Opinion: Give students a break

Courtesy of Tribune News Service

We hear a lot about the importance of work/life balance for maintaining health and happiness. And it makes a lot of intuitive sense; making sure that you pair structured work time with an adequate amount of personal time to relax and recover can help you minimize your stress and maximize your productivity. The challenge is finding the line between the two.

 In the world of 9-to-5 jobs, achieving this is straightforward: When you clock in, it’s work time, and when you clock out, it’s personal time. In a university setting, it’s more complicated to separate the two. When does school time end and personal time begin? Spring break has been over for fewer than 24 hours, and I already have assignments due. To meet these deadlines, I had to take homework and study guides on vacation, which, needless to say, kind of killed the vibe. Can that really be considered a “break?” I don’t think so. It is my contention that the university needs to make a more clear distinction between school time and personal time by encouraging a balanced lifestyle and not allowing any due dates to be placed the week after spring break.

It is no secret that college students are stressed. This is especially evident the week before spring break; students stay up till all hours of the night drinking ungodly amounts of coffee and cramming for midterms — the general despair is plain for all to see. While this level of stress is manageable in the short term, this sort of behavior is unsustainable. These students are running on empty and will eventually have to crash, which is why it is crucial that students be allowed time to disconnect and unwind. Instead, because of the deadlines immediately following spring break, they usually have to think about that novel they have to read, the test they have to study for or the paper they have to write. This undermines students’ abilities to recharge and come back to school refreshed and ready to learn.

Furthermore, loading up spring breaks with assignments makes it difficult for students who choose to work from catching up on course material and school related errands. Personally, I had to spend much of the break fixing paperwork errors in my FAFSA application and figuring out my internship schedule for the summer; piling assignments on top of that made the whole process far more exhausting than it had any right to be. 

It is in the university’s best interest to carve out time for students to get these things done —especially for things like scholarship and financial aid applications that directly affect the school’s bottom line — so why doesn’t it?

But having time off is not just medically and practically important, it’s emotionally important too. Many students return home for the break; those students should be able to be fully present when they spend time with their friends and families without feeling like they are shirking their responsibilities. School should not invade every aspect of a student’s life and detract from the things that are most important. If it does, then something is fundamentally wrong.

Mixing work and personal time is bad for students and the university shouldn’t facilitate it. Having assignments directly after a break puts unnecessary stress on students and makes the break itself pointless. I’m not advocating that the University coddle its students, I’m just saying that a week off should be a week off. Let students rest and regain their energy — they’re going to need it.


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