From managing your commitments to saving money to defying expectations, here’s why you don’t have to say yes to everything to have a great university experience.
Being a student can be an overwhelming and often stressful experience, for some of you, you’ll be moving from the confines and dependency of your own family home to a whole new independent living situation. Others may be able to live with family or some of you will have moved across the world not only to study in Australia, but the experience that comes along with it. It can be a rude shock suddenly having to perform a balancing act between responsibilities like being on time with rent, having a job, studying, hobbies, family, a social life… Take a step back and just breathe. It’s a lot and we hear you.
That’s why it is so important that you learn to say no. Culture movements such as FOMO (fear of missing out) have added to this idea that we need to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way, because we will experience some form of loss if we don’t. You’re not making the most of your university experience otherwise, you have to get out there and get amongst it – all the time. But that view is not always the best thing for our mental health.
University is all about learning how to prioritise, and recognising that saying no to things is okay. You need to maintain all areas of your life as best you can but make sure that one element doesn’t impact the other detrimentally or that you don’t become too consumed by it. It’s called learning to create healthy boundaries. So here’s a couple reasons why you don’t have to say yes to everything.
How to make the most of my university experience?
#1 Manage Your Time
One of the best tips you can be told about university is to not overcommit and to keep a diary of your schedule on a daily, weekly and/or monthly basis. With the sporadic timetables of classes and trying to juggle work, sometimes you just need a timeout or weekend of doing nothing to recuperate. If you say yes to every single social gathering that university offers you, there’s a chance that your focus in studying will suffer. Let’s just say going out on a Saturday night with friends when you know you haven’t finished your assignment due on Sunday yet and it’ll mean you have to do a last minute scram hungover is a TERRIBLE idea. Take our word for it, or learn the hard way…
As we’ve said before, balance and prioritise. Recognise what is most important and communicate. Explain to your new friends that you can’t make it this time around because of an assignment but you will come to the next. Lucky for you, everyone is in the same boat and they will 100% understand. If anything it’ll teach you to manage your time better. For example, if it’s a birthday party or special event organised by a society you’re a part of, make sure you jot that down in your diary in advance. Set little reminders that these are coming up and you need to finish that assignment or study task as soon as possible to avoid disappointing anyone.
#2 Manage Your Finances
Let’s take a moment to accept the reality that as a student, you’ll be living on a tight budget especially if you are a casual or part-time worker with rent to pay. And you’re balancing a full-time studying schedule on top of that. By all means enjoy your life, but there will be times when you need to pick and choose. Whether it’s paying for your textbooks, public transport, food or Netflix – you’re going to have costs.
Managing your finances is an important life skill that you will need honestly forever. Budgets and planning ahead are your friends here, they’ll make sure your head is always above water. Another point you have to consider is do you have any work placements or internships coming up? Will this mean you’re there two days a week with university so your income may change? Will it be full-time over the holidays, potentially meaning you don’t work for a couple of weeks or very minimal? Especially if you have expenses, you need to make sure you have enough money to get through these periods.
#3 Manage Your Expectations
It is only natural for us as humans to begin or endure an experience with expectations, which at times can be unrealistic. When this happens, you put too much pressure on the experience being perfect rather than actually enjoying what’s happening. Defying university expectations and accepting that you don’t have to say yes to everything in order to get the most out of your time at university is a skill that you can take with you long after you’ve graduated.
Learning to say no can be an uncomfortable experience for some, especially if you are above average on the sensitivity and empathy scale. You may come across feelings of guilt such as ‘I don’t want to be rude’, ‘I don’t want to let anyone down’ or ‘I’m missing out on something if I don’t say yes’. But, recognising and appreciating your limits as an individual is so important for your mental health.
You need to remember that there’s no real benefit to overexerting yourself and it can save you a world of stress. In future, in friendships you may need to say ‘sorry, I can’t attend because I have a lot on my plate right now but let’s reschedule to another time’. Or in the workforce, you may have to say ‘sorry I can’t take on that extra task because I have a lot of other work commitments that need attention first, could someone else do it or myself but on a later date?’. People will always appreciate the honesty and communication regardless of the answer, so get practicing and learn how to say no during your university experience.