Tom Braslavsky: The case for fall break

What do seven out of eight Ivy League schools, along with American, Georgetown and Howard University, have in common with each other, but not with GW? No, I’m not talking about aesthetically-pleasing campuses with more than just a semblance of greenery. What I’m talking about is, all of these schools have some form of a fall break, while we get zero days off from Labor Day until Thanksgiving.

It’s October. You’re finally used to your classes and routine and are trying to get a good balance of work and play. All of a sudden, you’re hit with a period that some people call “hell,” but which is also known by its technical name: midterms. Your studying and paper-writing load increase dramatically, and exams start attacking left and right. Hello, sleepless nights.

Yet, oddly, we have no days off in the month of October. No extra days to use for studying. No extra days to de-stress at an increasingly nerve-racking time of year, no time before, after or during midterms. I’ve heard of students feeling so stressed that they were affected psychologically. Couldn’t situations such as these be eased by some extra, unburdened time?

Add to my list of concerns GW’s annual Colonials Weekend. Every year in mid-October, while midterms are still going on, students are expected to host their parents for a weekend. Do we get an extra day for studying? Negative.

I remember that weekend last year. While I was spending time with my visiting family, I constantly had the following week’s midterms in the back of my mind. I felt extremely pressed for time and had an unrelenting dilemma: family time versus study time. It angered me that I was being forced to choose between family ties and my grades – a decision being pushed on me by the University’s scheduling. If we could have at least one day to compensate for study time lost on Colonials Weekend, that would be a significant improvement.

But those are not the only reasons for supporting a fall break. Second semester, we get seven official days off. Include the Saturday and Sundays of said weekends and that’s 13 days to relax, travel, see family, study and do whatever. These activities are conducive to keeping students physically and psychologically fit, as well as keeping them at the top of their game in class. First semester, however, we only get three days off (seven if you count weekends). Why the large discrepancy?

Instituting some sort of a fall break, from even just one day linked to a weekend (as at Georgetown) to a full week right after midterms (Princeton), would provide a nice rest in the busy space between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Midterms are here for the next few weeks, Colonials Weekend is around the corner and studying is in full swing. Why not make like so many other leading and local universities, and have fall break at GW?

The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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