How people make choices about activity engagement during discretionary time is a topic of increasing interest to those studying quality of life issues. Assuming choices are made to maximize individual welfare, several factors are believed to influence these choices. Constraints theory from the leisure research literature suggests these choices are heavily influenced by intrapersonal, interpersonal and structural constraints. Within these constraints, the individual is motivated to make choices that maximize perceived personal welfare. Leisure affordance theory focuses on these motivations by suggesting the importance of more positive influences on choices within a set of constraints. In this study, an inventory of discretionary time activities and reasons for choosing these activities were documented for a sample of Chinese college students. Because data were collected during an unanticipated SARS epidemic, the impact of the SARS crisis on students' daily choices was also examined in detail. Despite the constraints imposed by SARS and the attendant suspension of off-campus activities, some students did not perceive a change of daily life as a result, while others perceived positive changes in attitudes and behavior. Findings shed light on students' experiences during a time of rapid change in Chinese society and higher education. Decisions made during this influential time of life are important because they may affect students' future choices related to leisure and discretionary time.