Your Social Life: Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?

While most students are able to find a healthy balance between campus and social activities and academics, some students are challenged by this. According to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment data [pdf], 8.4% of college students reported in spring 2019 that extracurricular activities negatively affected their academic performance. While over 90% did not report any negative academic impact from extracurricular involvement, nearly 1 in 10 students did.

In addition, students reported that their individual academic performance was impacted by other social and extracurricular experiences, including

  • work (15.3%),
  • computer games and internet use (10.3%),
  • alcohol use (2.9%) and
  • drug use (1.9%).

While the self-reported impact from substance use may seem low, this research included almost 68,000 students. Nearly 2,000 students from the sample cited alcohol as an issue. Student alcohol and substance use is also indirectly related to other areas like sleep and stress  that students cite as impacting their academics. In summary, too much of a good thing can negatively impact your health and well-being and your grades.

You may be reading this and think to yourself, “this is not going to happen to me.” It is likely that every single student who indicated that these items got in the way felt exactly the same. There are a few key factors that can contribute to an imbalance. Being aware of these can help you build a schedule and routine that supports your academics and your social interests.

First, balance is rooted in time management. Your time management skills may need attention if you are spending too much time on social activities, or if you are finding you are spending more time than you anticipated on social activities. Socializing too often or for too long can take away the time you need for studying or throw off your entire balance by detracting from sleep or other well-being needs. Developing the ability to assess the time you need to complete your academic priorities, the skills to regulate how you spend your time, and the habits of effectively planning your time are necessary to achieve balance. Students are often most successful when they build more formal social time into their schedules.

Second, overcommitment can also contribute to an imbalance. Getting involved in too many activities can lead to competing priorities, higher levels of stress, limited time, and unrealistic expectations. Try focusing on quality of experience over quantity of activities. If it’s helpful, make a list of your goals or interests and identify which activity fulfills you the most or helps you to meet more of your goals. This can help you pinpoint one or two key experiences where you can leverage your time and strengths.

It’s difficult to talk about balancing social life without also talking about choices around recreational substance use. Not everyone chooses to drink or use marijuana. But if you do, it’s important to consider how your choices can detract from your overall balance and academic success. The time you spend socializing with substances, the time you may spend under the influence, the effects of substance use on things like quality of sleep, and the time you may spend recovering from a night of excessive use can all impact your balance. Further, numerous research studies have shown connections between how much and how often students use and academic success.