Why 12 credits is just fine
In my capacity as an academic advisor I interact with about 50 students a week on average. Of those 50 about 48 have the exact same question every time they come see me. “How fast can I get the hell out of here?”
I sometimes feel like the one skill they really learned in college was finding the minimum requirements and learning how to do just enough to meet them. Your deftness at plumbing the depths of mediocrity is not something that looks good on a resume under the special skills section.
But time and time again students sit down and ask me for the quickest route out of college. It is the stupidest thing you can say to me. I would rather have you come in, pick your nose, and flick the booger in my eye.
Here is the honest truth…there isn’t a single employer in the world that will care how fast you completed your degree. They will never ask that question. They want to know what you did in school, not how fast you got through it.
So if your educational goal is to get hired then college should be a time set aside for doing the things that will get you hired. And taking 21 credits and doing the bare minimum in all of them will never get you hired. You will have a piece of paper that says you went to school, but trust me, you didn’t get educated.
The culture in Utah encourages young people to get married soon and to start making babies almost immediately. Consequently we have one of the youngest populations in the country. I am OK with that…babies and marriage are great things, and they are an educational experience unlike any you will find in college. But this tendency towards young families usually means that the vast majority of my students work, and many of them work full time.
This busy schedule of work and family infuses education in Utah with a sense of urgency…”I have to get done with school as fast as possible so I can start making the big bucks.” This mentality sometimes causes us to make poor decisions when it comes to planning our education. There is a tendency to bite off more than we can chew…and in the end our education suffers.
So when the average student comes in to my office and they see the picture of my daughter on my desk and they start talking about the two little ones they have at home, and then they talk about the full-time job they have, and then they talk about taking 18 credits this upcoming semester…I usually cringe. You just can’t do it. One of those roles is going to suffer, and when it comes to kids and keeping a roof over their heads…well, let’s face it, it is school that is always going to get the short end of the stick.
My advice to these students is almost always the same: Take it easy. Be realistic. Your semester plan should allow plenty of room for you to succeed. Instead of having to ask profs for special accommodations for your busy schedule you should be asking them what extra work they can give you.
Television and the movies have spent the past century perpetrating the myth that college is something you do for four years. That model is based on some pretty outdated assumptions. Our expectations of college are grounded in old paradigms that were built around a student body that was rich, white, male, single, not working while in school, and lived on campus all four years. College was an inherited privilege that few enjoyed. Those assumptions haven’t been the reality for the last 60 years. Today’s student body is as diverse as the country itself. Yet we still hang onto the baggage of the college ideal of yesteryear. Nowadays the average student completes college in six years. In Utah that number is more like seven.
The GIs returning from Word War II and the civil rights movement that followed effectively ended the university’s perpetual privilege machine and threw the doors wide open so that everyone could get an education. But a relic of the ancient university is this notion that school should be completed in four years. Do not fall for this myth. Take your time. Look for opportunities to get experience while you are here.
Twelve credits a semester…that is just fine.
This article was previously published at http://www.vegorpedersen.com/why-12-credits-is-just-fine