When I first read Dean Runner’s email about the new policy that will require students to petition to take over 20 credits and limit course overloads to 24 credits, I was surprised that UR was planning what I saw as a pretty drastic change. With the Rochester Curriculum’s emphasis on letting students have the freedom to study what they want, it initially seemed strange to me that the overload cap appeared to challenge this philosophy.
However, after realizing the long-term effects of modifying the course overload procedures, I now see it as one of the most constructive ways administration has responded to concerns about students’ wellbeing during my time as an undergrad.
Having overloaded every semester aside from my first, I’m extremely supportive of letting students exceed the standard 16-credit load. Yet, at the same time, I also support the extra step of submitting a petition which will give pause to students considering an overload. Now that I’m in my penultimate semester at UR, I’ve realized that the trade-offs of constantly overloading aren’t necessarily worth it, and in some ways, I regret not spending the fleeting time I have in college differently.
For me, overloading wasn’t consciously about adding to my resume. In prior years, I wanted to finish my degree requirements sooner in case I had to retake any classes, and my majors and minor were in fields I was genuinely interested in. Going into my senior year, I was already signed on to my post-grad job, but I registered for 22 credits because I wanted to use the open spaces in my schedule to add another minor. Roughly a month into the semester, though, it occurred to me that this probably wasn’t the best decision I could’ve made for myself.
Setting a goal of getting another minor had made sense in my mind because after studying remotely last year, I wanted to maximize my remaining time on campus by trying as many new things as possible. However, I think that being in an environment that normalizes this pressure to constantly outdo yourself — the “toxic Meliora” culture that Dean Runner referenced in his email — influenced my perception of what it meant to make the most of my final year.
By no means would I say UR is to blame for the decisions I’ve made. But, like many other UR students, I fell victim to this mindset where I would feel guilty about not being productive enough if I wasn’t pushing myself. Although I’ve grown a lot in college, in the time I’ve spent using academics as a crutch to avoid stepping outside of my comfort zone, I’ve missed out on a lot of experiences that might have been more meaningful. And because I’ve often felt overwhelmed by the commitments I’ve made, the nonmaterial aspects of college life that I looked forward to in high school — like exploring Rochester, building new friendships, and finding time for non-academic hobbies — were often placed on the back burner.
With less than a year of college remaining, I’m still motivated to follow through on the goals I’ve set. But as a soon-to-be alumna, the overload policy makes me hopeful for how campus culture will blossom over the coming years, and with the policy being implemented through a reasonable approach, I feel like this is a best-case scenario for future UR students.
At a school that doesn’t have general education requirements, it’s unlikely that many students would ever be at a point of needing over 24 credits in a semester. Depending on the degrees, even triple majoring is possible without taking over 20 credits. However, having a policy that acknowledges how excessive it is to take more than 24 credits sets a valuable precedent for students, who will now be given a reminder that overloading is an option, but should not be viewed as the expectation.
There are plenty of clubs and activities on campus where you can find enrichment — or even develop work experience — outside of taking classes, and I believe it’s for the better if students are encouraged to take advantage of those opportunities. In this way, I think that restricting course overloads exactly aligns with the core intent of the Rochester Curriculum, which is allowing students to have time to pursue what they’re truly passionate about.