Managing the Benefits and the Stress of a College Social Life
written by: Lynne Ringle•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 12/8/2011
An active social life in college can have immediate and long-term benefits, but it can also bring on stress if you are not prepared to balance academic responsibilities and fun. Effective planning and setting boundaries can help you manage the benefits and the stress of your college social life.
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Being Social is Fun, But Can Be Stressful Too
For some students, college stress, social activities and keeping up with academic requirements all go hand-in-hand. Being social is fun and often one of the best parts of college. However, the desire to fit in, the lure of fun over doing homework and simply adjusting to the freedom that the college experience provides can make you feel as if you are being pulled in several different directions. That does not mean that you should not have an active social life, though, because there are benefits to being social, too. The key is to have a healthy balance, recognize when you are feeling stressed and learn what to do about it when stress begins to creep in.
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Building Lasting Friendships is a Benefit to Being Social
One of the primary benefits to a social life in college is the development of lasting friendships. When you choose a major field of study in college, you place yourself with other like-minded people with similar interests and goals. You take classes, join clubs, volunteer and often live with other students who study many of the same subjects. The academic expectations for college can be difficult and it can be helpful to have friends to talk to, especially friends who understand what you are going through. True friendships often develop out of trying times, not just fun times. The common interests you share with classmates at college, combined with the amount of time you spend together, helps build friendships that often last years beyond graduation.
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Being Social Can Help You Learn to Network
The networking skills you learn while in college can be a tremendous benefit of having a social life. Joining clubs and organizations or simply hanging out with friends helps you learn to connect with other people, make conversation and find common ground. In college, you often find yourself interacting with a much wider range of people than in high school, which helps you become more comfortable with approaching new people. Along with these skills are the relationships that you take with you after you graduate. You may find that you meet former college classmates again somewhere along your career path, which could help you land a job or close a business deal. It is not uncommon at all to see college students who have active social lives maintain professional connections with former classmates for many years.
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Learn to Say "No" If You Are Feeling Stressed
If having an active social life in college leads to stress, you may have simply say "no" to an invitation to a party or a night out with your friends in order to take care of you and recharge your batteries. Chances are, if you are too busy and your college schedule is too packed with both school and social activities, you also may not be eating well or getting enough rest, which can also contribute to stress. Instead of being social, take time to get caught up on your school work, exercise or simply plan a night in to rest and relax to help alleviate your stress.
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Keep a Calendar of Assignments
It is also important to remember that the primary reason you are at college is not to have a social life, but to earn your degree and losing sight of this can lead to stress. If your academics begin to suffer because of your social life and you feel stressed about your grades, reevaluate your priorities. It does not mean that you have to cut out socializing. Keep a calendar of due dates for your assignments, your study time and other obligations and stick to it. Effective time management can help you gain a balance between the time to study and the time to have fun.
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Seek Help When You Need It
Almost everyone gets overwhelmed at college at one time or another. The stress of managing school, a social life and, for many students, a job can push you to your limit. If your grades begin to suffer, if you feel like withdrawing or if you begin to feel depressed, seek help. Your college advisor can help direct you to counseling services that will help you with stress management techniques.
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Balance is Key
Remember that there are benefits and stress that come with being social in college. For some college students, the stress of being social can make them want to withdraw from friends or activities, while other students simply give up on their schoolwork. Neither one of these is a healthy approach. Keeping a healthy balance of activities is an important key to managing the stress of a college social life, while still reaping the benefits.