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How to Get Out of Something in College

Having a Reason to Say "No" Can Let You Focus on Other Priorities


One of the biggest challenges in college is learning how to say "no" to things. There is always more to do, more to be involved in, more to help with, more things to go to. At some point, however, it all becomes too much, and you need to reprioritize and refocus on your academics. After all, you're in college to graduate, right? Right!

Unfortunately, even people with the best of intentions can apply a lot of pressure to help them with an upcoming event, go with them to an upcoming party, or otherwise spend time with them. If you have a few excuses at the ready, however, you can gracefully bow out of further obligations without hurting feelings or seeming like a jerk. Consider using the following excuses when you need to get out of something in college:

  1. I really want to, but I just have way too much homework this semester. Every student knows what it's like to be completely overwhelmed by homework. And hopefully, the people you're friends with and hanging out with in college are respectful of everyone's need to prioritize academics. If you need to, use your homework load as an excuse for avoiding any further time commitments.
  2. I have an exam coming up that I need to study for. Even if your exam is a few weeks away, it's never too early to start studying. And if you need a reason to say "no" to something, studying for an upcoming test is always a winner.
  3. I have to work on stuff for my other clubs/organizations/church/etc. Most students realize that everyone is involved with something in college. Which means, of course, that everyone is balancing a lot of obligations. So if you're being asked to contribute to a club or organization but just don't have the time, it's okay to say that you're already at your limit with cocurricular involvement.
  4. I better pay attention to my significant other or my relationship is going to suffer. This doesn't necessarily have to be a lie to be used as an excuse to get out of something! It can be so easy to become distracted by homework, papers, deadlines, and event planning in college that you forget to schedule time to just hang out with your significant other. Don't be afraid to just flat-out admit that you need some quality time with the boyfriend or girlfriend.
  5. I already promised I'd dedicate my extra time to someone/something else. Even if you have a little free time over the next few days, that doesn't mean that you have a ton of free time to give over the long term. So if you don't want to commit to something that's going to take up a lot of your time over the next weeks or months, it's okay to bow out early. After all, it's much better to separate yourself from any commitments now than it is to flake out on them in a month or two.
  6. I have another commitment. What you do in college is your business. You don't have to give details or justify how you spend your time. The phrase "Sorry, but I have another commitment" can work anytime, anyplace. And if you get grilled on the details, the only person being rude is the one probing into your personal life.
  7. I need to get some things done off campus. Some requests from friends or fellow club members can require you to stay on campus for long stretches of time. And, realistically, that may just not be possible for you. Feel free to indicate that you need to spend some time off campus and therefore won't physically be able to commit to being on campus as much as might be needed. Even if your excuse isn't true, it provides you with a good reason as to why you can't help out more. If you're physically not around, you can't do what's needed.
  8. I need to refocus so I don't fail my classes. This can be true or false, timely or not. But telling someone that you need to focus more on your academics should be an end-all when it comes to pressuring you to commit or do more. After all, who can argue that a club commitment or social event should trump passing your classes?
  9. I need to do X now so I can do Y later. Being on top of your game isn't something to be embarrassed about. If, for example, you need to duck out of tonight's party so you can clean your room in order to give tours of it to prospective students tomorrow, just say so. Sometimes, a little advanced planning is required so you're not always playing catch-up. And if that advanced planning means you can't do something fun tonight, so be it. It's okay!
  10. I feel bad, but I just can't dedicate enough time or energy to do a good job at this. People likely are asking for your help or involvement with something because you're a hard worker who is good at follow-through and attention to detail. So be honest if you don't think you can live up to the standards you set for yourself or the standards others have set for the proposed commitment. It looks much better to say you can't do a good job now than it does to do a bad job later; it's also a hard excuse to argue with.
  11. I'm not feeling so well. This excuse is famous for a reason. Sometimes, you really aren't feeling well and just can't go out/stay up late helping/dedicate time you don't have. Your mental health should be a priority, too, so keep in mind that allowing yourself to just veg out is not only okay but actually important. If you just need a break from going, going, going around the clock, don't be afraid to say so. The last thing you want to do is burn your brain out and have your academic performance suffer because of it!
  12. I just can't; I have too much going on. Sometimes, it's okay to not have a specific excuse. Sure, people can argue about the specifics of your life (but your commitment to the Black History Month Planning Committee will be over next month!), but they can't argue about your overall workload. You're the best person to judge how much is too much, and saying that you're already at maximum capacity is perfectly acceptable anytime, anywhere. After all, who else is going to say you can't take on one more thing if you don't advocate for your own peace of mind?

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