You Have Four Years – Make Them Count

By Jon Collier

Halfway through my fourth year out of college, it’s a perfect time for me to reflect on what my experience was like. I’m generally left with one thought; I could have done so much more. Sure I had a great time at Hanover, which in turn led to the perfect job working for our Fraternity. But now being a few months away from obtaining a master’s degree that will hopefully keep me working with college students for some time, I know that my experience could have been much greater. At this point, there’s nothing I can do. Many of you, however, have plenty of time! Working at a university every day has given me a far greater appreciation of the opportunities that college has to offer. I am continually overwhelmed by what I see students accomplish and equally disappointed when I see students, particularly fraternity men, waste their time and money. From what I’ve seen and what I could have done, here are a few suggestions that I have come up with on how you can make the most of your college experience.

Never discount an experience 

You have no idea what’s in store for you at any campus event. Some of the best opportunities to expand yourself are waiting in places you would least expect. As fraternity men, we often feel like we have a reputation or image to uphold and are scared to try new things. The most impressive men I have come across are those that have the courage to not care what their brothers think of them. The best recruitment comes from making friends so why aren’t you out there trying to make as many friends as you can? Don’t be confined by the sometimes misguided opinions of your brothers. Rather, get to know as many people and experiences as you can before it’s too late.

There’s always time

So stop making excuses. The old football coach at my undergrad used to say “There are 168 hours in a week. Discounting 8 hours of sleep a night, what are you doing with the other 112?” Think about that for a minute. Never mind the fact that a lot of us probably aren’t getting 8 hours of sleep. We can talk all we want about class or work or fraternity, but chances are we still spend plenty of time watching Sportscenter or playing video games. I was guilty of this as anyone and trust me when I tell you that four years from now, no one is going to care what your killstreak was on Halo. Instead, why not grab a couple of your brothers and head to the organization fair or campus fest or whatever else your school calls it? I guarantee that your campus has something that will interest you. If not, start something. I haven’t met a student affairs professional yet who is going to stand in the way of a student getting involved.

Get to know your professors

These are the people that often know your campus the best. Not only will it make your classes more enjoyable, but these are some of the most interesting men and women with whom you’ll ever get a chance to speak. Regardless of your field of study, these are the experts and have dedicated their lives to making sure you can become an expert too…if you want. Stop by their office hours and chat with them, find out what they did before coming back to teach, ask them what they like to do on the weekend. The more you invest in getting to know them, the more they are going to invest in making sure you succeed.

The point is this, men:  Before you know it, graduation is going to come whether you like it or not. What you do in these four years is going to set up the next several years of your life. Don’t waste it. I know I’m not the first person to tell you this and I assure you I won’t be the last. Hopefully, you listen to someone and don’t make the same mistakes I did. Your fraternity experience is great and will certainly provide you with numerous benefits. But there is so much more to the college experience.  So put down the remote, get out of the house and make the best of it!

Jon is a second year masters student in the College Student Personnel program at Bowling Green State University. Before this, Jon spent two great years traveling for the Fraternity in the Southeast Region. At Bowling Green, Jon works as a graduate assistant in Fraternity & Sorority Life advising the Interfraternity Council among other things. Jon and his wife, Ellen (a former Delta Zeta consultant), actually live with the men of the Ohio Kappa Chapter of Phi Delta Theta where he additionally serves as the chapter advisor. Jon enjoys all things outdoors and likes to pretend he is a decent golfer from time to time.

Learn to “Say No” to Good Things

By Krystal Clark

Just Say No! Many of us are adept at saying no to bad things. However, we are living in an over committed and over programmed world in which the new campaign spread throughout colleges should be, “Just Say No…to good opportunities.”

I’ve discovered that one can’t do everything all the time. In fact, there is only 100% of you a day and despite what your coach, parent, or teacher may have told you when you were little, you can’t give 110% of yourself to anything. It is mathematically impossible. There is only one whole you and you are often being pulled in multiple directions. Therefore, as you engage in activities throughout the day that 100% of you dwindles. 20% of yourself to this class, 30% of yourself to this committee, 10% of yourself to your friends, 20% to another leadership position, 10% of yourself to the gym, and before you know it there is 10% of you left for things that you need at least 60% of yourself to accomplish. This is when stress happens and this is when you experience burnout. You are doing too much.

I get it, you care and you want to do many different things. As an advisor you are my favorite student and my biggest headache. You’ve been told your whole life that you are a leader and therefore you have a strong desire to “lead” things. People come to you and ask for your support, tap you for leadership positions and recommend you for seats on boards. Your friends know that they can always depend on you to step up and get things done and you feel an obligation to satisfy all expectations. You’ve even convinced yourself that you work best when you are under pressure and stressed out.

But, what always ends up happening? Something doesn’t get done. Even if it does get done it isn’t your best work. You inevitably will double or triple book yourself. You get tired but don’t have time for rejuvenation. Your friends want to do something fun but you’ve got so much work to do that you can’t even fathom heading out on the town for a good time and even when you do take that chance you are thinking about the consequences of having fun. You neglect to take care of yourself and so you become ill which greatly affects your level of performance. You pull all- nighters to cram for a test or finish a paper. You yearn for a vacation and complain to those around you about how busy you are all the time. Sound familiar?

I was you. I’m not going to lie, at 28 I’m sometimes still you. I vividly remember one of my mentors in college encouraging a group of student leaders, including myself, to seriously reflect on all that we were involved in on campus. Make a list and go through each activity. While you are examining this list think about those things that you really value–your passions. Also, think about those activities in which you are learning the most, and ultimately think about those activities that are actually helping you become the person you want to be–your ideal self. For those things that don’t make it into these categories you need to let them go.

