Elon On Overload: The Balancing Act of an Undergraduate

By: Meagan Gitelman

“I always tell my students that the one thing I love about Elon students is how involved they are and that the one thing I don’t like about Elon students is how involved they are,” said Carol Smith, Associate Professor of Health and Human Service.  As an Elon 101 advisor, Dr. Smith specializes in guiding students in shaping their career goals and the paths that will lead them there. However, Elon students are notorious for putting in just as much work outside of the classroom as they do within.

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Reed Stiller

 

“Elon News Network takes up most of my life,” said sophomore Reed Stiller with a subtle laugh. Outside of the 17 credit hours he is taking this semester for his double major in Journalism and Political Science, Stiller dedicates an average of 11 hours per week to ENN and Beta Theta Pi. In ENN, Stiller acts as a producer for radio, broadcast, print, and the online exclusive. As a fraternity brother, he is actively involved in organizing and facilitating philanthropic events.

It’s not just comm students either, Junior Julia Jordan-Haas is chasing a degree in Public Health. To supplement her 14 credit hours this semester, she spends roughly 20 hours a week committed to InterVarsity, the Writing Center and University Guides. In InterVarsity, Jordan-Haas acts as a small group leader, forming meaningful relationships with a small group of young women and creating weekly lesson plans surrounding Christian faith. She is fully trained in the Writing Center to help students in all disciplines and works as the event coordinator. Jordan-Haas also works as an Elon tour guide for prospective students and their families.

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Julia Jordan-Haas

 

While some students balance multiple commitments comfortably, others struggle to maintain their mental and physical health while in school. Stiller admits that he commonly sacrifices his own health for his GPA. “I tend to eat really poorly, lose a lot of sleep. Especially when I have [commitments] that kind of overlap with one another. I get really stressed out and really anxious…and that negatively affects my health.” While not always possible, Jordan-Haas does her best to prioritize self-care. “I’m a huge believer in protecting mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health…if I had a big assignment due the next day, typically I would have planned in advance to allow time for myself.” She plans out separate times to complete assignments to break up her workload.  “I would work on the assignment either the morning of that day or mid-afternoon…I would go to bed no later than 10:00 p.m. on that day and then I would wake up with enough time to finish the assignment.”

Walking away from this kind of stress is crucial to maintain a certain level of health. To decompress, both Stiller and Jordan-Haas enjoy watching Netflix and spending time with friends. “Quality time is my love language,” Jordan-Haas revealed. “That’s really the number one thing: spending time with people I love.”

In order to avoid getting knee-deep in the anxiety of over involvement, Stiller and Jordan-Haas advise new students to limit their activities outside of class. Jordan-Haas suggests “Discern what you’re passionate about, and I would say do not be involved in more than three activities. Your number one priority here is to be a student…you yourself should be your number one priority, then your academics, and then your involvements.” Stiller advised in agreement, “There’s only so much time you have in a day, and you have to choose what to sacrifice in order to dedicate your time to what’s important.”

Advisor Dr. Smith echoed these statements, assuring that the less involvements you have, the more you will get out of the organizations you participate in. “Your knowledge in your potential discipline is also affected by how much time you focus elsewhere.  You need to know what your limits are; and that ultimately, your education is key,” she said. During her own time in college, Smith avoided procrastination as much as possible and tried to complete work twelve hours in advance. To keep on track, she suggests utilizing a planner and caring for your personal health through proper nutrition, exercise and sleep. Smith stresses how vital it is to be aware of what is most important to your success, balancing your priorities of class work and extracurricular activities is key.

Halfway through her time at Elon, Jordan-Haas offers new students this final piece of advice: “There’s so many incredible organizations on Elon’s campus, and they deserve your best. If you can’t give your best and if you’re spread too thin, it’s not worth your time.”

Photography by Meagan Gitelman

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