As with many liberal arts colleges, Wheaton claims a specific pride of allowing its students “expand their horizons” and limit course requirements in order to fulfill intensive major and minor requirements. This was something that I had taken completely to heart. I believed the title of a liberal arts school would cure all of my mathematics and scientific terrors and pressures. This, however, was not necessarily the case, and it wasn’t until orientation that I realized how many requirements were really necessary outside of self-declared majors and minors. With a natural and social science, arts and humanities, Beyond the West, Quantitative Analysis, a three-course or two two-course Connection, First Year Seminar (FYS), English 101, and two semester foreign language course requirements, it appears that I have been misguided. Ultimately, the aspect of several requirements is not the issue, but the absolute ideology of being a “well-rounded student” has become a system of overkill that is being carried over from my high school days.
The pitted trap of graduating high school and preparing for college is almost as fatal as the trap of high school itself. One intends to leave high school dramatically and under great splendor, whipping your graduation hat high in the air to symbolize a big, fat, royal “SCREW YOU” to a system that had harbored and hindered your personal growth through straight-jacket requirements. The very misguiding notion that you are free of restrictions when entering college feels like dodging a bullet, then turning the corner and getting your chest pounded with ten of them at the same time. In the process of planning my schedule and signing up for courses for the upcoming fall, I am feeling the impeding dark loom of sacrifice and half-hearted attempts at well-rounded performance. Surely, these requirements are an attempt at this vague term of a “well-rounded student” and allowing students branch out while fulfilling expectations held by the institution. The focus on a “well-rounded” being is comprised of several parts, nearly all of them being academic: to excel in or present ideal skills in all academic subjects, to excel on standardized tests, to be an active member of the community, taking leadership positions in both a variety of clubs and athletics, and to sustain the emotional and social burden of these factors. These are mostly students with the most opportunities, privileges, social status, and, honestly, the easiest to recognize. Surely, a large work load and the act of taking advantage of opportunities are accomplishments within themselves, and should not be downtrodden simply because not everyone has access to them. However, it is largely assumed that everyone does, which is relevant in the academic institutions’ need to saturate their campuses with direct expectations and definitions of success. Privilege has been the aesthetic for many, if not all universities and colleges, and I don’t see an ending to this any time soon.
The “well-rounded”, requirement-based system is one that slowly has risen its nasty head during my short time here at Wheaton. As an individual with several interests that would love to be proficient in, the moment that I have been privileged with the resources to these subjects, I have been forced to squander my time in classes that do not expand my interest or knowledge presented in my work. Connecting one field with another that a student despises does not support the inter-connective aspects of academia. This should instead be encouraged through a student’s personalized attempt to connect field’s that one is interested in, rather than using an interest to sugar-coat a requirement.
This also highlights the issues with the Connections system, and that many courses that are connections need either prerequisites, or leave one floundering in the middle of an advanced level within a field that one has no to little experience in. Making the experimental phase of a student’s college career a requirement does not make it inclusive, rather, it becomes an expectation that must be fulfilled at the pace that the institution sets for its students. It becomes less about the student’s progress, and more about the standard’s completion.
Still, I am incredibly grateful and will never fully understand just how grateful and blessed I am to be attending an institution with as many opportunities as Wheaton. I couldn’t imagine myself having the amount of space to grow as I do in this community and academic environment anywhere else. However, at times I feel like the institution has made it difficult for me to begin the growth of proficiency in my academic fields of choice due to these requirements, prerequisites, and deadlines.