Swickard: Time, the great destroyer of students

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. Last week I wrote about standing in line at college. So this week I pondered the lessons from my time in college. During my career at college I came to understand that time is the great destroyer of college students. Understand, it is not having too much time or, as most think, too little time doing the damage.
      Rather, it is the act of saying, “I don’t have to do this assignment now, I have plenty of time.” When we say that to ourselves, one part of our brain thinks, “Wait a second, you just don’t feel like doing it now.”
      While we mull this over the North and South parts of our brain go through some rationalizations: “If I don’t spend the evening studying, I’ll flunk the test.” This is countered by “No, you won’t, you really want to go out tonight.” Hmmm, “I want to go out tonight, but I don’t want to flunk the test.”
      That lazy brain says “You can study when you get back, there's plenty of time.” Well, “After the party I won’t feel like studying.” College logic, “You don’t feel like studying now!” But but,“But I don’t want to flunk.” One voice gets the upper hand, “You won’t flunk. Besides right now everyone else in the class is out partying, you will do at least as good as them and since the course is graded on the curve you will get a C and heck, a C is OK.”
      “Well, maybe you are right; I’ll go for a little time.” Time passes. It is now 2:00 a.m. and you sit at your desk. You have recreated until closing time. The words in the book swim before your eyes when North and South speak again: “I have to read the material.” Yawn, “You don’t want to read the book; you want to go to bed so you will be fresh for the test in just 6 hours. Go to bed now and get up an hour early, you’ll still have plenty of time.”
      “You’re right; I’ll get up an hour early.”
       As you drag into class at 8:32 a friend asks if you studied. You say, “A little.”
       What you don’t say to your fellow classmate is that you woke up at 8:23 a.m. which didn’t leave much time to do all of the studying you had been avoiding. You begin writing. As you scan the test questions you recognize a word here and there, but you wonder if you sat down in the wrong classroom.
       While grading your paper the professor notices your fine work such as, “Christopher Columbus discovered America with his ships the Nina, the Ford Pinto and the Santa Fe.”
       Your professor is not amused and rewards your work with the grade of an F minus, minus, minus. When you get your paper back you say to yourself, “Well, I still have other tests. I can pull my grade up to a C if I get an A on a couple of them. I’ll start studying tonight.”
       There’s that voice, “But I thought you were going to go out tonight.” “I don’t want to flunk the course.”
       “You won’t, you have plenty of time to study.” “Yeah, you’re right, I have plenty of time to study, but I’m going to start studying tomorrow so I can ace the other tests.” Read full column