Conquering PEAK: A Survivor's Guide to Credits
By ELA BOGATAJ STOPAR
How to avoid ending up with too much on your plate? Photo by Jessica Cross | Flickr.
In most cases, entering university turns one’s life upside down. All of a sudden, it is up to no one but you to provide your meals, wash your clothes and pay your bills – and on top of that, you are also expected to stay on top of your schoolwork. Finding your way through PEAK’s system of requirements can be confusing, but there is no need to worry. This article will try to shed some light on how to tackle your central mission in your first two years of university life: gaining enough credits to progress to the next level.
According to the current rules, PEAK students must gather 56 credits in the first two years of university in order to advance to the Senior Division. Each year is composed of two halves, the autumn and the summer semester, and the maximum credit limit for each semester is 30. In terms of dividing your work between the years, this leaves any student with two options: either they endeavor to get all the credits in their first year in favor of relative freedom in the second, or they meticulously plan their schedule for each of the four semesters so as to get all of the work done on time without overworking themselves in the process. Over the years, there have been students tackling both the first and the second strategy, and – as one would expect – there are upsides and downsides to both.
Collecting all the credits as soon as possible seems like a reasonable course of action, especially given the many chances for studying abroad if there are no lectures to attend that semester. Although it is true that by the end of the third semester almost everyone will have all of their Junior Division work completed, the fourth semester is not quite as free as the third could be. In the fourth semester, students can already start taking Senior Division courses and get some work done ahead of time – an opportunity well worth taking advantage of. In practice, however, this means blood, sweat and tears in Year 1: with the majority of courses yielding two credits each, covering 28 credits each semester equals to about 14 courses per semester. Adding that to extracurricular activities and leisure time, this is a strategy that calls for consideration of not only the student’s will, but also endurance.
Compared to that, dividing the credits equally between three or four semesters will indeed grant the hard-working student a little bit more space to breathe and time to sleep. But a different type of danger lurks behind the innocent façade of a precisely calculated study plan: it leaves no room for error. University courses are quite a bit different from high school as much in level as in style, meaning that failing a course is an unfortunate slip that can occur to anyone. Furthermore, as the selection of courses changes each semester, a time may just come when few courses on the menu suit one’s taste - although a small amount of necessary academic evil is to be expected, it would certainly be preferable to reduce that amount to a minimum and study as much as possible of the truly interesting material.
In general, most students end up taking between 11 and 14 courses in each of the first two semesters and use the third semester to fulfill whatever remains of the requirements. This might sound like a lot to students who are used to three or four courses per week, but as PEAK course lectures only take place once per week for 105 minutes, 12 courses means about four and a half hours of classes per day - nowhere close as terrible as your average high school schedule. Balancing the pros and cons of the equation while considering one’s habits, skills and interests ultimately rests in each student’s own hands, leaving doors open for a variety of unique experiences of university life. And just when you think you have it covered, along comes the Senior Division – a whole new game with a whole new set of rules.