Picture the scene: the holidays are coming, you’ve gathered up your life and the handful of personal effects that you have to your name, got together a couple of weeks’ worth of clothes, and you’re ready to go back home for the break. Then you try to cram everything into a suitcase, and by the time you’ve added in a handful of books and notes that you really need for essays due in at the start of next term, things just won’t fit.
Coming from the North, I don’t live a million miles away from York anyway, so it’s not a huge problem to take quite a lot of things home. But for those that live further afield, in London or the Home Counties for instance, transporting stuff back can be a bit of a pain, especially if you’ve got a heap of work to be getting on with over the break. I must admit though, it is a bit hilarious seeing people trying to drag suitcases bigger than them around.
Having a double-deadline (i.e. essays/assignments from different modules due in on the same date) is a relatively common thing across all degrees, during both the holidays and term-time. In some subjects, such as sociology, they can have four essays due in on the same date. Last Christmas, I had two essays to do that were due in for Week One of spring term. In essence, that’s fair enough because I had more than a month to do them.
I would genuinely have preferred to have one deadline in week ten of autumn and one deadline in week one of spring – and I say that being relatively good at organising my time. I spent two weeks during Christmas sat in a freezing office doing essays and pulling my hair out instead of spending time with family. I think I greyed/aged by about a decade.
Quite a few people have said the same: by the time the work was done, Christmas was practically over. Every cloud though, eh. At least I wasn’t paying for the heating bills and the standard immeasurable cups of tea and packets of biscuits.
In autumn, the History Department piloted a scheme to stagger procedural deadlines so that they weren’t both due in on the same date. I thought that it worked really well, reducing essay stress massively. Maybe then, we should have more staggered deadlines.
There’s obvious arguments against this; it’s just a matter of personal time management. In theory, just because two deadlines are on the same date doesn’t mean you have to be working right up until that date – and that’s a perfectly valid point. In practice though, that’s not how most students work. Sometimes, essays don’t come out until a couple of weeks before a deadline. Also, given the choice between a quick pint or seven and a heap of reading, most will choose the first option, up until that time when the deadlines are looming and can’t be put off any more. I won’t name names, but I know a few people who have done an entire essay in the space of a day. I’m not that capable, and it doesn’t come recommended from those that have, but it has been done.
Another argument is that multiple deadlines on the same day are better because it’s more realistic for working life. Again, that’s a perfectly salient point. But it almost seems like a fresher’s rite of passage to experience that daunting first essay all-nighter; it’s part of the cult of university life, but that’s really bad form once the workload and pressure increases in second and third year.
We’ve all experienced that time when you bump into someone on the same course, while your essay is going as badly as possible and you feel like hitting your head against a brick wall. No amount of Yorkshire Tea will help you out, but they’re sat there with a big grin because theirs is done. The problem is that when there’s pressure to get finished, it takes out any enjoyment and it becomes a chore.
On the other hand, (to adopt an over-used cooking analogy) if you’ve only got essay to concentrate on, you’re cooking on gas. When there’s plenty of time to get things done, there’s the opportunity to get properly immersed in the subject and it genuinely makes it so much more enjoyable – and isn’t that kind of the point of a degree? The chances are that you’ll get a better mark if you enjoy what you’re doing as well. It just seems the common-sense thing to do to stagger deadlines, even if it means getting one in earlier as a result.
That way, you don’t feel like a tinned sardine crammed into a sweaty, stressed-out Harry Fairhurst when everyone’s collective deadlines are just around the corner and if you’ve got other commitments, it makes it easier to have a few things going on at once.
As things are for now though, it’s getting towards that time of term when tea and biscuit consumption goes through the roof.