Rethinking the college experience

UND students study in recently renovated spaces on the second floor of the Chester Fritz Library.

Nick Nelson

UND students study in recently renovated spaces on the second floor of the Chester Fritz Library.

Aimee Coons, Staff Writer

The fall semester is ending at a rapid pace. Students are scrambling to finish papers, complete projects and attempting to start studying for their finals. As I sit trying to organize my week, my to do lists for homework is growing at a baffling rate.

I am a senior this year, and will graduating (hopefully) in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in English. On top of my class load, I have two jobs, a 4-year-old son and I am attempting to prepare to apply to master’s degree programs. Needless to say, my plate is full.

As I talk with my classmates, I found, not to my surprise, that their plates are just as full as mine. Students are pulling their hair out trying desperately to keep up with a full course load of 16-19 credit hours, work enough hours to support themselves financially and attempting a few hours’ rest at night.

With my son turning five next year, I have started looking at schools for him and seeing what the elementary education system looks like. The discussion of homework for young children has been a conversation for many years, and there are many ongoing studies on the effects of too much homework on young children.

As I read through the many articles and opinion pieces on elementary homework load, I began to wonder why college students are so overloaded, yet no one seems to say or do anything about the problem.

Unfortunately, college students have many things working against them. The largest of these problems is money. Not just money to pay for school and books, but money to pay for food, housing, clothing, a car, gas, cell phone, insurance and other miscellaneous out of pocket expenses that always pop up. 

Most college students will not have a job that pays over ten dollars an hour, and will most likely have to work around 20-30 hours a week just to keep afloat. Pair that with a 16-19 credit hour school schedule and study time and it’s no wonder college students are sleep deprived.

It’s time to change how we go to college. I think we can all agree that college is too expensive, but that is another article in itself. College is supposed to help students be prepared to enter to their field of study. This requires study time in school, internships, hands on practice with their work, etc.

With the way students are pressured to take as many courses as possible, it adds additional stress for students to find the time to find internships and job experience in their field. On top of that, many internships are unpaid, which would cause financial stress to the student.

There is this idea that students need to finish a bachelor’s degree in four years. I hear chatter from students all the time “I need to graduate on time!” or “I won’t graduate on time. I am going to be a super senior.” We are not in high school anymore and should not be held to this class system of defining students.

College is a place of learning, not a social class system of grade levels. The world is changing and it’s extremely obvious that the economic situation has changed over the past 10 years alone. Colleges need to change and grow with the times by adapting to the lives that college students now live.

Just going to classes and not working is a thing of the far past. Colleges should adapt their requirements for full time students to better fit the lives of students today. Setting full time status at nine credits and encouraging students to look for internships and jobs that would give them work experience would work better for their schedules.

Lessening the workload per class would also help adapt to the times. Yes, as students we would most likely have to take more classes and be in school longer. However, in the long run we will not have burnt ourselves out in the process and we will have allowed ourselves the time gain work experience in the field before completing our degree plan.

Henry David Thoreau states in his novel “Walden”:

“‘But,’ says one, ‘you do not mean that the students should go to work with their hands instead of their heads?’ I do not mean that exactly, but I mean something which he might think a good deal like that; I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”

Thoreau’s novel was published in 1854. It is time to start learning from this great philosopher’s ideas and start adapting them into the college experience. College students should not have to study or work themselves to death. They should be granted the experience of life in addition to a good education.

Aimee Coons is an opinion writer  for Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]