Ever since I can remember, I have never been just a student. In elementary school, I participated in a bunch of activities outside of school like swimming lessons and Karate. In high school, I found my niche in student leadership through getting involved with… well everything. So naturally, that didn’t change when I came to university.
You see, for me, being involved is an essential part of studentship. My version of being a student involves classes, homework, essays, readings, AND extracurriculars.
I believe that getting involved with your community, especially in university, is extremely important! Being part of a club, attending social events or participating in intramurals is how you can make sure your university experience is a unique one.
Saying that, I also recognize that through these different positions, I am taking part in STUDENT leadership. That is to say, I need to remember that the way I’m allowed to participate in all these activities is because I am a student. So balancing everything I’m doing, and keeping my priorities in order is essential to my success.
Going to class, staying on top of my readings and making sure I’m doing the best possible work on my assignments are often things that I let fall to the wayside. In past years, I’ve put events before studying for an exam and having even skipped class to do extra work for a student organization.
I wish I could go back now and give past-me a giant smack on the head. My change in priorities started with a Drew Dudley quote:
I realized that I was able to make my grades were the least impressive thing about me, because well… they were less than impressive.
A common problem that student leaders run into is that they overload their plate. Between classes, assignment and all their duties through their organizations, many student leaders don’t know when they’ve reached their limit—until they crash.
I’ve crashed before. I continue doing everything that I’m expected to do, but with less quality and gusto and it takes physical tolls. I start sleeping in past my alarm because my body is literally forcing me to take break. I start not caring about my health. I overload on caffeine or energy drinks just to stay awake.
It’s SUPER important to take care of yourself – your physical self, which includes sleeping and eating well, and your mental health – taking breaks, practicing self-care, and ensuring that you have time to rest.
My philosophy on student leadership is one that that I’ve heard from many of my mentors. It’s what I believe the life of student leaders SHOULD be. It’s simple.
Take care of yourself, make sure you are physically and mentally well, and getting lots of rest. Then keep your priorities in order. Study, do your readings, go to class and keep on top of your grades. And then get involved and explore your role as a leader. Follow your passions, and gain experience.
Just be careful to know your limits.
Student leadership can be a very rewarding experience, where you learn a lot about yourself, others and skills that are applicable to everyday life and future work. However unless the person and student are taken care of, the leader cannot succeed to their fullest capacity.
Student leaders, what are some of the challenges you’ve found in your roles? What are some of your strategies to balance everything?