If the pressure to attend every class is leading to burnout, maybe it’s okay to skip.
In my final year at school I experienced extreme disillusionment towards the plans I was carefully building towards a future in the arts. Having spent four years at a school specifically designed for music under the assumption that I was destined to pursue a musical career, I had reached a crisis point due to the expectations that such a niche environment had instilled in me. I dropped music and turned from a numb, half-hearted routine to new endeavours that helped me form a work/life balance. The moment I took control over the content of my learning and the way in which I consumed it, I liberated myself from chronic disinterest. Along with certain classes, I dropped the feeling that I was being forced to learn rather than choosing to learn and was able to maximise my love for the subjects I enjoyed. When I didn’t attend every class, I was able to enjoy the ones I did attend more.
"The moment I took control over the content of my learning and the way in which I consumed it, I liberated myself from chronic disinterest."
As soon as the pressure to satisfy compulsory attendance is lifted, learning becomes a pursuit led by enjoyment rather than necessity. It is easy to become cornered by the subjects you love without a reasonable distance from learning and a suitable balance between enjoyment and obligation. There’s no direct answer to the question of whether attendance contributes to a higher success rate or not, however it is generally agreed that face-to-face learning with tutors and peers should be an essential ingredient in elevating and broadening our knowledge and opinions. Engaging with the classroom dynamic is definitely easier when you actually want to be there.
Contrary to popular belief, the link between academic success and perfect attendance is tenuous. The question of whether or not students go to class, and whether they should, boils down to the fact that in person lectures and seminars form the DNA of a vast majority of undergraduate courses. Learning to regulate and prioritise commitments that contribute towards a rewarding university experience includes the chance to learn how to mobilise the new freedom of adulthood and to experience the world as an active member of society having escaped the shackles of the school system.
Countless studies and reports weigh up the value of consistent attendance, but we are up against a familiar opponent: modern life. Since the Covid-19 pandemic gatecrashed the 2020’s, learning has had to adapt to the necessity of social distancing, and as a result pre-recorded course material has ironically introduced a sense of freedom to learning. The pandemic transferred an already hybridised system of learning between online materials and in person teaching completely into the hands of individually motivated learning. Most students now balance their timetable around jobs, and we are subject to attention spans constricted by the chokehold of social media and a general lack of enthusiasm towards a future plagued by climate change, extreme costs of living, and impossibly competitive job markets.
"...classes are an enjoyable and fundamental aspect of university, but being tied down by the expectations of a full time course can have opposite, adverse effects."
It still goes without saying that classes are an enjoyable and fundamental aspect of university, but being tied down by the expectations of a full time course can have opposite, adverse effects. Burnout is a common outcome of academic pressure, which often results in mental and physical exhaustion. Insomnia, weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, loss of concentration and loss of appetite are interconnected and accumulative effects of academic burnout that render the experience of learning and continuing to participate in a full schedule unbearable. Burnout is the sinking feeling that accompanies the realisation that you are avoiding anything that needs done. Easily identifiable and easy to avoid, if the correct prescription is administered: take time out and recalibrate.
University is far from the one-dimensional experience of learning and committing to an incessant study schedule. There is more to learn about life, and to risk repeating the odd cliche, university is one of many gateways to self-discovery and getting to know yourself in a new environment and the freedom to explore education and everything outside it.
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