Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

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Our Confusing Calendar

After the most wonderful time of the year comes the most stressful time of the year…

Last Tuesday, I turned in my Junior Paper (colloquially known as a JP)—a semester’s worth of work compiled into a 24-page document. You’d think after I pressed submit that all the weight would be lifted off of my shoulders, that I could finally breathe easily. Sadly, that was not the case, because exactly one week later I had final papers due for two of my other classes. With Dean’s Date (the day papers are due and consequently an unofficial Princeton holiday) squarely behind me, now must surely be time to relax. Alas, it isn’t, because final exams are just around the corner!

If you’re anywhere near as confused as I was my freshman year, I'll explain:

Our unusual schedule is my favorite least favorite thing about Princeton… or my least favorite favorite thing about Princeton. Nearly three years in, I haven’t completely decided, so let’s just say the schedule and I have a love/hate relationship. Essentially, in lieu of having finals in December, they take place in January after a three-week winter “break.” The first three weeks of January are then devoted to studying for tests, writing papers and submitting final projects, with the ultimate reward being a week-long Intersession break for the last week of the month. The spring semester then begins the day after the Super Bowl.

I’m not going to expound on the joys and pains of our innovative schedule, a topic frequently discussed around campus at this time. Briefly though, the pros are these: less stress as classes wrap up, more time to prepare (read: procrastinate) for finals, an extra break in January. The cons are: stress during the holidays, guilt over not studying during the holidays, stress over your guilt over the source of your stress. And here's what I generally take away from reading period:

  1. The struggle is real. Everyone says it, and they are not wrong.  In the same vein… 
  2. Motivation is hard to come by. Even with gems like this posted all over campus (that’s not even the best of it), it’s hard to motivate yourself to stay off Facebook—or Netflix or Hulu or Instagram—and be productive when there’s no definite structure to your day. Sleep and movies sound nice. Studying for tests and writing papers, not so much.  With that said…
  3. You are capable of more than you think. When all the dust of reading period settles, I’m always amazed at and frankly kind of impressed with myself. Not because I absolutely nailed reading period or made it through in particularly spectacular fashion, but because it’s easy to underestimate my ability to get things done. More often than not, I become the biggest obstacle to my own productivity by making a mountain out of a slightly smaller mountain of a task. Ultimately though, reading period ends and I can reward myself with a pat on the back and a very long slumber—and Netflix and Hulu and Instagram.

Now, is this feeling of accomplishment worth a cloud hanging over my three weeks of “holiday” or even a stress-free Super Bowl Sunday? Right now, I’d say “Not so much.” But if you ask me again after finals, while I'm snuggled up in the blanket from this year's Dean's Date giveaway, it'll probably be a different story.