Making the Tough Choices

At the end of every month, I sit down and sketch out my calendar for the next 30 days. As a freshman, scheduling was about preference, not necessity, but I look at my calendar now and it’s filled with no less than three commitments per time slot, squeezed in wherever I can make it work. Then it’s my task to go through and trade the lowest priorities to make room for the higher ones. I’m like Brad Pitt in Moneyball, cutting players in a desperate effort to draft a winning team.

The thing is, the further we get into our college careers, the less likely we are to have a schedule that fits together seamlessly. Meetings and classes and rehearsals and practices inevitably overlap, and what’s a student to do? We choose the top priority and make apologies for the rest. We quit what’s unnecessary but even what’s left is bound to conflict at least a little. How do we decide what we go to and what we skip?

Until recently, the fact that class should be the first priority was a no-brainer. We’re paying to be here so that we can do just that: go to class. But is that always such a clear-cut truth? The fact is that there really is no way to fit absolutely everything in while giving it all 100 percent effort and attendance; something’s got to give. Is there ever a case in which the least important priority is academic?

When I came to Fordham, I had a huge argument with my dad — I wanted to study in the liberal arts, not business; I didn’t want to sacrifice my opportunity to learn things I cared about just to secure a job. I won that battle, but it’s starting to feel like I’m facing it again…and this time, I might be on the other side of things. This week, when my internship offered me a great opportunity, I chose to skip class and do that instead. And, even though it might be frowned upon, I’ll stand by my opinion that it was the right decision, because it was what worked for me.

It’s nice to think that maybe students used to go to class, do a sport, maybe join a club and be able to trust that good grades would be enough to get them where they wanted to go in life. But, the model for the transition from post-secondary education to subsequent employment has changed so drastically in the past few decades that it actually has influenced the very motivation behind academia. Even the most die-hard scholar would give up a class or two for an interview for his or her dream job.

Here’s what it comes down to: you have to make your education work for you. If you’re not an art history major headed for Columbia graduate school who absolutely needs a 3.8 to continue living, don’t try to be! I think it’s okay sometimes to take the hit academically in order to make room for something that will benefit you more in the long run.

Of course, you’re not helping anyone if you let your grades fall completely by the wayside, but give yourself some room to move. It might turn out to be the best decision you’ve made in a while.


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