Beyond the GPA

Last week, I had just settled in at a table in Schow after dinner and started looking at my massive list of everything I had to do that week for midterms when my friend walked over and asked if I wanted to go to You Are Not Alone with her. I thought about the amount of work I had for a few seconds, but I said I would go. Then, I immediately started worrying about whether I would get my problem set done, my paper outlined, my reading finished, etc. As soon as I started listening to my classmates speaking at You Are Not Alone, however, I forgot all about my schoolwork. Their sometimes sad, sometimes angry, sometimes funny and always inspiring stories taught me more in an hour than struggling to read my Principles of Modern Chemistry textbook ever could have. Sure, by going to You Are Not Alone I did a little bit more skimming and stayed up a little bit later than I had planned, but I ultimately got much more out of my Wednesday night.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked my friends to go to some event with me on a weeknight and gotten the response, “can’t, too much work.” If via text, the message is usually accompanied with a sad face. Williams students seem to only have time for work, sometimes at the expense of friendships, relationships, mental health and occasionally even physical health. I’ve had friends tell me that they’re “too busy” to go for a walk up Stone Hill to watch the sunset or “too busy” to go to the Health Center to get a weird cough checked out. But what are we even working toward, anyway? So many of us work so hard to get a good grade on an exam, in order to get an ‘A’ in a class (well, let’s be honest, probably an ‘A-’), in order to have a good GPA, so we can get into a good graduate school in order to get a good job, etc. But this cycle of always working for the next step never stops. For most of us, college will be one of the last times in our lives that we have as little responsibility as we do now. If we end up talking to a suitemate all night instead of studying for a quiz, the only thing that’s really affected is a grade, which in the grand scheme of things may not be as valuable as developing a friendship.

What I’m really advocating is to take the time to use all of the different resources available at Williams. We all know that sometimes that means using resources like the Math Science Resource Center or the Writing Workshop to get better grades, but sometimes that means taking advantage of all the brilliant minds that are all gathered together on this tiny campus. Go to Storytime to learn more about a classmate, or go to a theater performance to support a friend and your own cultural development. Even in the middle of a hellish week of midterms, it’s rare to not have even an hour to do something that’s not schoolwork or extracurricular work. In fact, it’s almost more important right now to take time to get away from stress and develop other facets of your intelligence. Besides, you probably waste more time on the “check Facebook, check Twitter, check your e-mail, write a sentence, repeat” routine than it would take to grab coffee with a friend or to attend a lecture that one of your entrymates organized.

One of the greatest things about Williams is that it offers an opportunity to develop your whole person during your four years here, not just your base of academic knowledge. Years from now, I’m not going to remember my grade on my chemistry midterm, but I will remember the lessons I learned when I put my work aside and took the time to develop as a person.

Amanda Walker ’15 is from Naples, Fla. She lives in Mark Hopkins.