How to strike a balance between extra-curricular activities and academics while at university

By Njoroge Chege

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, they say. A lot of labor is involved in being a student at USIU-Africa. Assignments, projects, presentations, quizzes, exams, and much more must all be completed with strict deadlines.

A full-time university student attends classes for about 12-16 hours weekly. A student may have minor, or no time left to think of any new activity to consider if they are focused on maintaining a good GPA at the end of the semester.

In this day and age, instead of enjoying the learning process, education and information acquisition have more recently become competitive endeavors that are all about the GPA and not about understanding and application of the knowledge acquired.

There is always pressure from parents, lecturers, and classmates to support this problem. Instead of students striking a balancing act between their academics and talents, they are more focused and concerned about winning the academic race, AKA good grades.

Unfortunately, this ends up causing an imbalance since there is a life beyond academics. On the other side, we have other students -those who are heavily immersed in extracurricular activities that they fail to understand the value of academics, and the fact that a balance must be struck between academic and extracurricular activities.
For those struggling to strike this crucial balance, read the interview with Ms. Mkenda, a USIU-Africa student who has been on the Dean’s List for the past two years for some practical tips you can apply for yourself.

Chege: How are you able to balance your extracurricular activities and still maintain a 3.5 GPA or above?
Ms. Mkenda: I have to say that time management is the best-kept secret of high achievers. I rarely procrastinate since I just have a well-defined timetable for my studies and my yoga/kickboxing workout. Also, I’m very clear about where I’ve come from, why I am here in Kenya, and my parent's expectations of me.

Chege: Whoa! Interesting. What would you say is your best time to study and your best time to work out?
Ms. Mkenda: I love studying at night when it's completely quiet at the Qwetu Hostel. If the place is too noisy, I can easily study with my earphones on with “slow” background music, especially when all I need to do is review my work.

When I need a deep understanding of a topic, I prefer studying at the library since I can easily zone out without any disruption. I love to use my weekends to catch up or get ahead with my studies. When it comes to my working out, I just get started as soon as I get to the gym. I rarely chitchat, and if I do, I keep it as brief as I can.

Chege: Do you have a workout partner, or do you prefer working out by yourself?
Ms. Mkenda: I prefer to work out by myself.

Chege: How about studying? Do you like to study by yourself, or do you have a study partner?
Ms. Mkenda: I love having a combination of both- personal study and group study. I like group study for the course text material and course outline review since I tend to get a broad overview of the content and my expectations at the end of the semester, but I like studying the Blackboard content (lecturers’ notes) by myself.

Chege: What are the barriers to striking a balance between extracurricular activities and academics among university students?
Ms. Mkenda: Lack of an understanding that extracurricular activities require your interest while academics call for a different level of dedication. Understand that they are called “extra” curricular activities since they are activities you add to your main agenda while keeping in mind that they should come after your studies.

Explore your interests, but be cautious that they do not interfere with the regular academic tasks that you have to complete. Make a strict schedule and stick to it, and everything will work out.

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