FOR A LOT of Portland's student activists, the Occupy campout last fall, followed by a winter of heady marches, seemed so powerful, so immediate, that it was practically impossible to keep focused on the main reason anyone signed up for school in the first place.

That happened to Chase Wilson, a 19-year-old Washington State-Vancouver student who found himself drawn to late-night marches, rallies, strategy huddles—and quickly emerged as one of the pillars of the movement's social media outreach on Twitter and Facebook. Just as quickly, he stopped going to class and stopped working toward his degree in political science.

"I sort of jumped into organizing," he says, "and school kind of fell off the plate. I actually stopped going to school by the spring."

Looking back, Wilson now wonders if that was the best choice. And now he's in community college looking to transfer up to University of Washington. He also shared his thoughts—as someone who lost that sense of balance between activism and academia—about how to keep it.

First off: Figure out why you're in college. Are you there to learn? Or are you blindly groping your way to a waiting—and soul-wrecking—cubicle job? If it's the latter, maybe it's okay to drop out. But if you're there because you want to be, consider these other tips.

Take classes that match your activist passions. Wilson, for instance, wants to take journalism classes so he can improve as a writer and organizer.

Organize teach-ins, and activate people on campus—where you already spend time. Wilson says every student should be focusing on student debt and sky-high tuition costs.

Say "no" sometimes. Wilson, who also works two jobs, has decided to skip some protests. To keep connected, he runs the Occupy Twitter feed and aggregates headlines.

"Don't do what I did," he joked. "Do what I say."