Forgoing time with friends to study? You may be doing more harm than good

The author and friends. Photo credit: Mackenzie Karbon
The author and friends. Photo credit: Mackenzie Karbon

This spring break, I had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with friends whom I otherwise do not see enough during school. It was a beautiful week, and people carried themselves with more candor and spontaneity than I am accustomed to seeing. My friends and I yearned for conversation stretching past sunrise – exchanges that usually cannot reach fruition outside of breaks.

I was overwhelmed by a realization I have made many times in my life: The relationships we have, and the love we give and receive, are the most important aspects of our existence.

So why are relationship-affirming opportunities so often extinguished by some variation of “I don’t have time?”

First, we are often told growing up that school is the most important thing. It was easy to justify this assertion back when choices were “Spend the afternoon painting with a friend or study for a biology test” – situations in which one option is clearly more responsible than the other.

More than that, however, there wasn’t a momentous downside to forgoing socializing in favor of preparing for school. In childhood – if we were lucky – we received constant love and support from family members, who we likely saw every day. We were always rubbing elbows with school peers inside classrooms or on the playground. This is no accident – American school systems contain mechanisms for socialization intended to aid children’s enculturation and development.

Those mechanisms fall out in college. Most people are uninterested in befriending students in their classes. Many of my friends live alone or have roommates they don’t know well. It’s challenging to make time for intimate friends and maintain a network of support. The effects of isolation, in conjunction with academics and other stressors, are clear: Depression and anxiety rates among college students are higher than they have ever been and are on an upward trend. Suicide is the second most common cause of death for college students, behind motor vehicle accidents, according to the American College Health Association.

Of course, these issues are complex and individual. But one thing we can all do is equate socialization to self-care and prioritize important relationships the same way we make time for homework and exercise. While one might expect that this approach will reduce the ability to excel academically, I have found the opposite to be true. When armed with the love of my friends, I am not only happier but much more productive. Interesting how that works, right?

If your return from spring break is anything like mine, you may feel overwhelmed by the volume of responsibilities that materialized out of nowhere. This is the time when reaching out to friends is most important. The more we make ourselves available to the people who we need and who need us, the stronger we all become.

Mackenzie Karbon is a junior majoring in jazz performance. Here’s That Rainy Day runs the fourth Tuesday of each month.