Over-committing: the New Student Plague

by Hannah Newberry

While it is sometimes an ongoing joke that we don’t have enough hours in University to fill up a proper week’s quota of learning, my experience over the last two years simply advocates for the opposite. Even with roughly twelve hours of lectures and / or tutorials, the additional time required to prepare, research and hold up an adequate lifestyle around your education to keep you from going insane is more time than we have spare.

As students in an environment where we are taught to be constantly competitive, innovative, compartmentalised and efficient, there’s no drastic plot twist in the conclusion that we are almost conditioned into over-committing. I find that holding down one or two volunteer extracurricular activities, maintaining an average flow of effort into my degree, balancing the wider reading and work it demands and working a job of a mere 15-20 hours is almost impossible to manage some days. Yet in my head, this is completely normal, and I’m still not as functional or dynamic as some of my friends.

The culture of ‘over-committing’ is something that kicks in towards the second half of your degree, to psychologically combat the fear of laziness, inadequacy and ‘doing nothing with your life’. Yet this is by no means a healthier alternative to sitting around all day when you’ve got your fourth migraine of the week and you need to find a spare ten minutes to shove your laundry in the washing machine.

Why are so many of us on the constant lookout for jobs boards, volunteer opportunities and University placements? This is a great way to develop experience for the future – until you realise you’re constantly on Google trying to seek out unfound opportunities and seeing those around you take part in activities to bump their CV up that you know they don’t enjoy nor find interest in. Is it a matter of quantity over quality, or are we just trying to prove to employers that some of us will be able to swim instead of sink over this impossible workload?

The pressure to be the most viable candidate for any role is forcing us to try and adapt to any skill they could possibly require.

I feel like sometimes I’m the only one curious as to why the most lazy and untidy students I know are litter-picking and the ‘bacon lol’ elites are volunteering to save the elephants. The pressure to be the most viable candidate for any role is forcing us to try and adapt to any skill they could possibly require – whether it’s environmental awareness, compassion for the community or love of old people, if we don’t naturally exert a love for something, should we really force it to create an employable guise over our genuine abilities? I believe that what keeps us going is the fear of having our applications end up on the same table as someone who did that one extra placement and missing out on a much-desired opportunity.

There is a new, integral doctrine at University that students and staff don’t know how to address – fitting into this image of being a universally compassionate, concerned, tidy, positive, charitable individual. As more of us realise that we don’t fit into this pristine image (nobody does), the pressure becomes huge to take chances on offers where we have absolutely no desire, motive, passion or conviction to participate. What we need is a general psychological reform where we stick to what we’re passionate about or keen to try, and realising that if a job is looking for a personality completely different to what you exude, it probably isn’t something you’ll settle into for a lifetime anyway.

Here’s to spending our student years trying out every possible thing we’d miss out on as adults, without worrying about when we’re getting our next nap in or refreshing our LinkedIn every ten minutes in search of a random foreign important-looking recruiter of a firm you know nothing about.

When exams are finally over, most of us are twiddling our fingers for something to constantly entertain our wandering minds, even when all we need is a well-earned, solid nap.