On Take Your Success, I regularly interview top-performing college students to understand how they’re successful, so you can recreate the success in your life. Take what’s helpful, dismiss what’s not!
I’m really excited for you guys to see my interview with Christina Beer, Student Body President of over 32,000 students at the University of Cincinnati.
Christina is a great example of finding balance in college to prepare for amazing opportunities after school, while also making time to be in a sorority and enjoy her college experience.
As you read the interview, you will see that Christina is very accomplished. But the main point isn’t to talk about her individual success. It is to show you the systems and mindset she uses to maximize productivity to make the most of her time. At the end of the interview, I share my two main takeaways that you can use to improve your success in college.
Brian: What are the extracurricular activities you are (or were) involved in?
Christina: My freshman year, I joined Student Government’s First Year Leadership Program (FYLP). From there, I became the Marketing Director, Chief of Staff, and then ran for Study Body President. Outside of Student Government, I am a member of a social sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta. I am a tour guide for UC through ROAR Guides. I was also in Serve Beyond Cincinnati where I served as International Trip Coordinator and went on three international service trips. In addition, I have been involved with Honors Ambassadors, Colleges Against Cancer, and Sigma Phi Women’s Honorary.
Brian: How do you manage your time with all of those demanding, but rewarding, commitments? Do you devote an equal amount of time/effort to all of your responsibilities? If not, how do you pick and choose? I imagine a lot of sleepless nights.
Christina: I have become a master of Google Calendar. But on a more serious note, one thing that works for me is literally scheduling everything. I include homework time, workouts, social events, and even a mid-day break on my calendar. I do this to ensure that I set time aside to take care of myself, but stay committed to the organizations I am involved in.
When I was a sophomore, I realized that I had way too much on my plate. I had to be honest with an organization and tell them that I could no longer be a member. While they were disappointed, they understood completely. There will be times you have to pick and choose, but my best piece of advice is to follow your passions. What excites you? Where do you think you can make the greatest difference? That’s where I narrowed down a list of wonderful, but very time-consuming, organizations. And finally learning how to say “no.”
Brian: Please, tell me your biggest takeaway from serving as president of the student body.
Christina: Serving as Student Body President was an incredible opportunity. It’s one that not many people get to have. I absolutely loved it. One of the biggest lessons I learned is how to pull together a diverse group of people to all work toward a common goal. Everyone in Student Government is passionate about making a difference at the University of Cincinnati. Everyone had their own ideas on what they wanted to see change. But, we had to work together to determine what our priorities were and how we were going to accomplish our goals.
Brian: How would you advise underclassmen who want to be involved in student government?
Christina: At the University of Cincinnati, the best way for freshman to get involved in Student Government is to apply for the First Year Leadership Program. This is a great way to learn the ins and outs of Student Government and the university. My best piece of advice is to find something that you are passionate about and want to change about the university. Then, using that idea, find what role would best suit you, and go for it!
Brian: Specifically, what time management skills do you use to optimize your schedule?
Christina: I set aside 15 minutes every Sunday evening to review my weekly schedule. I use an app called Wunderlist that allows me to make my to-do lists. This also syncs with my calendar. I prepare all of my lunches for the week to save a few extra minutes in the morning. I also like creating rewards for myself if I complete everything for the week, such as getting my nails done, going on a shopping trip, grabbing some ice cream. These small rewards add an additional incentive for myself to work hard throughout the week!
Brian: If you had a chance to talk to your freshmen-self, what would you say?
Christina: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn and grow from them. College is a time to figure out who you really are, what you are passionate about, and what you want to spend the rest of your life doing. It is not possible to do that without making some kind of mistake. When it does happen, you first have to accept that you made mistake, but then determine what might be positive consequences or learning opportunities.
Brian: What are the benefits to being in a sorority?
Christina: I joined Kappa Alpha Theta my freshman year. It was one of the best decisions I made when I started at UC. I instantly gained over 100 sisters and met some of my best friends. I also had a chance to serve as the Chief Financial Officer, which led me to wanting to get an additional degree in finance. Not only that, but one of the best parts about being in a sorority is the encouragement I get from my sisters. I would not have been able to survive the two weeks of campaigning had I not had a group of phenomenal women supporting me along the way.
Brian: What do you plan on doing after graduation?
Christina: After graduation, I will be joining the Information Technology Leadership Program at GE Aviation. This is a two-year program of four different rotations with assignments focused on IT initiatives. The program has also built in a 15-credit IT Leadership Certificate at Indiana University. After the program, I will continue my education by earning an MBA at IU while working at GE.
From my perspective, the two biggest takeaways of this interview were Christina Beer’s thoughts on scheduling every activity ahead of time and not being afraid to make mistakes.
I also plan out my weeks in advance—with a pen and planner because I enjoy the physical aspect of crossing out a task—and I 100% agree that planning at least a week ahead makes a huge difference in my productivity.
By specifically scheduling your to-do list for the week, including breaks, showers, and eating time, you give yourself a realistic picture of what actually needs to be done, and when. This is important, because studies show that writing an activity down will increase the probability that you complete it. With a greater vision, you can make better decisions and know the importance of completing a task in its allotted time because you have the knowledge that you can’t afford to procrastinate.
Without scheduling in advance, a common scenario for students is to falsely believe that they can waste three hours during the day, and then still make time to hangout with friends and study for an exam. Then they end up of pulling an all-nighter, which causes unnecessary stress.
So, if you can start planning out your week with a traditional planner (like me) or Google Calendar (like Christina), then you can begin improving your productivity for success, while making more free time in your schedule.
Second, she made an awesome point about not being afraid to make mistakes. College is a low-risk environment to make mistakes and learn from it. If you’re worried about taking a leadership position or starting a major project because you might fail, I encourage you to do it.
Lastly, I want to thank Christina so much for her time for this interview. I’m excited to see what becomes of her future, because she has already accomplished so much and built a lifestyle of success in college. I suspect that Christina will continue to achieve in a major way.