I never had any intention of graduating early.
In fact, I did everything in my power to make sure it didn’t happen.
I came to TCU still on hyperdrive from high school, and I brought an abundance of AP and transfer credits from a community college, and added to that a 12-credit Spanish class and multiple double-dipped core classes. As TCU is on a flat rate, I wasn’t about to pay for classes I wasn’t taking, so I also crammed my semester with as many as I could without having to pay for more.
After academic advising my first semester, I panicked about the prospect of graduating early. So I added another major. Whew. I was safe.
Outside the classroom was much the same. In high school, my schedule was dominated by extracurriculars – band, theatre, newspaper, Student Council, PALs, FFA – you name it, I tried to do it. I was as determined to make the most of college, the supposed best four years of one’s life, in a similar fashion. Bring on the Honors Program, band, a sorority, resident assistant and an internship, to name a few.
It was ridiculously stressful at times, and I spent many nights in a dorm study room with Starbucks until I was forced to leave for my first class in the morning. My weekends were similarly at the mercy of my extracurriculars. And I loved every minute of it. Staying busy really isn’t that difficult; it’s just all I knew how to do.
But it wasn’t enough. During junior year I again went into a panic when my academic adviser reviewed my schedule: I could graduate the following May, a year early.
I knew I didn’t want that, but I also knew I couldn’t justify staying at TCU two more semesters just to satiate my love for college, especially not when it came down to my bank account.
But the freedom this idea brought me was endless: I could take only 15 hours in the spring, my one remaining required course in the fall and then kick back and enjoy my final semester and maybe toss in a few pass/fail fluff classes. Life would be beautiful.
Of course, it didn’t happen that way.
After some soul-searching I dropped the idea of kicking back and declared a minor. This semester, 12 of my 18 hours are in a language I barely understand and haven’t dealt with in three years.
Although I attempted to narrow my extracurricular activities to compensate, I even negated that by taking on more hours at my internship.
And now, two weeks before I cross that stage to the 40-hour work week “real world,” all I can ask myself is that age-old question: Why?
I’m watching my friends plan schedules for next semester, watching my roommates decide who’s going to take over my room, all while I can barely find time to search for a job because I still have my senior Honors project and essays in foreign languages hanging over my head.
What if I had taken my time, and hadn’t been so determined to be busy purely for the sake of being busy?
I won’t deny that I’m satisfied with my academic success, have memories I wouldn’t trade for tuition money and my parents are more than thrilled that I’m qualified for a decent job after only three-and-a-half years, but at what expense?
What if I hadn’t spent at least 18 hours a week in a classroom each semester? If I hadn’t been so stressed and sleep-deprived that I snapped at one of my very best friends that time? Who else could I have gotten to know if I hadn’t been half-asleep during my 8 a.m. classes? What if I could’ve gone to Taco Tuesdays with my group more, instead of sitting through another night class that I could’ve saved for another semester during the day?
In short, was all that stress really necessary?
Especially when I never wanted to graduate early in the first place?
My agonizing over these questions led me to two conclusions I wish I had had before coming to TCU.
Look at your schedule. Do the math. Know what you need to take and when. Once you’ve determined what you need, maybe toss in some racquetball or a gourmet cooking class.
Second is the same advice you’ve heard your whole life and probably will continue to receive until you die: savor.
College students in general are addicted to being busy, and everyone wants to let you know it – largely, I figure, in search of both admiration and pity. If instead of simply settling for “Sorry, I’m busy,” we admitted, “I can’t make this a priority right now,” we might start to reconsider those priorities.
You can learn more from stopping and chatting with the guy you think has taken up permanent residence in the second floor lobby than in copying that psychology research off Wikipedia that’s due tomorrow just to get the grade. It’s possible to actually enjoy a class – to go with the intention of learning something, not just to get an assignment you’ll dedicate only the bare minimum of time required to. You don’t have to smell them, but at least notice the tulips that magically appear on campus for that week in spring. When you don’t fill your schedule with “required” engagements, you can pick and choose more things you enjoy doing — checking out that play, playing a game with roommates, just sitting in Market Square for a while and seeing who you know walks in the door.
And even if it does take you a little longer to get through, why worry? Nobody said the best four years of your life couldn’t last a decade.