Every semester I get so excited at Margaret R. Adorno’s e-mail, because it means that the course schedule for the new semester is ready. The e-mail always comes at the exact moment when I am totally stressed out by those midterms or papers or assignments. So I forget about the homework I am doing; log into my portal right away; check on courses by major, by professor, or by ratings; and design my schedule for the next semester.
Yet that’s not enough. I then take a deep breath, re-read the catalog, and begin to plan my courses for next next semester all the way until senior year, taking breadth, major and minor requirements, and self-interest all into consideration. Even though this long-term plan is always completely different from the one I made last semester, that doesn’t matter; I call it a “thought-provoking yet rapidly changing self-exploration.”
Looking back, I find that my mindset of choosing the courses for the coming semester is never the same. First year is about discoveries. I don’t care what I am taking, and my course decision is easily influenced by what others say to me (“This professor is a hypocrite: a nice person when teaching and a harsh dude when grading,” or “This class was popular last year; I didn’t get in, so you should have a try this semester,”) and by what classes are still available for the last group of desperate people registering at 4 p.m. the last day.
Sophomore year is about double-checks. Really? I have to declare a major? I don’t want to do that now; at least, I have to make sure I don’t miss anything. As a result, the dialogue goes like this:
“Are you sure you want to be an economics major?”
“Nah, I haven’t taken a psychology intro class yet and I need to try this one. “
Or like this:
“You told me you were thinking about triple-majoring in Politics, Computer Science, and Dance last year.”
“I am actually considering self-designing a major of Physics and European Enlightenment and a minor of Africana Studies right now.”
“Wow, that’s cool. So what are you taking?”
“Well … I don’t know yet.”
And now I am a rising junior. I can’t believe I have had two years in Pomona College already, and that I am as old as a junior. For me, it’s about trade-offs. I have declared my economics major and love it, but every time I check the course schedule of music, philosophy, or theater, I tell myself that I have only two years to take those interesting classes taught by those renowned musicians, philosophers, and actors.
At this point, I am confused about my next step: I don’t want to miss classes like History of Jazz or Physics of Music, some of which are only offered every two years, so it’s my last chance. I don’t want to graduate without deep knowledge of econometrics or corporate finance. I try to make decisions based on what I think I might regret in 20 years or not, but I still don’t know whether I will be more regretful if I have not taken that philosophy of language class or if I have not mastered differential equations and mathematical modeling for the job interview.
Thus, I decide to overload. I add eight courses to my ASPC self-designed schedule and try every one of them the first couple weeks to see what happens. I convince myself that I am still better off, even though I face such trade-offs. At least I notice the trade-offs rather than make myself completely driven by real-world utilitarianism. At least I am thinking about those ideas right now, rather than recollecting and regretting when it is time for my kids to register, so I get to smile again.