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EDITORIAL: Academic pressures must not come into conflict with our personal, social needs

As a majority of students experience a full spring semester on campus for the first time, we must prioritize our own happiness

For so many of us on campus for the first full spring semester, we should enjoy being present with our friends and learn to prioritize our own needs.  – Photo by Henry Wang

For the majority of students at Rutgers, this is the first full spring semester on campus. First-years, sophomores and juniors have never experienced the end of a spring semester on campus. And it is glorious. It seems that in the spring, Rutgers transforms into this picturesque college setting like you would see in movies or television shows.

During these past few weeks, as the weather started to get really nice, if you were to walk through Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus, you would see people chilling with their friends while others were playing soccer. You would see professors holding class outside while others were walking their dogs. These past few weeks have been the typical benchmarks of a spring semester on a college campus.

But for students who have missed out on these experiences in the past, it provokes an extra special feeling that we are finally experiencing college. And we should savor it. Given how the semester began — virtually on Zoom — we all deserve to relax and socialize with friends. Being back on campus as the weather gets nicer is something that we all should enjoy and look forward to doing after classes.

The transition from starting the semester on Zoom to feeling like we are main characters in any movie set on a college campus is jarring and symbolic of the larger issues we are facing: how to make up for lost time, spend time with friends and do well academically.

Accompanying the nice weather, though, is the dreaded final season. Inexorably, we all have to deal with finals whether they are exams, papers or projects. Finals season is one of the unavoidable realities of being a college student, and the nice weather does not make finals disappear — but it does make things more bearable.

Finals are important, and we should treat them as such. Taking finals seriously, though, does not mean that we must work ourselves to death. We should prepare for finals in a mindful and prudent way, making sure that we are being as productive as possible for the most time possible in a healthy way.

We should not just work for the sake of working. It might appear as though we are being good students, but if you are stressed and not absorbing the material, it will all be for nothing and you will only become more stressed. 

To combat stress, we need to remember that we are not only students, but we are also people. Every week, you should make sure that you have at least one full day without doing any work related to school. Take the day to get coffee or see friends or just watch Netflix in bed all day — these types of activities will allow you to recharge so that you do not burn out.

If you do feel burnout or overwhelmed, it is also important to reach out to professors and maintain a clear line of communication. Professors are human and understand what these past few years have been like, and they are more likely to be receptive than you might think. 

It is imperative to point out that departments at Rutgers should not go out of their way to make life harder for students. For example, there should be no grade curves that limit the number of As a class can give or structure exams in an exceedingly difficult way, designed to make students fail.

The University should be communicating this to the departments and professors — it must be constantly said that students have been through a lot these past few years, and difficult exams or assignments do not really add anything to the academic experience. 

College is about more than just academics. It is also a time for personal and social learning and growth. For so many of us, the past few years have limited our abilities to learn about ourselves and form meaningful social bonds. As we are back on campus and as the weather becomes nicer, it is totally fine to prioritize the social and personal side of college.

Ultimately, you should study and do as well as you can on finals. But it is also okay to focus on other things and interests. Finals are important right now, but the other things — friendships, our mental health, our general happiness — all matter more in the long run. As always, grades do not define us, and they are really an insignificant benchmark in the bigger picture.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 154th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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