Create a Successful & Sane College Experience With Your 5-Step Action Plan (Part 2)

For: college freshmen, or any college student who is looking to create success, build resilience, manage college stress and infuse their life with personal leadership development principles.

Last week we covered Part 1 on building your support network in our 5-part September series on how to Create a Successful & Sane College Experience. Moving on to tip #2:

2). Resist the temptation to “do it all.”
When I speak at leadership conferences on college and university campuses across the country, I ask students the following questions:

  • Are you currently involved in at least one extracurricular activity in school? How about two? Three? More than three? Do you hold leadership positions in at least one of those extracurricular activities?
  • Do you work in addition to going to school? 10 hours? 10-15? 15-20? More than 20?
  • Do you volunteer during the academic semester?
  • Do you have a double major? How about a double major and a minor? Do you have a triple major?

During my presentation, I have students raise their hands if their answer is “yes.” All across the nation, students see for themselves how overextended they are, and how they’re not alone.

Then I ask the whole room to stand up and I ask them two questions:

  • Did you sleep eight hours last night? That’s when the students burst out laughing and a majority of them sit down. For the remaining half a dozen or so, I ask them…
  • Did you sleep eight hours at least four nights in the past week?

All sit down but a few lone students. The visual impact is powerful. (We’ll cover the importance of sleep more in depth in part 4 of our 5-part series.)

When I visit your campus, I want you to be among those well-rested students standing before your sleep-deprived peers. More important than that, I want to invite you to lead by example alongside me so we can help more students on your campuses stand up to create a successful & sane college experience.

Your leadership is dependent on the energy you bring to your life on a daily basis. Striving to be superhuman in college will lead to inevitable burnout and your creativity and resilience as a leader will suffer. So what’s the solution? How can you be an energetic leader in college and be a role model for your classmates?

1. Pace yourself. You have four years in college to practice being a leader and then the rest of your life to contribute and serve as a working professional. You do not have to do it all, all at once, and certainly not in one semester.

2. Prioritize and say no. Instead of saying yes to everything that comes your way in college, determine what your passions and priorities are so you can say a calculated “yes” to the things that really matter to you, and a graceful “no” to the things that don’t. Employers are far more impressed with new graduates who can show demonstrated personal leadership development within one or two key areas rather than a laundry list of extracurriculars and activities that the student felt they “should” do in order to create success.

3. Debunk the myth that leadership is lonely. It’s only lonely at the top when we’re trying to lead alone. Before you accept a leadership position within an organization on campus, consider asking yourself, “How can I motivate others to co-lead with me?” Remember that the greatest leaders inspire others not to follow them, but to lead alongside them for a shared goal or purpose.

4. Collaborate don’t compete! I know this one is tough, especially when our educational system is arranged to encourage competition for grades, awards, scholarships, college and grad school admittance etc. Try to think long term though. Every time you choose to interact with an abundant mindset with your classmates, you build your support network. You build goodwill and trust, the bedrocks of collaboration. Say one classmate lands an internship within a coveted organization in your community. You’d love to land an internship there as well. Have you built a relationship with that student that’s based on trust, friendship and reciprocal give and take, or are you in a competitive relationship with that person centered on scarcity, distrust and fear? Will your classmate be more willing to share his/her growing network of contacts and insider information with you (like say a new internship opening within the organization next semester) if they trust and like you? In return, won’t you be more willing to go out of your way to help that classmate in return as your circle of connections and influence expands? Be a trailblazing young leader by helping your friends and classmates shine alongside you leveraging your collective strengths. Be allies in each other’s career searches. Support each other and lean on each other when stress is high. Who knows, maybe you and your friends will collaborate to create the companies, jobs and leadership experiences of tomorrow where you will all have the opportunity to serve using your unique skills.

I know there are a lot of practical pressures out there fueling student stress and overachievement. What I’m saying to you is while there are so many mixed messages you have the choice as the leader of your own life to believe whatever works best for you. You can accept or reject any viewpoint and begin to formulate your own viewpoints about success, and what it takes to create it.

If you can learn these leadership principles as a college freshman, you will be able to enjoy the full college experience, thriving rather than surviving. It’s never too late though. You can start today to transform your college experience even if you’re a senior, or a freshman in grad school. Remember that great leaders give up trying to be superhuman. They exercise the power of collaboration and delegation.

*Next week we’ll delve into Part 3 of our 5-part September-October series on how to Create a Successful & Sane College Experience. Sneak Peak: Have you ever been afraid of the “F” word … failure I mean? Have you ever been afraid to step far outside your comfort zone to try something new for fear of not excelling at it right away? Do you want to be more FEARLESS and take smart risks to build the life and leadership vision of your dreams beginning in college? See you next week!

-Maria Pascucci
Founder & President, Campus Calm™
Click here to learn more about Maria’s keynote presentations and workshops for college women leaders, college students and young professionals.

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