Dan Grover: In your senior year, take advantage of academics

I’m a senior and I’m panicking.

Hopefully I’m not the only one. At least, I don’t think I am. In a conversation with a close friend, we realized that were both struggling with the fact that our college careers were at the beginning of the end.

But we weren’t bemoaning the end of a social scene, or talking about how fast time passes. We both realized some of the things we’ll miss the most after graduation are our classes. For some of us, this is the last time we’ll be in an environment centered around learning – and it’s vital to take advantage of it while we can.

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Dan Grover

First and foremost, don’t blow off a semester. For seniors, it can be tempting to care a bit less for a little while — take a lighter course load, focus on the fun. While everyone can use some time off, it’s counterproductive to devote a semester to something other than what we’re here for: to learn.

I mean, I get it. After three years of hard work I don’t exactly want to stress myself out over the next two semesters when there are plenty of other things I could be doing. It’s time to think about graduate school, jobs and the shocking reality that in a few short months, we’ll be leaving this place behind. Who has time for class?

But I think that’s exactly the point: We have so little time left here that it’s important to make the most of it, and that can include taking more challenging classes, or classes decidedly out of your comfort zone.

Michelle Steiner, director of undergraduate advising, said that when seniors take challenging classes, they “stay in a learning frame of mind,” and keep up habits like critical thinking and problem solving.

It’s best to use what limited time you have to take classes you never thought you would, or even take classes that would give your resume a boost when it’s time to look for a job. Or, you could just take classes that you genuinely love.

This semester I’ve filled my schedule with creative writing courses. I absolutely love to write, and a lot of these classes have been important to my major. I also know that college is one of the few places where I’ll have the opportunity to work with established writers and to get peer feedback regularly. That’s something that I can’t pass up, especially when I know it will be gone come May.

In the same vein, it can be fun to take advantage of a class outside of your major or school. Steiner said that when a senior is looking to fill elective credits, advisers “encourage taking something he or she didn’t have the opportunity to explore but wants to try, or something for which he or she has a passion.”

For example, a friend of mine who is an international affairs major is taking “Religion, Myth, and Magic” in the anthropology department – not because it has any bearing on his major, but because the class sounds interesting. Plus, it may be the last time he has a chance to study the origins of religion.

One of the things I’ve heard recent graduates say this time of year is that they wish they were starting classes all over again. The real world doesn’t invite you to learn. It makes demands of a specialized role, and expects them fulfilled.

So let’s take one last year to explore, to make mistakes and poke around. After all, we’re still in school – at least for now. Don’t sell yourselves short, Class of 2016.

Dan Grover, a senior majoring in English, is a Hatchet columnist. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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