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Spring Term IAP for a Refreshing Change

Andrew J. Kim

It's been over a week since the end of spring break, and the only thing I have left to look forward to anymore is the end of school a few days before Memorial weekend. I am confident that I am not the only one staring at the calendar and counting the days left. The sad thing, however, is that every time I gaze at the calendar, I end up asking myself, "Why do we have so many damn days left?"

Over spring break, I had the pleasure of visiting my friends who attend a public university that will finish up up in three weeks. They start the first term a few days after Labor Day just like we do here, and they wrap up the term a few days before the holidays just like we do. The difference arises in January: while they start the second term a few days into the new year, we slowly trudge back to Boston to misspend a month known as Independent Activities Period.

Now I'm not saying that IAP is a total waste of time. Quite the contrary, the philosophy behind IAP lies in the word "independent," and that is a concept we should all cherish after all the monotonous weeks of problem sets and tests through which we normally plod.

Granted, some people come back to Boston because they are sick of home and basically waste a month, but even so, IAP is a productive time for the majority of us: I took a course required for my major during that time, some seniors I know got those pesky Physical Education credits out of the way, and others did significant research by UROPing full-time.

My qualm with IAP as it stands now is simply its timing. Sure the whole month of January off is a great thing, but I feel that a free month would be much more efficient if placed elsewhere.

Imagine starting the second term promptly at the beginning of the new year (most of us arrive in Boston at this time anyway) and finish up at the end of April. Then, we could dub May the "Independent Activities Extension" (IAE) and offer the same courses and programs at that time as in the current IAP. That way, people who want to take courses can do so, people who want to spend a long summer at home can go right ahead, but most importantly, the people with summer jobs or research positions can spend another month on the job reaping the intellectual and financial benefits.

IAP is not very conducive to finding significant employment during the month off. Not only are companies not in the hiring mood with the downsizing that begins each new fiscal year, but most companies also don't have internship programs running until late spring or summer. From an employer's standpoint, it makes a lot more sense to have an intern for an extra month in the summer than it does to have one for a month in the middle of the "normal" school year.

Although I'm not in this position yet, I'd be rather ticked off if there were no classes worth taking over IAP, and my only choices were putzing around at home, working some mind-numbing job, or coming back here to kill time or do research.

There are still about six weeks left in this term, and they sure don't look very uplifting. Maybe I'm just bitter and jealous that my friends will be done with school while I'm still working on problem set #9, but I also realize that my friends will be able to work an entire month longer than I will, and if necessary, they can go last-minute summer job hunting. By simply starting the second term earlier and creating something like IAE, we can make the month of May more productive for everyone.