Finding Success Beyond Success at YU
Welcome to YU and welcome to New York City. With the plethora of opportunities near and on campus, you will find yourself having many, many responsibilities. I’m just going to say it now: you will be very busy these next few years. In the coming months, you will quickly discover that a multitude of sources—namely your college courses, Judaic learning, and the demands of resume building—will attempt to claim all your time and energy. As a YU Senior, I have experienced and witnessed these demands on the students' time. While these responsibilities may be necessary, they should not make us lose out on exploring new interests and passions, an important characteristic of the college experience. Rabbi Moshe Leib, a Hasidic Rabbi from Sasov once said that a human being who has not a single hour for his own use every day is no human being. In fulfilling the extensive requirements of our society, religion, and potential employers, it is imperative that we do not forget about our own needs during such a formative time in our lives.
As a high school senior, I was initially attracted to many of the unique attributes that YU boasts: an extensive list of Judaic course offerings, the ability to keep kosher with ease, not having to miss classes for holidays, and finally, Jewish lady-folk everywhere. I heard tales of students in other colleges having almost too much free time after finishing a mere 16 or so hours of classes a week. I figured with that much free time, I would be more than likely to waste it away. The question became: to learn or to waste away? Between those two options, the choice was simple. To YU I went. Little did I know of the implications of signing up for that much extra class time in my day.
While I ought not to complain about YU offering an abundance of Judaic classes and even taking a year of credits from my year abroad in Israel, these things that define YU come with some hefty price tags. First, since about 90% of us have a year's worth of credit from yeshivot and seminaries in Israel, it is generally expected that we remain on campus for only three years. While that may be financially beneficial (since Israeli yeshivot are cheaper than college tuition), we are expected to fit four years of college into three years. While that may be enough time to fulfill all of the requirements and electives for any particular major, we barely have time to explore classes just to pique our interests. In most universities, students generally use their freshman year to explore a wide array of classes in order to decide which route to take. From our first day at YU, it seems that we must know exactly which major to pursue.
Since most of us do not have the luxury of a freshman year on campus, we must either place all our bets exclusively on one major in order to finish in three years, or switch majors to something more satisfying, which would mean working through an extra semester or taking summer classes. Remember, extra schooling costs extra money and extra time. While you may be able to earn that money back, time is something you can never recover. Tread carefully, my friends.
While it may seem difficult to fulfill all your major and general requirements in only three years, decades of Yeshiva graduates have made their way through to graduation, and guess what—so can you! But wait, we mustn’t forget to allocate time for sixteen or more hours of Judaics per week. Though I have met plenty of students whose favorite part of the day is Judaics, it is nonetheless easy for them to become a burden. If the reason for paying tuition is for a higher likelihood of attaining a career, and Judaics, while demanding about half of your day, only accounts for less than a fifth of your total credits, it becomes increasingly difficult to take the Judaics program seriously. As an English minor, I find that the shorter the essay, the more importance I attribute to each page. Additionally, if the essay is worth a higher percentage of my final grade, the harder I work. Likewise, since Judaics take up such a large portion of my time and has a much lower effect on my overall GPA, I find it difficult to care as much as I would like to.
After approximately 12.5 hours of college classes per week (five classes) and at least sixteen hours-a-week for Judaics, don't forget, you still have to actually study for your classes. The counseling center recommends an average of two hours of studying a week per credit hour (for an easy class). So in YU, you can expect to be in class and studying for it for approximately 53 hours a week. If anyone asks you, yes, you certainly are a full time student.
Boy, you must be tired by this point, downright exhausted. I know what would cheer you up: resume building! During the Fall 2009 orientation, I attended a speech by a representative of our Career Development Center (CDC). From the presentation, there is only one sentence she said that stuck with me: "Say goodbye to your summers—you are interns now.” We were told that if we wanted to succeed in the professional world, the little time we have should now be utilized towards making a pristine resume. We have to become ideal candidates for employment. Now, I do not object to setting one's self up for success, but I have my qualms against living exclusively for how we are to be perceived by potential employers. Our resumes should not dictate who we are and how we live; they should be the byproducts of our true selves.
In a culture with extremely limited free time, it is no surprise that there are so few clubs on campus that are strictly for enjoyment. I do not wish to diminish the quality of clubs and student organizations here at YU; many teach valuable skills or aid those outside of our university. Nonetheless, YU seems to have few clubs with the sole purpose of offering a good time. It is troubling to me how often someone tells me he joined a club simply to put it on his resume. Be productive. Have a good resume. But don’t forget to have a good college experience as well.
I do not intend to sound accusatory; I have been through Yeshiva University, and am quite cognizant of all the demands that are attached to attending this institution. But it is my belief that having such numerous obligations only makes it that much more important to maintain our individuality and participate in activities that genuinely interest us. At a school with a small population with limited resources and a dearth of free time, we must step forward and take responsibility for our individual happiness. We must participate in activities that genuinely interest us.
You go to school in New York City, the city that never sleeps. Find what interests you. Use your resources! Use Google. Use Meetup. Use Craigslist. Check out the News and Culture sections. If it exists, you can find it here. Heck, there's even a trapeze school on 30th street, for crying out loud! Bring your passion to campus. Make a club. Hang up signs. Find others with mutual interests. Be passionate. Create. Do. Make. Participate. We are sometimes so busy fulfilling the checklist of classes required for graduation that we almost forget about our own requirements. Do something every week that you love and look forward to. Yes, fulfill all of your obligations. But remember, you are only in college once. Don’t fail yourself; don’t let this opportunity slip by.