Dropping Out – Part 3 – Conclusion

I believe in taking responsibility for myself, so I recognize that this situation is no one’s fault but my own. I failed to read the degree audit correctly, and I failed to ask for help sooner. That being said, I don’t think there were many options for helping me–the classes I needed weren’t offered at night, and if I had realized three or four years ago that I needed so many upper-level classes and that they would only be available during the day, I’d have quit college as soon as I got a full time job.

I met with my advisor earlier, which was really helpful. As frustrated as I am with all this, it is difficult to see anything other than black or white. Either I can drop out, or I can put my nose to the grindstone and push through two more years of classes in which I am not interested, wasting my time. Lora proposed a middle-way.

Suggesting I apply some Buddhist philosophy to my studies, she suggested I let go of the concept of a deadline, let go of both the desire for finishing as well as my concern for writing time. By looking at the situation a bit more calmly, there are many more options than either bull-dozing through or quitting altogether.

The frustration I have experienced with my college education over the last several years has been due primarily to taking classes I needed but in which I was not interested. These were classes that were required by my degree program, and while the originating principle was a fine ideal, in practice it turned out pretty meaningless. I have a transcript full of classes that made no impact on me and in which I learned next to nothing.

After next semester, however, I will be done with the classes that I need, and I am in a position (having finished all my requirements in addition to being able to take courses for free since I work here) that offers me the luxury of having options. Rather than viewing this as an either-or (put life on hold for two more years so I can finish by taking classes I detest VS. dropping out), I can slow down and learn to enjoy college again. There are certainly classes I want to take, and next semester is a good example of that; I am excited to study the Talmud under Dr. Watts-Belser, and I have missed poetry workshop. After that, Lora advised I keep an eye on the schedules (English and Religious Studies) and watch for upper-division classes I will enjoy. If I see one or two offered at night that I want to take, I take them. If I don’t, I don’t. Maybe I’ll have a semester or two off, and maybe I’ll have a busy semester, but I’ll be assured of only taking classes in which I have an interest.

And in a few years, they’ll hand me a piece of paper.

The bright spots of my college career are few, but I value them. I learned how to read and study Hebrew. I competed nationally at Model United Nations and did very well, and in so doing I learned how to politic and debate better than I did in high school. I learned lots and lots about the New Testament and the parables of Jesus, and I learned the value of good translations and critical thinking. I learned how to research and write. I helped an Israeli student learn about the United States government, and I helped a lot of students learn about the Bible through a college ministry I co-founded. I learned a lot about Buddhism in perhaps my favourite class of my college career. And yet, all-told that’s only about 6-10 classes, less than two semester’s worth (as a full time student), in 6.5 years.

Now is my opportunity, Lora said, to find more bright spots. There’s nothing stopping me from only taking classes I enjoy at this point. No more gen eds, no more requirements (other than course level). There is a 500-level class offered in the evening this summer on the book of Jeremiah. There are a couple of other upper-level classes next year I might enjoy.

What’s more, she said that it should be feasible now to do this through night classes. Last night and this morning, as I considered all this, part of why I was overwhelmed was that I would have to take all those upper-division classes during the day. I’ve been taking night classes for years, and there just aren’t that many upper-division courses offered at night. The few that are simply aren’t applicable to my interests or education (things like Real Estate and other professionally focused classes).

Lora shared that this is changing, and the Religious Studies department in particular met recently to discuss the matter. For years, Continuing Education has taken departments at their word that degree programs could be completed through night classes. Now Continuing Ed is actually looking at programming to make sure it can happen, and for a lot of departments, it couldn’t. They’re going to enforce this requirement or revoke Continuing Ed status (the degree program would no longer be listed as an option for Continuing Education, which hurts the chance that people will enroll in that program), so departments are going to start offering more night classes.

The head of the Religious Studies department told me this was going to happen three years ago (that they would start offering more night classes… he retired soon afterwards and it never really happened), but maybe this time it’s true. We have a different president now, and the University is a different place. Maybe it’s possible.

Either way, it is a compromise with which I am comfortable. I stop worrying about it all and, more than likely, drop down to one class a semester (except for next semester when I will finish the last two classes actually required for my degree). I’ll focus on night classes only, because truth be told I really prefer night classes. After years of them, I don’t feel you can accomplish enough in a single hour for it to be worthwhile. I’ll take only classes I enjoy and that I feel are worthwhile.

As Lora put it, I should focus on my writing, and I should focus on taking classes that enrich my writing. Studying the Talmud next semester will affect how I write and approach writing, so that’s a good educational opportunity. Studying Jeremiah and digging into Hebrew again can do the same. I should approach classes that will further my priorities, and if they don’t further my priorities, I don’t need to worry about it.

And if I keep taking classes in which I am interested, there’s a good chance that I’ll get a degree in a few years. I only need 5 more classes after next semester, after all, and if I’m only taking one class every 1-2 semesters (as they become available), I’ll have plenty of time to write while still learning things in which I am interested.

She also talked with the head of the Religious Studies department who said I could probably take a one credit hour reading course with someone to finish a bit sooner. I actually need 13 hours of upper-division classes after next semester, so instead of taking five 3-hour courses, I could take four 3-hour and one 1-hour to make it a bit quicker. That’s a nice option.

Bottom line, I’m still frustrated, but this middle way is attractive and reasonable. I’m glad I’ve got an advisor like Lora Hobbs.

PS The Religious Studies department now has an option for a Bachelor of Science as opposed to a Bachelor of Arts. If the BS didn’t require the 40 hours, I’d maybe do that, but my passion surprised me while meeting with Lora. I told her that I was frustrated that courses like Hebrew 202 didn’t count towards the upper-level requirement despite their difficulty, and mentioned the BS (12 hours of a foreign language are required for BA, but not for BS). Softly pounding my first on the table, I said,

“But I want my BA. I’ve earned it!”

I guess, if given a choice between the two, I want the extra work recognized. At this point, there’s only one difference for me between the BS and the BA: History 104 – History since 1600. I’m going to take a 90 minute test to get that taken care of.

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