’t want to do. They might tease you about not going out because you have to do homework, but just remember that they too will have nights when they can’t go out and you can.

5. Give college life a chance. I know too many people who have given up too quickly on life on their own. There’s no doubt in my mind that they will regret this later in their lives. They won’t have college stories to tell their kids. They won’t have a diverse group of friends from all over. Most importantly, it will take them longer to gain true independence.

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John Edwards

John Edwards

John Edwards is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is pursuing a journalism degree. Currently studying abroad in Rome, he can usually be found hanging out and studying at his fraternity. He also enjoys running and spending time with family and friends.
John Edwards

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