Imagine lounging in front of a roaring fire with a delicious hot beverage and mellow holiday tunes playing on the radio. You are catching up with your favorite aunt or uncle, laughing between bites of pumpkin pie. You feel like you have zero cares in the world, when suddenly a horrifying and thoroughly unwelcome thought creeps into your mind: you have a fifteen-page paper due Monday, and you have not started it yet.
The holiday season is a stressful time of the year for most adults for all kinds of different reasons. Some people scramble to prepare their homes for guests; others scrape together savings to purchase gifts for their families. Still others — the bright young minds acquiring knowledge and valuable life lessons at college — face endless stacks of assignments, research papers and final exams before they can even think about enjoying the holidays.
In some minds, this is a perfectly fair situation. Students at Elizabethtown College and similar schools know what they are getting into; the workload is without mercy. Typical comments from non-students include: “This is what you’re paying thousands of dollars for!”, “Hard work will serve you well in the end!”, “You’ve been working your rear end off all semester; don’t give up now!”, et cetera.
That is all well and good until you start making dying whale noises every time you add to your to-do list and your bloodstream turns to pure caffeine.
I would like to argue that, although college students are often capable of more than they give themselves credit, everyone has their limits. Pushing these limits too far can be incredibly dangerous. The end of the fall semester is chaotic enough without assignments looming over our heads throughout Thanksgiving break. To minimize the stress of the last few weeks of the semester, I would much prefer that papers and tests be done before Thanksgiving.
I know very well that some of my classmates find this perspective illogical; having everything due right before the break might make these last couple November weeks nightmarishly busy. I get it. I’m already feeling like this has been the most demanding month of my college career.
On the other hand, I like to keep the holiday season as carefree as possible. I would much rather get the difficult weeks over with and be able to enjoy time with my family without panicking every few minutes at the thought of everything I still need to do for my classes. I find myself constantly fantasizing about how relaxing winter break will be, and then I snap back into cold reality: there is still a long way to go.
I am sure there are plenty of other benefits to getting things done sooner rather than later. I assume it gives professors a nice cushion of grading time before finals week rolls around. It would also allow students more study time, giving us the chance to better prepare for exams. I have always believed that projects and papers push studying to the back burner, leading me to scramble when finals week begins. With all of my other assignments out of the way, I presume that I would do considerably better on my finals.
Of course, one’s feelings on this subject probably have something to do with his or her major and the classes they happen to be taking. As an English major, I typically have several major research papers or literary analyses due just before — or during — final exams. It is overwhelming to try to focus on all of them at once, and I would definitely prefer to get them out of the way beforehand. Other students have very different schedules and might benefit from a more traditional timeline.
There are endless pros and cons to weigh regarding this topic, and opinions tend to be split fairly evenly. However, I do not see myself ever changing sides on this issue. When I am biting my nails out of stress throughout Thanksgiving break, I feel like I am disrespecting my family and wasting one of my favorite days of the year. Although turning in all of my papers beforehand is a daunting thought, I think it is preferable to spending my holiday detached instead of preoccupied. While I am grateful that my professors allow students as much time as possible in which to get the work done, it seems more like a disservice when it overshadows such an otherwise warm and joyful time of year.