In a matter of days, seniors will embark on the very last class registration process of their undergraduate experience. While the 1,739 students who make up the class of 2017 have only a handful of courses left at our beloved institution, their brighter-eyed underclassmen peers will continue to be vying for finite spots in semesters beyond this year’s graduation ceremony. Time leading up to the notorious two weeks of awaking at 7 am and lightening fast mouse clicks are filled with hours spent pouring over course offerings and careful calculations of the minutes it takes to get from one building to the next building. As Spring 2018 registration closes in, it’s important to think critically about the influences and mechanisms guiding your selection process. The promise of a new semester’s fresh start allows for a biannual remember that each class is a unique opportunity to develop new sets of knowledge and grow as a person, rather than simply being a way to satisfy another minor requirement.
One of the many positives about the academic structure at Duke is it’s flexible credit fulfillment system. This was established to give an intellectually-curious student body the chance to explore a wide swath of subjects and determine their own path, even if that meant studying entirely unrelated areas simultaneously. Tour guides frequently boast to visiting crowds of high schoolers and parents that 70 percent of students are doing more than a single major, emphasizing the freedom and ambition that characterize Duke. However, this academic pliability coupled with a culture of glorifying overworking can lead to a toxic educational atmosphere in which one can begin to see the vast assortment of majors, minors and certificates simply as accolades to collect. Zealous students allow their desire to graduate with the most dictate the courses they enlist in rather than considering each class as an individual merit. Undergraduates can find themselves foregoing seminars or lectures that they may truly find interesting in favor of overloading with less stimulating classes in order to tack on yet another minor to their résumés.
Many students think that each additional specialization they earn will be immediately translated into hireability in the job market. While the formal titles given to majors, minors and certificates can be helpful in crafting a strong narrative of a young work force entrant, they will almost never make or break a job application. What matters far more is the relevant courses you have taken during your time at Duke. Of course, it would be unrealistic and naïve to implore you to enter registration with a completely open mind, disregarding the requirements set forth by academic advisors. However, it does bode well to remember that each class is a unique opportunity to learn new things from experts and develop a stronger understanding of your passions. Rather than thinking about how to compile a mile long list of certificates, think about the things you want to leave Duke knowing and having experienced. Because, before long, it’ll be the eve of your last semester too.
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