With a full four weeks off of school, there was plenty of time to sit back and think upon the past semester. I crunched some numbers that I personally found to be quite interesting. A semester is usually about 16 weeks long; the average student takes 15 credits at a time, spending approximately three hours in the classroom per class, per week. That means that in class time alone, we devote about 240 hours per semester to school. Then, add in the estimated six additional hours per class per week and that number jumps to 720 hours per semester split between class time and studying alone. Obviously these numbers are estimates; depending on the time in the semester, your major and how much you care about school, these numbers will vary. But with these calculations, we spend about one fourth of the hours in a semester on school. To me, that seems like a lot, especially since many college students work, play a sport or have other responsibilities that take up even more time—these 720 hours are not inconsequential.
And much of this is to be expected. Although over break, many speculate as to why they even enrolled in college in the first place, most of us are here for a reason. Be it to get into grad school, to be launched into your chosen career or to find a life partner, most of us will leave Colorado State University after four years and feel that we have spent our time wisely and a had a meaningful and gainful experience. But that doesn’t negate the fact that every now and then, we are overcome with the intoxicating and genuinely engaging “what am I even doing here” diatribe. At least for me, this sentiment comes not from a place of laziness or purposelessness, but from a place of genuine confusion and angst. Because so much of this college experience is about playing the game, jumping through hoops and getting the grades.
This experience of “playing the game” is just a part of life. And the sooner we’re able to accept and embrace that, the easier this experience will be. But sometimes, this idea is so genuinely frustrating that I feel like I can’t take another day of it. Throughout our high school education, we’re force-fed the notion that college is a time of self-discovery and the never-ending quest for knowledge. And a lot of the times, that truly is what college is about. But sometimes it’s about figuring out how many points you need to get on the final to keep your A; sometimes it’s about taking a class with a certain professor because you know they grade easier; sometimes it’s about putting on a happy face, sitting in the front row and smiling at eight o’clock in the morning because you know there’s a letter of recommendation in it for you. And even at the bottom of your fifth cup of coffee, these experiences never get any easier to swallow.
But here’s the realization that I’ve come to: yes, a lot of college is about “playing the game,” brown-nosing your professors, jumping through hoops and making it to graduation in order to receive a piece of paper that decides whether or not you’re qualified for a job. But we have all the freedom to personalize this experience; tailor it to our unique personalities and make sure it represents who we truly are.
As far as I can tell, the post-grad world that we will one day enter is cutthroat, competitive and unforgiving. It requires innovation, creativity and outside-the-box problem-solving capabilities. So why should the education that we receive up until our delivery on reality’s doorstep be any different? We have the opportunity to find our own footing and freedom, all the while playing the game that will afford us our diploma that says to the world “I’m ready.”
With a new semester fresh afoot, we have equally many opportunities that we’ve always had. But perhaps this time around, we can get through the monotonous, middle of the semester grind with a different idea in mind. As college students—and generally in life—we’re never going to stop jumping though hoops for the simple ends of someone else’s satisfaction. But that certainly doesn’t mean that we have to do it the way everyone else has in the past.
Find your own freedom within the box into which we are all forced. Once you do, you’ll still be playing the game, but by your own rules.