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January 15, 2014

What defines a real class?

It’s day three, and I’m already camped out on the fifth floor of the library. And yet, I’m the one who has no real classes.

I planned my courses to perfection. And with some luck and a well-designed minor, I have been able to take a total of 9 directed studies (or 11 lab courses) in my four years at Clark. And this semester, I have four, which, for most of the rest of campus, means that I don’t have any classes. But really, it just means I don’t have any classes that meet.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 10.43.30 AM

Capstone (Psych, for conference in Brazil)
Directed Study (Philosophy, studying Wittgenstein in detail)
Directed Study (Psych, for conference in Amsterdam)
Honors (Psych, how we create souvenirs study)

And it’s not like I’m just sitting around in my room all day! My schedule is pretty full just with clubs and work. I realize other people do similar things with also having classes, but Ballroom for the Captain is like a second job in itself.

Schedule S14

The point is, while at first glance this seems like the best schedule, it’s actually really terrible. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. And it’s because – this schedule is 100% on me. It takes the two most important lessons of college – time management and self-drive – and forces you to master them. The problem is, I haven’t.

Time Management

In high school, the routine is pretty easy. Wake up, get to school, classes start at 8, out of school by 2:30. Sports practice until 4. Go back home. Start homework. Eat dinner. TV. Sleep. Wake up, repeat.

In college, it’s not the same. Especially at Clark, where we only take 4 classes (~16-19  hours), you’ll find yourself some days only needing to wake up at 10 for that 11AM class. Or you’ll have a nice long break in between classes. Your parents aren’t there to make sure you eat, or that you stay on top of your homework, or that you found time to shower today. So, when there are no classes to even wake up for, or meetings with professors to make sure your work is getting done in a timely manner, it’s all on you.

Reason #1 why I’m stuck on the 5th floor – I have not nearly worked on my Honors project as much as I should have by this point.

Self-Drive

While this ties in with time-management, it’s really, really, really easy to skip classes. For the most part- who would notice? Clark is small enough where the professors notice when you’ve missed a few classes, so them, for one. But mostly? Your grades. Skipping one class is a slippery slope. You skip one, and you say “Oh, well, they’ll post the powerpoint slides online, I’ll look at them then.” BUT NO YOU WON’T. That’s one of the biggest lies spoken on college campuses. And then, once you realize you haven’t done what you said you would, you say “Oh, well, now I’m behind, might as well not go to this one, I won’t know what’s going on!” And before you know it, your exams are all based on in-class discussions and elaborations on slides professors went over for those smart students who showed up.

Reason #2 why I’m stuck on the 5th floor – Playing Dota 2 or FIFA 14 is much more fun than transcribing 45 minute interviews. 

But – there’s at least one saving grace – that in the end, somehow, it all works out. And, while I wouldn’t wish my schedule on anyone else, I’m glad I have it. This schedule (which, I’ve had similar type of classes for the past year and a half really) is my preparation for graduate school, where it is all on me. I’m at college not for a degree, but for preparation for a career. And really, that’s the best kind of real class I can take.

Side note: Clark, through the LEEP Center, is working on creating more classes that prepare us for real world connections and work ethics. It’s a great initiative and if you want some more info, I would check it out here.

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