I hate Google Calendar. I prefer to keep track of my schedule in my head, thank you very much! But, of course, I’m in the vocal minority around here. It both amuses and perplexes me that Yalies schedule so much of our lives. I was ever so slightly miffed the other week when I noticed that a first-year friend of mine had marked the time we hung out on her Google Calendar as a “Coffee Chat.” Though it was almost certainly a joke, it’s a little sad that first years are privy to the language used by consultancies to market their hiring events for undergraduates. But I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Yalies have always been ambitious, and everyone around here is hungry to achieve some nebulous idea of success. Increasingly, students view success as arriving at academic and career milestones before everyone else. This phenomenon manifests itself in many ways: Students now intern earlier than ever, sophomores and juniors usually lead clubs instead of seniors, and of course, many students take courses that previous generations wouldn’t have even seen until graduate school. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, of course, but we shouldn’t conflate doing things early with doing things well.
Companies seem to feed into this strange obsession with accelerating our life progression. Consider the case of internships I mentioned before. The Goldman Sachs Summer Analyst Internship proudly advertises that its 2019 internship program will open its application on July 1, 2018. That’s almost a year in advance, which is patently absurd. Even worse, as a friend of mine who went through the finance recruiting process informed me last year, many of the analysts hired will probably have networked throughout their sophomore year, if not earlier. The tech industry is no better. First years compete for coveted spots at the likes of Google, Facebook and other large firms. They, too, recruit as early as the previous summer.
So why does this happen? On a campus of child prodigies, folks are used to accomplishing things at a younger age than normal. But we’ve forgotten why prodigies are prodigies. A chess player isn’t just brilliant because she started playing at the age of three; it’s because she was also really good. And yet, it seems that students don’t assess success by how well we perform, but by the credentials we collect. Quite frankly, students don’t really know all that much as first years and sophomores. Yalies at Google and Apple who just took their first computer science classes are unlikely to be even half as effective as their counterparts who have a few more years of coursework under their belts. Besides, a culture of interning early incentivizes mastering interviews — not mastering material.
Nowadays, the accelerated timeline pressures students to build up a stellar resume even before junior year. If you don’t think about it too hard, this seems like a win-win: When students intern earlier, they can experience more organizations and form better opinions about their preferences. Similarly, these organizations get a better sense of whom they’re buying, so to speak.
But what this means is that from the get-go Yalies can’t relax. First years shouldn’t worry about their careers so soon and, student should remember that taking a summer off is not a death sentence for anyone’s career. And yet, anxiety about falling behind on the Yale internship timeline remains one of the main worries I hear from first years. College is our last chance to be kids, and you probably don’t need more than a summer to get a sense of whether you enjoy working in a particular field. Why surrender, as so many students do, the chance to have fun in an environment with relatively few responsibilities in favor of a perpetual job hunt?
And this is where Google Calendar comes in. The pressure to be so busy that a calendar is necessary probably stems from this very job hunt. It’s the same pressure that causes students to believe that they maximize their chances of getting into a top college by signing up for a million clubs they don’t like in high school. Both pressures are stupid. Whatever you do, just do it well. And here’s a thought: Waste a summer. Especially if you’re a first year or sophomore, don’t intern. Instead, do something spontaneous. A friend of mine spent a month in a monastery in China, for example. Another took a road trip across the country. Yale does, in fact, have resources outside of the Office of Career Strategy. Use them. It’s far more satisfying to have an interesting story than to look good at a dinner party.
Shreyas Tirumala is a senior in Trumbull College. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .