Editor’s Column – Failing At Senioritis

College senioritis manifests itself differently than high school senioritis. Colgate is welcoming hundreds of students to Colgate’s class of 2013 this week. After getting over their initial jubilation, (how cool is it to be a member of the class of ’13 at a school that loves the number 13?) most of them will basically check out of high school, and coast towards graduation on auto-pilot. I never actually succumbed to this traditional form of senioritis. The prospect of AP exams held my attention through the middle of May, and my boarding school’s habit of sending the Head of School’s secretary to the dorm rooms of students who slept through class put a damper on any notions of organizing a senior skip day. Senioritis was one of those high school clichés, like going to prom, which just didn’t happen at my all-girls’ school, but I was sure I’d experience senioritis in college.

But at the end of college, seniors face a rather different sense of finality. This is the first time in our lives when there is not a uniform next step, and we’re all heading off in very different directions. When I registered for classes in November, I was very conscious of the fact that these four courses would be the last ones I would take in college. But unlike in high school, where saying good-bye to calculus and chemistry seemed delightful, at Colgate, I was struck by how much I hadn’t experienced.

Colgate’s Core classes and distribution requirements and Core classes prevent students from having real control over their courses of study until junior year. Students who are unsure of where their interests lie benefit most from the distribution requirements. But making a student who hates science sit through two science classes is probably not in the best interest of the student or the professor who has to sit through his tedious questions in office hours. The Core program also has its advantages. Western Traditions and the Challenge of Modernity were two of the best classes I have taken at Colgate. They also give students a universal frame of reference; by the end of sophomore year, everyone at Colgate has read the Bible, Homer, Nietzsche, and other canonical works. These two classes set Colgate’s liberal arts curriculum apart from schools. Core Cultures and Core Scientific Perspectives, on the other hand, give the other Core classes a bad name. Now, Colgate is revising Core, and there is talk of adding a fifth Core class, which will take the requirements into students’ junior years, when they really need to be focusing on their majors. Required courses have value, but every course that is required is one less that students are free to choose on their own. Now in my final semester, I wish I had been able to take a philosophy class instead of that torturously dull Scientific Perspectives Core or the geology class that nearly ruined by GPA.

College senioritis is not as much a sense of longing to escape; instead, it is more of a sense of longing to make the most of the experience while you still can. So last November, I registered for a class that was completely different from anything I had ever taken. Ever conscious of my GPA, I decided to take the unknown subject with the S/U grading option, and felt like a complete underachiever handing the declaration form to the registrar. Colgate offers the S/U option to juniors and seniors to take a class that doesn’t fulfill any requirements for their major or minor. Its purpose is to encourage a math major to take a Shakespeare class, and an English major to give economics a try. The S/U grading option is extremely effective at getting students to broaden their horizons, much more so than the distribution requirements.

Taking my “slacker” course, I find that I have played right into Colgate’s hand. Instead of skipping classes and neglecting the reading because, after all, I only need a 70 average to receive an “S” in the course, I find that I’m doing all the reading assignments, simply because I find them interesting. And despite my best efforts to slack off, I somehow managed to get a B+ on the first paper. I originally thought the S/U grading option was Colgate’s way of caving to the pressures of senioritis; now, I realize it is actually their way to combat it. By allowing seniors to “slack off,” they take away the pressure of making the grade and really let us enjoy the class. The S/U option is a great way to explore an area in which you have interest but are unsure of your competence. The next thing you know, you’ll be doing well in the class anyway, despite your best-laid plans. Although, I could just be bad at senioritis; I don’t seem to have a very good track record.