Every semester since my first year I’ve endured this battle of me vs. my course load. There was only one year I managed to successfully to a full course load of five courses a semester, and I honestly think it was due to the many breaks students received (i.e. unlimited CR/NCR option) because the pandemic had just emerged. Otherwise, I constantly struggle to have keep four-five courses as I’ve often dropped down to as little as two courses in a semester. I know right of the bat that life happens, and I’ve had difficult circumstances that made it difficult for me to keep more courses throughout the academic year. Not to mention how I have a learning disability that makes it more difficult to succeed and get the grades I want with more classes on my plate. I’m very aware that the tendency to drop courses doesn’t equate to my worth as a student nor is it reflective of my work ethic.
Yet, every time I consider dropping a course, I’m warped with so much guilt.
I feel stupid, incompetent, and I ruminate on how I should’ve planned my academic year better, or that I should have just sucked it up and dealt with the stress of taking more courses. It’s this notion that even when I work hard, I should be working harder. But university isn’t about how many courses you can do in a semester. I take fewer courses during the year because that is what works best for my own needs. Having a reduced course load allows me to be more attentive to class material and I can study them more meaningfully. Since I want to pursue graduate school, it’s important that I develop my critical thinking skills and study my readings in more depth.
When I think about dropping courses, there’s this image at the back of my head of people who endure full course loads without fail and that’s how the guilt intensifies. But as I think about my own needs and circumstances, it’s not productive to compare myself to others. First, I don’t know what goes on in people’s lives for them to be able to take more courses; some people are looking to pass their classes, others have the knack to excel on a bigger course load. Second, not everyone takes a full course load. U of T has a variety of part-time students, people who balance full-time jobs while attending school, there are people who take one semester or a whole year off before returning to school.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what other people do. I can ensure my own success in a way that works for me and my needs. If I manage to be successful with what I’m doing—getting the grades I want, engaging with classes, and enjoying class content—then why should I feel guilty? As I said before about my decision to take a fifth year, I’m exactly where I need to be.