Leaving time for focus

This quote from a recent Chronicle article Infantilized by Academe struck me, particularly with the chaos of the end of the academic year:

Our students are often more distracted than we are, and so inured to distraction that they are unlikely to notice it. As other commentators have argued, the process of gaining admission to selective American colleges now requires presenting an array of accomplishments so vast and varied that any reflection that might accompany them is purely incidental.

This thought resonates with recent conversations I’ve been having with students and colleagues about the amount that students try to take on, and the difficulty many students have in recognizing the real cost of doing more. Yes, you can take on more courses and activities, but you will sacrifice the depth of attention each one can receive.

It creates an advising problem for me. By nature, I encourage my students to challenge themselves. Take the hard course they are interested in. Take on research projects. But I’m also finding myself trying to figure out how to advise moderation without advising complacency. Don’t sign up for three upper-level, project-based courses in the same semester – pick the one (or maybe two) that you care about, and make sure you get everything you can out of those courses. Don’t try to complete three or four programs – particularly if you’ll find yourself completing multiple capstones in the same semester and not able to fully dedicate yourself to any of them.

Or, at least, make those choices with your eyes open about what you’ll be sacrificing by going after quantity and decide that it’s a sacrifice you’re comfortable making.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *