Column Ilja: Student syndrome

Taking resits in the summer seemed like an excellent idea until the summer started.

Before the summer holidays, I thought it was an excellent idea. I had no concrete plans for the summer, and having something to occupy myself with, would be nice. That’s how I found myself at my desk in my small, stuffy room in the midday heat, trying to focus on my resits. They seemed important, but during the long summer evenings, I really didn’t feel any urgency. There is no-one in Wageningen. Dust blows through the streets. High above, a single vulture circles, patiently waiting for a poor soul to succumb to the heat and collapse on the scorching tiles.

Suddenly, an excellent opportunity for distraction emerges

No matter how much time I give myself to prepare for an exam or assignment (I assigned myself two weeks this time), I always start a little late (a few days before the exam) and end up getting very mediocre grades. ‘Ah yes, that is the student syndrome’, a friend explains. Excuse me, the what? Suddenly, an excellent opportunity for distraction emerges. According to Wikipedia, the student syndrome is also known as “planned procrastination”: putting something off until there really is no way to procrastinate any longer. Thus, you create sufficient pressure to force yourself to get to work. The time you have left is just enough to pass.

There are many different laws of physics relevant to work and the putting off thereof. A quick search through related Wiki pages leads to, for example, Parkinson’s Law. This law states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. And when the amount of time required to complete a task is grossly underestimated, this is known as a planning fallacy. After half an hour of browsing hyperlinks and syndromes, effects and mottos, I feel that browsing Wikipedia should also be classified as procrastinating behaviour. The Wikipedia Effect: the browsing of more than three Wiki pages in succession is likely to be avoiding life’s responsibilities.

Syndrome pathologizes the phenomenon. As if being a student causes a medical complaint

I ask a friend how badly he suffers from student syndrome. ‘I get up at five in the morning on the day of the exam and cram everything then’, he says. ‘It is only then that I feel sufficient pressure to start.’ Oh well, in that case, the three and a half days I manage to study during the summer is not bad at all! Nonetheless, this isn’t necessarily an advantage. I actually like the idea of the syndrome. Syndrome pathologizes the phenomenon. As if being a student causes a medical complaint. It adds weight to my inability to start important assignments on time. See, perhaps a visit to the doctor is in order. And then, I can simply cancel the exam without feeling bad; I am, after all, a student.

Ilja Bouwknegt is 23, a bachelor’s student of Forest and Nature Management, and an active member of the study association WSBV Sylvatica. She sometimes does bat research at night.

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