Staff offer advice on balancing academics, extracurriculars during Homecoming

Natalie Whitis

During busy weeks like Homecoming, keeping up with the academic side of college is all about balance.

Homecoming is a busy time for many ISU students. With an abundance of extracurricular activities throughout the week, many students find it hard to keep up with classes and academic responsibilities.

Karen Zunkel, director of undergraduate programs and academic quality at Iowa State, said it is important for students to balance their academic lives with extracurricular activities.

“College is a very exciting time, especially Homecoming,” Zunkel said. “It’s important for students to have fun with activities but balance it out with the reason that they’re really here: to graduate with a degree.”

Zunkel offered several tips for students to help manage their busy social and academic lives. She said that the most important skills are organization, avoiding procrastination and communicating with professors. For the last skill, it is important to be proactive.

“A lot of times faculty will be more receptive to working with a student if they have had ample time to plan,” Zunkel said. “If you plan, it shows that you are taking your coursework seriously.”

The faculty handbook for ISU professors states that students must give professors notice of absences for noncurricular reasons 10 days in advance. However, instructors must excuse absences due to university sponsored events where the student is representing Iowa State. These can include academic conferences, artistic performances and intercollegiate competitions.

In either case, it is important for students to plan ahead and take responsibility for making up missed coursework and class time.

Students should also be aware of how many activities they can feasibly be involved in. Zunkel advises students to not take on too many activities too quickly.

“Pick one, maybe two activities that you want to be involved in,” Zunkel said. “It’s important to do something besides your coursework if you can.”

She also advised students to plan out their semester ahead of time.

“At the beginning of the semester, you can look at and know when your test weeks are, you know when your projects are due,” Zunkel said. “Take advantage of being on top of things early in the semester.”

She believes that time management is one of the most important things students learn in college.

“It’s one of those skills that students learn throughout their careers at Iowa State,” Zunkel said. “The first year, you kind of figure out what’s reasonable for you, then the next year you add another one on and see how it all fits.”

Adrian Jenkins, lecturer of mathematics, is not too concerned about class attendance during Homecoming.

“As far as I’ve seen, in this class, [Math 165,] it isn’t a problem,” Jenkins said.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to take attendance in large lecture halls, he said. Many professors use clickers or other electronic methods, but these aren’t foolproof.

“There could be some kid out there with 20 clickers,” Jenkins said. He added, however, that he seriously doubted that was the case.