Matt Server

Daily planners in college can look a little crazy. There will be some days where one white square will be crammed with black ink representing all of the events and responsibilities that you have been tasked with in one 24-hour period. You might have class until 11 a.m., work until 3 p.m., a workout at 5, dinner with friends at 6, a group project at 8 and, at some point, you have to find time to study for a test tomorrow.

While having so many new opportunities is exciting, there are times when you have to make choices on what to do. After all, you can’t study for your physics exam and attend a movie with friends (though I’m sure that hasn’t stopped some from trying). Thus, there is a challenge for college students to try to maximize their time at the university.

One result of this situation is that students can be pigeonholed based on what they hope to get out of college. There are academics who go to school to get an education. They are the ones who panic when they get anything less than an A and every time you ask them to do something, they seem to respond, “Sorry, I have to study.” Then, there are the career-preppers who view college as simply the means to an end of getting a job. They have a certain fondness for the phrase: “Job places don’t care about your GPA.” And, lastly, socialites treat college as a time to have fun and make friends. They’re always up for a night at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop even if they have a 10-page paper due at midnight.

The obvious flaw in this categorical system is assigning blanket labels fails to consider students who don’t entirely fit one of the categories. However, the problem also fails in its attempt to divide college life into partitions. While being 100 percent academic is a ridiculous concept, so is dividing it 30 percent academic, 50 percent social and 20 percent career. All this represents is an attempt to micromanage college. While nobody determines this percentage breakdown, subconsciously we tend to divide our time in college based on what we believe are the right priorities.

While it is important that you learn how to divide your time effectively, you should never approach college like you would a group project where workload is split into sections.

College requires a more holistic approach. Instead of trying to be completely academic or half-academic and half-social, you should be entirely academic, entirely career-focused and entirely social. The only way to achieve the ideal balance is to devote yourself to every aspect of college life. By doing this, you avoid micromanaging your opportunities and allow your experiences to shape you instead of clumsily trying to shape your experiences.

The distinction between embracing every aspect of college and attempting to pick a primary focus is in the approach. Either you come determined to make your experience fit your idea of what college should be or you come prepared to utilize every experience to optimize your time here.

You simply never know where college will lead you, and trying to set a defined path will narrowly limit your possibilities.

For instance, I came to UNL determined to do whatever it took to excel academically. Of course I wanted to have fun and I hoped it would lead to a decent career, but my primary focus was on getting and maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Most of my decisions were made in relation to how they would specifically affect my grades.

It wasn’t so much that I didn’t give any consideration to other aspects of my life, but rather that I didn’t devote the same attention to those facets than I did to academics. I thought I knew focusing primarily on my studies was the best path for me to take. What I didn’t realize is I didn’t have to choose; I could focus on all three and let my experience  shape me.

It wasn’t until sophomore year when I realized I could still excel at academics while devoting the same unbridled desire to succeed in other aspects of my life. I joined a group of friends and became much more involved in organizations, including The Daily Nebraskan.

Junior year, I started to think in earnest about what I wanted to do in my future. I determined law was not for me and my internship at Sen. Ben Sasse’s office showed me that a career in public service was my passion.

Life in college has an all-encompassing nature. Everything you do at UNL can contribute to your overall well-being. You don’t have to try and pick and choose what you want do or who you want to be; you have to be open to letting your experiences shape you.

So, yes, some days your planner will be incredibly full. Some days you will have to choose between spending time with friends, getting a part-time job and studying for that calculus test. And some days the options available at UNL will seem overwhelming. The best thing you can do is tackle the problem head on and embrace the challenge.

In the words of Yogi Berra, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Matt Server is a senior political science major. Reach him at or via @DNOpinion