The Art of Saying “No” in College

The Art of Saying “No” in College
  • Opening Intro -

    A story and lesson to learn from one of my other college friends, here are his thoughts:

    Saying “No” is hard.


Whether it be saying no to extra hours at work, or saying no to the TV when you still have that ten page paper that you haven’t started due tomorrow, saying no is hard.

Honestly I wish I’d learned this lesson while in college, but it wasn’t until I got out that I realized I burned myself to the ground trying to lead two volunteer groups, a club, work 30 hours a week, maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA with an 18 credit course load, and an unpaid internship.

Saying “No” is hard. But there comes a point where quality is sacrificed when quantity is prioritized. I did all those things, but I can’t say that I did them all well. I often forgot to schedule club meetings, I graded papers at work as part of my unpaid internship, I pulled consecutive all-nighters to finish three papers and prep for my internship the next day.

My body hated me, my friends gave up on me, and I wasn’t excelling at any of my commitments.

So how do I learn when to say no to before I’ve locked myself into an unbearable, unhealthy life of busyness?

Prioritize responsibilities over desires. If you asked me why I was doing all those things, I would have had a reason for every single one of them. But in all honesty, I could have easily put them in order of importance.

When you realize that you’re over committed or if you’re deciding if you should add another activity to your list of things to do, figure out where you’re going to put it on that list. If it’s at the bottom and you’re already feeling the stress levels rise, it might be better to say no to that, even if you really want to do it. It’s important to have fun in college, but it’s also important that you begin to truly self-regulate.

Is this something that can help you in your quest for a job in your field? Maybe you love DJing and your friend just asked you to co-host her radio show time slot. That’s great! But keep in mind that you might have seen that poster for volunteering to help kids with homework after school…

In the end, unless you’re an arts major, philanthropic and leadership activities tend to shine brighter on resumés. And as a fresh college graduate competing in the job field, you can use all the help you can get. Plus, those connections that you make in resumé-building activities might also help you network later on when you’re looking for a job.

Have time to take care of your body. If you end up getting sick, that’s really going to throw you off your game and take some time to recover. Don’t forget to eat healthy meals, exercise your body, get a good amount of sleep at night (at least six hours), and also have a little mental downtime during the week.

Taking care of your body is a commitment, and at first it doesn’t seem important because you feel indestructible. Spoiler alert: you’re not.

Best of luck navigating the extracurricular waters of college life!

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Categories: College Living