Almost everyone at the 5Cs is busy. We all have a million
assignments, extracurricular activities, interviews, social engagements and
general errands. We run our lives with a fervor that can only belong to the
overbooked. We pride ourselves on being busy, because at the 5Cs, that constantly
seems to be the metric to which we measure our own self-worth. Too much on your
plate and haven’t broken down yet? You must belong here.
Yet what I have found time and time again during my time at
Claremont McKenna College is that there is a huge difference between being busy and putting effort
into your work. Being busy diverges from being a student, friend and classmate whom everyone—including your professors, peers and community as a whole—can
This column is not meant to be a scathing examination of our
community or of individual students. I myself have often fallen into the ‘busyness trap.’ I have also seen how much it hurts the experiences of
others and myself in both classes and relationships, and I don’t want to see the same
happen to other students. At the end of the day, there are three pillars of effort in college that have stuck
out to me. While this list is not exhaustive in the slightest, I hope that it
will spark your own thoughts about what it means to be ‘busy’ versus what it
means to put in ‘effort.’
Effort means taking the time to show people you care. I think
that this is unfortunately one that we—or at least, one that I—often forget to do.
Relationships at the 5Cs are incredibly important; I am sure that for many of us,
relationships are what keep us going when we are overwhelmingly stressed.
Perhaps we take certain people for granted. Maintaining those relationships and
taking care of those who take care of you takes time. It often becomes too
easy to place an impending deadline higher on the
priority list than simply checking in with a friend.
Every choice comes with a cost, and putting relationships on
the sideline has significant, often negative impacts on our relationships, our own well-being as individuals, and the
cohesiveness of our community.
Effort means accountability. Beyond simply being on time,
accountability truly means doing what you say and doing it when you promised.
Accountability means showing respect to peers and also creating intellectual space for
genuine thought on all those final projects coming up. The line on your resume
saying you did an activity should not be what matters (though it often plays a factor). Instead, the quality and
integrity with which you worked should be prioritized. Frankly, you might
actually learn something rather than squandering these opportunities in a night-before-deadline rush.
Effort means really putting in the work to learn in a class and not
just to get an A. I think that this is the hardest for high-achieving
students to truly come to terms with. Until I lost out on an amazing class, I did not fully grasp and take this emphasis on learning to heart as a core goal of mine. My grade in that class was still an A, but at the end I knew I could have learned much more and pushed
myself much further if I had truly done what was asked of me: challenge myself to think.
At the beginning of the semester, our professors do not sit before us asking us
to focus on getting an A. The goal may be implicit, but the focus
is always on challenging ourselves and taking the most we can from the class.
That means doing the readings, picking topics that may need more
time to research, and putting out ideas that aren’t so easy to understand.
Busyness doesn’t allow us to do all the readings or to delve into topics we
know very little about. For most of the students I know, taking too much time
on any one assignment without a high chance of receiving an A is
essentially unbearable. Still, the more we change this paradigm, the more we
will truly learn and grow. It may be that extra effort that produces a project or a paper
that is actually worth being proud of, providing an intellectual platform and
Granted, putting in effort is hard by definition and in
practice. But, when done correctly, it is also incredibly rewarding. Busyness, on the other hand, tends to be a hollow promise that things will improve if we
just put another line on our resumes. A shift toward effort rather than an
overwhelming schedule takes individual decisions that are difficult to make at the high-achieving campuses of the 5Cs. Nevertheless, I believe that adjusting our attitudes will completely change our communities and our experiences for the better.
Isabel Wade CM ’16 is an international relations major with a French dual (minor) hailing from the United States’s chilly northern neighbor. She recently returned from spending seven months in West Africa and hopes to go back soon.