To be fair, I didn’t go into course registration planning to take all six credits. I had taken five classes last semester and was having a great time — getting sleep, going out and dropping in to whichever concert or exhibition or speaker event struck my fancy. 

I was set to take five again: two social science, one humanities and two STEM classes to give myself as many options as possible — to delay committing to a major. 

My interests were limitless and my four-year plan was out the window. Anthropology? Applied math? Both? 

Then I remembered that I had been on the interview committee for Saybrook’s college seminar. I found out that we were offering a brand new class on white-collar criminal investigations, which I had helped interview the instructors for. The class was being taught by two lawyers. The syllabus included a trip to the Eastern District of New York courthouse and a star-studded lineup of guest speakers. It looked like a life-changing class. College seminars can’t be audited. 

To take six credits, you have to get permission from your Residential College Dean and provide justification for overloading. The caveat is that if you take six credits, you are expected not to drop any of them. You’re unlikely to be approved again if you dump one.

Without consulting my academic advisor and against the advice of my friends and Froco,  I decided to go for it.  

I pride myself on being Type-A organized. I have my Notion pages, spreadsheets and checklists in order. This was tedious, but it saved me so many times this semester. And you can’t just organize away work! Readings and discussion posts needed to be out of the way by Monday so I could spend the rest of the week on PSETs. Time needed to be blocked in for studying. I squeezed in emails in the little half-hour blocks between classes. My procrastination and screen time problems had to go.

I had some close calls, but the system was working fine until midterm season hit. And BOOM. That “college triangle” where you see Sleep, Good Grades and Social Life and you can only pick two turned into a none-of-the-above situation. I’m talking locking myself in the Saybrary, stumbling over the cobblestones on cross campus from dragging my feet, spilling coffee on myself at least once a day, my first Celsius, etc.  

My impending assignments began to pervade every part of my mind. What I wound up missing the most wasn’t getting a full night’s sleep — it was having freedom to go see impromptu shows and chill all night in the common room. I started feeling like my downtime needed to be cut short to maximize the time for work. And even in the midst of conversations, I wasn’t always fully there — a small part of my brain was looking to the next deadline. The credits come with the mental load of staying on top of your game. 

You could say I bought into the sunk cost fallacy, and it’s true. Maybe I should have bailed out. But we’re two weeks away from the end of classes, so I’m going to focus on making it through in somewhat-acceptable academic standing. The finish line is in sight. 

For me to say that you absolutely should never take a course overload would be hypocritical. I’ve never learned so much, from so many incredible professors, in the most specific topic areas that are somehow linked in the most unexpected ways. I learned to analyze court cases, study the creation of corporate personhood using anthropology and apply ethical frameworks to the newest tech developments. I have never pushed so hard and changed my mind so many times. If intellectual vitality was my only goal, then this semester was a success far greater than what I had hoped.  

I found myself returning to a conversation with a friend whose opinion I value greatly.  He told me to stop asking about what I wanted to be, and instead to consider what kind of person I wanted to be. 

This is a minuscule shift in word choice, but it changes my understanding of the question entirely. There are so many things that I still want to do, both during my time at Yale and afterward in the “real world.” 

I want to be well-read and well-spoken. I also want to be a really good friend, dinner party hostess and team member. The type of person I want to be has the time to go on all the spontaneous adventures, which have taught me just as many lessons as my classes. A huge part of college is growing into that person. 

What I consider the most influential paragraph on my ethos (in case anyone would ever ask about my favorite paragraphs) comes from the great Joan Didion, in her essay On Self Respect:

In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues. The measure of its slipping prestige is that one tends to think of it only in connection with homely children and with United States senators who have been defeated, preferably in the primary, for re-election. Nonetheless, character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life—is the source from which self-respect springs.

My version of self-respect entails staying true to my commitments and not complaining too much about the decisions that I made. I also think it means being honest about what I want for myself. 

I hesitated writing this piece because I was worried about sounding like a workaholic with an ego trip. I think this is the experience that students face with any increase in workload or rigor. But when I was in the process of considering the overload, I couldn’t find anyone to talk to who had done it. In a school full of some of the world’s most hardworking and ambitious 20-year-olds, this is a conversation worth having. 

My advice to fellow Yalies considering the overload is to think about why exactly you want to add that extra class. I got exactly what I wanted, but I also underestimated how much I would have to give up. Safe to say, this will probably be my last six credit semester.