I decided to follow her instructions and in the process I gave up one of my jobs, and three extracurricular activities. I crossed them off the list, sent in my resignations, and honestly never looked back. I kept the things that fit into the categories above and I have to tell you a weight was instantly lifted off my shoulders.

Even now, I have to sit down and think about things prior to making a commitment and I’ve had to walk away from things that are great professional and personal opportunities. I’m not going to lie—I still don’t enjoy this process, but I know that in the end I’m making the best decision for myself and the rest of the organization.

College students engage in résumé building in a way that has become quite reckless. It is not only hurting you and adding stress to your life but it is adding stress to those that are depending on you to prioritize that commitment. All of your commitments can’t possibly be number one; something is bound to fall by the wayside. If I could get students to understand that the quality of your involvement and your articulation of that quality is much more important than the quantity of things you are involved with, then I think I would be eligible for retirement simply on merit alone.

Be okay with the fact that you aren’t a superhero. Sometimes you actually can’t do it all and most of the time you can’t do it all extremely well. I have learned that people appreciate it when you are honest about your disinterest or inability to prioritize that particular commitment and when you take initiative to step down from a role instead of prolonging your subpar involvement.

Take time to engage in intentional reflection about your commitments. Think about those things that you love to do versus those things that have become a burden. The next time someone asks you to do something, instead of saying “Yes” immediately, think about responding with, “Let me get back to you on that. Sounds like a great opportunity but I just want to make sure I have time to commit and give it my best effort.” Stop filling out applications just because you were sent an email with a link. Do you really care about that project? Are there things that you want out of that experience that you are already getting from existing opportunities?

If you are struggling with this exercise chat with those that advise you in your roles. Are they seeing strain on your involvement? Have there been moments where they have felt you didn’t prioritize that specific role? How has that affected others in the organization?

Be honest with yourself. Believe me; not being an officer in that one organization isn’t going to be the detriment of your life post college.

Involvement in co-curricular activities is never going to be the reason that you get your college diploma and in fact, though Phi Delta Theta is a worthwhile fraternal organization I don’t believe it has been granted the privilege of disseminating college degrees. Remember, that in the term “student leader” student comes first. What you chose to involve yourself with after that word is completely up to you, but I strongly encourage you to be discerning about where you expend your daily 100%. Yes and no are two incredibly powerful words; please learn to use them wisely.

Krystal Clark, M.Ed. is a native of Portsmouth, Virginia and received her BA in Sociology and Psychology from The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA. After graduation she ventured to College Park, MD where she completed her M.Ed. in College Student Personnel at the University of Maryland, College Park. During her time at Maryland Krystal served as a Student Affairs Residential Fellow in the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life and continued her work in this functional area post-graduation at Duke University in Durham, NC where she served in the role of Program Coordinator. In February 2010 she became a proud member of Delta Delta Delta and in June 2011 she began as the Associate Director of Greek Life at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.  She is an active volunteer in the Association for Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, the Junior League of Nashville, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee.

Time Not So Well Wasted

Ben_FairWhen I was in the 8th grade I played the trombone in the school band.  When I was in the 8th grade I was horrible at the trombone, but my friends were in the band so I stuck with it.  I remember in class one day we were practicing for our annual trip to St. Louis to play a concert at Six Flags, and our conductor made us play the same section repeatedly because the trombone section could not get it right.  Finally, I decided test a theory I had and when we repeated the section for the fifteenth time I just decided not to play.  Immediately the conductor said “finally, that’s the way it’s supposed to sound” and we continued.  Sometimes, less is more and I was the trombonist that needed to be subtracted from the equation.   I realized well before that point that I was not going to make my living playing the trombone, but it was that moment that I realized that I may be wasting my time.

In Junior High I was playing football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, in the band, and obviously a full time student.  At this time my grades were slightly below average, but I was having fun with my friends so it really didn’t matter all that much to me.  However, when I got to high school I realized that if I wanted to go to college I needed to buckle down.  The first thing I did was quit the band (no one in the department threw up any road blocks on my way out of there).   I made the greatest academic discovery of my life my senior year of high school, and it even helped me through my four years in college.  I made a time budget.  I created a list of everything I needed to do during the week and I how much time it would take me to get it done.  I included everything from classes and intramurals to the television shows I wanted to watch.  I then put everything I needed to do that week on a post-it note and marked it off when it was done.  I did this so I could get everything I needed to get done during the week and have the weekends to do whatever I wanted.  I was able to enjoy college a lot more since I was getting good grades and having fun.  The only way I was able to do that was because I organized my time well.

Time management skills are an important part of growing up.  To be successful in college, and ultimately in life, you have to be able to buckle down and get things done.  One of our three cardinal principles is sound learning, and part of teaching our Phikeias about sound learning is how to put themselves in a situation to succeed academically.  There are people out there who can play five hours of Call of Duty or watch TV all night, and still get good grades.  Some freshmen believe they are that person, but only after a semester of hardship do they realize that they are not in high school anymore.  Every chapter should take advantage of their Phikeia program to teach their Phikeia the necessary skills to succeeding academically. Then, when they are brothers, they won’t have to try to recover from the bad semester they had their freshman year.  There are many different ways to help your Phikeias get better grades, but I just wanted to share the one thing that worked best for me.

Ben is a second year leadership consultant who will be traveling the Northeast region. He is a Re-founding Father of Indiana Alpha, graduating from Indiana University in 2008 with a degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice. Ben was raised near Indianapolis and has been a loyal Colts and Indiana Hoosiers fan his entire life and also enjoys watching baseball and playing golf. He is looking forward to continuing his work with the chapters in the Northeast this upcoming school year.

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