Q. Settle an argument with my college advisor. What counts most—grades or experience? I heard you speak on campus last fall and recall you saying extra-curricular activities are the most important things you can do in college. Am I quoting you correctly? -ML

A. At the risk of getting in trouble with your advisor, you heard me correctly. Technically, however, I was referring to my own personal experience. Nonetheless, I contend my experience applies to others as long as the extra-curricular activities support your career goals–and you don’t entirely blow off your classes. Ideally, you can find a balance that permits you to excel in the classroom as well as in job-relevant activities.

I admit to having been overly involved in non-academic activities during my 4 ½-year college career. (Yes, I required an extra semester due to the extra-curricular overload). Besides being editor of the daily campus newspaper for more than two years, I was active in my fraternity, held a speaking seat on the college board of trustees, chaired a state-wide college political organization, worked part-time for the local newspaper, and served on several college committees. Those activities consumed most of my waking hours, except for 50-minute interruptions now and then to attend a class.

In hindsight, I now encourage students to do as I say, not as I did. Find balance that lets you excel in your studies as well as finding a meaningful, real-world opportunity that compliments what you learn in class. Otherwise, you’ll be discovering things throughout your career that probably were part of that class or assignment you periodically missed. In other words, find balance while absorbing as much academic and real-world experience as humanly possible. But don’t forget to also relax a bit and enjoy one of the best times of your life. –RC