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Columnist Franklin Li considers the benefits of not packing our schedules during course registration. Credit: Adrienne Evans

Penn students are good at planning. Many times in class, I have seen a student in front of me editing a Google sheet with the courses that they plan to take for the next couple of years. I am often amazed by the academic plans of people around me, which include dual degrees, double or triple majors, and multiple minors.

Yet not all of us are able to carry out our plans to the end, and still fewer have learned to recognize their limits in advance and refrain from being overly ambitious.

Penn has an unhealthy burnout culture. We strive to achieve academic success at all costs, ignoring sleep, mental health, extracurricular activities, and more. It is no secret that Penn has one of the most depressed student populations among top colleges in the country, and this burnout culture, fueled by academic pressure, is a significant part of the reason.

What exacerbates that culture is how most people appear to always be on top of things. No matter how much we are going through, we put up a Penn Face and pretend that we are cruising through the semester. Everyone around us seems to be feeling good or doing well.

While we cannot change this somewhat toxic external environment, we can make our own lives easier. One important way to prevent burnout is to be less ambitious during course registration.

According to upperclassmen, it is easy to underestimate the workload of our schedules. When we pack our primary cart with five or six course units, we think we can handle it, just as easily as everyone else seems to. Even if we cannot, we tell ourselves that we will have the good sense to drop a particularly difficult course in time. The choice to take it pass/fail also prompts us to be even bolder.

But more often than not, our classes turn out to be harder and more time-consuming than we expect. Still, many of us are not going to drop a class that only has a few slots and is hard to get into. When we see others who seem to tackle heavier workloads, we also are more willing to grind than accept our incompetence. Towards the end of the semester, when we stare at an assignment or paper at 12 a.m. in a library, we realize how exhausted we are and regret our course registration decisions.

Some of us did not get all the classes we had hoped for when open enrollment started on Tuesday. If the class is needed for successful progression inside the major, then it is definitely worth the effort to request permission on Path@Penn, get onto the waitlist, and contact the registrar or the professor. But if your schedule is already looking packed, and the class is not a must, there are other options.

You can just forget about the class for now and take it later, especially if the class is not a prerequisite for other classes. If you are a first year or sophomore, is there really a rush to take 4000- and 5000-level courses that count towards a concentration or an accelerated master’s? We can instead budget time for extracurriculars, friends, or ourselves. We have four to six more chances to take a class, but we have only one chance to live our college life to its fullest.

Another option is to replace it with another class that does not count towards the major. The Daily Pennsylvanian recently listed a few courses that are interesting and easy. If any of these courses satisfies one of your unfulfilled general education requirements, it is worth a try.

As finals season approaches, you might be grateful for a class that you did not get, dropped, or switched into at the last minute.

FRANKLIN LI is a College first-year from Beijing, China. His email is