October is the month of judgment. At home in New Jersey, my family's supermarket usually names the months according to various grocery specials. "Frozen Food Month" is usually January; "Fresh Vegetables Month," April; "Bakery Month," September. As a child, I would stare at the grocery bags telling me which month it was, perhaps searching for some guidance in my complex 4-year-old life. Presumably, I was expected to plan according to the bags, stocking up on broccoli, frozen pizzas and danishes at different times of the year. Instead, what I usually did was just wonder with depressed amazement that there was never a "Junk Food that the Other Cooler Moms Buy Except My Mom Who Refuses to Buy Me Sugary Cereals Month." Then I would look longingly at the Fruity Pebbles in some other family's cart and sigh as our 600th box of Total bleeped the supermarket scanner. But once we leave our childhood, the way we distinguish the months from one another changes entirely. Gone are the friendly and carefree frozen food months. Welcome to the college month system: January is "Start New Classes Month;" April, "Get Nervous about Finals Month;" December, "Freeze in Poorly Heated House Month." And then there comes October, one of the most hated months of all. While everyone else in the Northeast and New England enjoys watching the leaves change colors, picking apples and buying candy for Halloween -- my house gave out toothbrushes and floss -- college students are left to endure "Judgment Month." Unlike any other month in the semester, October is when the pressure reaches its apex. Midterms pile on, the papers build up and the first deadlines for summer jobs creep up. October is the month when we have to ask professors for recommendations. (Insert foreboding music here.) This past week, in typical Month o' Judgment form, I asked a professor for a recommendation for a summer job. Rather than giving me a forced and average, "Sure, I'd love to write my 987th recommendation" smile, I instead was told that in order to receive a letter from this professor, I would have to create a packet of my academic profile including all the courses I've ever taken, all the professors I've ever had, all the grades I've ever received, the titles of all the papers I've ever written and what I've enjoyed in all the classes I've ever taken. As if the midterms and papers weren't enough to ruin what could've been a perfectly happy "Dried Fruit Month." Understanding that forcing me to compile my entire academic life history at Penn was a method this professor used to write well-informed recommendations -- or to create such a hassle that students would give up -- I decided, "too much work, I'll ask someone else." As I sat in the library this past weekend, no longer able to concentrate, I figured, "Why not try to write the academic history, just for kicks?" A job I expected to take me a half-hour took two hours instead. While I expected my academic history to make me feel like a well-rounded student, what I found instead was that I usually limit myself in the classes I take. After loving History in high school, I have yet to take one History course at Penn. I've never taken a completely bizarre class like Advanced Sitar, for God's sake. How can I call myself an educated person? When done, I realized that taking inventory, though tedious, is even more essential to me as a student than it would be to my professor. When you take inventory of your academic career, you realize where the holes are. The key to taking inventory is to do it before it's too late, while you still have semesters left to fill in the gaps and make up for past mistakes. Have you taken classes only to realize at the end of the semester that you haven't learned anything? Take more classes to compensate. Have you taken only classes for your major and minor? Audit something different to fill the hole made by uniformity. Maybe the supermarkets had the right idea with their taking inventory. As time for choosing classes rolls around next week, don't let November become "Only Three Weeks Until Thanksgiving Month." Take inventory of yourself, and decide what's missing.Comments powered by Disqus
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