What Fills Your Cup? Owning Your Time in College

Whether you’re a first-year trying to navigate how to get involved on campus or a senior trying to make your last year on campus your best, read about how one U-M blogger found their place on campus and learn how you can too.

By Maryam Masood September 21, 2021
Blog post: What Fills Your Cup?

About a week into my last semester, I received a request to apply for graduation. It was one of those automated emails from LSA that every junior or senior with the amount of credits that I’ve accumulated receives in their inbox. But for me, it was a reminder that my time on campus is on a clock. A nonphysical (and yet, very real) countdown began.

Email from LSA
Email from LSA.

Like many seniors, I’ve been ruminating about how I’ve spent the past three years at U-M. Have I achieved the things high-school me set out to do? Have I made the most of the resources and opportunities available to me on campus? What have I learned as a liberal arts major? All of which boils down to a single underlying question: Am I satisfied with my college experience? Even before I received the email and started the semester, I’ve been pondering this question and thinking of ways I can come closer to being OK with what I’ve accomplished in this tiny four-year blip of my life. Lately, I’ve been adhering to the well-known advice, now associated with Marie Kondo, of letting go of things that don’t bring you joy. 

Rethinking My Class Schedule

One of those things for me has been classes. This semester, I’m enrolled in the smallest number of credits I’ve ever taken. Although I’m grateful I have the ability to attend university, I’ve only had a few experiences taking classes I enjoy, in part because it took me until the end of my sophomore year to declare a major, and in part because I just don’t enjoy academics.

Truth be told, taking fewer credits than I ever have before slightly terrified me. At first, I felt like I wasn't taking full advantage of course opportunities and falling behind my peers. Rationally, I know the choice puts no real stress on my ability to graduate in May: I only need 12-16 credits after this semester, depending on whether I remember to petition a past class to count as an elective for my major (Organizational Studies). Still, ever since I heard the “15 [credits] to finish” phrase sometime between my freshman orientation and welcome week, I’ve clung to the idea that taking less than that meant falling behind.

Looking back, there were one or two semesters where I wished I had dropped a class to manage my course work better. Back then, the stubborn “15 to finish” was imprinted so deeply into my mind that the idea of dropping a class was unfathomable. Never mind that my grades suffered and my stress levels soared, in my head I was maximizing my tuition dollars by getting ahead on credits.

It took me about six semesters, but I’ve finally accepted that, unless you have a specific academic goal (or enjoy taking additional classes), taking a minimum of fifteen credits can be reconsidered.

A Different Approach to Campus Commitments

I also stepped away from other campus commitments that I enjoyed in the past, but no longer align with my current goals and interests. With my extra time, I’m continuing my summer internship, volunteering with the Michigan Refugee Assistance Program, enjoying time with friends and alone, finishing the latest seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Criminal Minds” (yes, I know they both released over a year ago), playing hockey for the first time since I was a senior in high school, going on walks, traveling on an airplane (fingers crossed) for the first time since before the pandemic, eating copious amounts of sushi from Totoro and burrito bowls from Chipotle (I did this last year as well but figured I’d throw it in there for accuracy), (unsuccessfully) trying to cook more and healthier, teaching myself how to use Adobe Illustrator, reading (I’ve finished a whopping one book so far, which is one book more than I did last year by this time), and of course, blogging for Admissions.

The Michigan Refugee Assistance Program (MRAP) at Festifall
The Michigan Refugee Assistance Program (MRAP) at Festifall.

In short, I’ve been filling my cup with things that bring me joy and pouring out what does not. I also no longer equate making the most of my college experience with being more productive. It’s too early into the semester to make sweeping statements, but in some ways I’ve experienced deeper fulfillment the past three weeks by doing less.

Whether you’re a senior or a first-year, deciding how you want to spend your time in college isn’t an overnight realization. It’s something that you discover through trial and error — a process of trying out new things you might normally say no to and pulling away once you find out something is not right for you.

Take a second to pause and, if I may say so, Marie Kondo your college experience. Future you will probably thank yourself on the graduation podium.

Chicken walking outside my off-campus house
Enjoy this chicken walking outside my off-campus house. It’s the little things.



Maryam Masood

Maryam Masood (she/her) is a senior in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts majoring in Organizational Studies. During the year, she keeps busy managing the Michigan Refugee Assistance Program and working as a trainer at Rec Sports. Outside of class and work, she can most likely be found making another cup of coffee, procrastinating at the CCRB, or rewatching Kim's Convenience on Netflix.