Winter intersession is often a welcome break for students, most of whom are glad for the relief from the non-stop flow of homework and exams. The recess that was from Dec. 18 through Jan. 12 this year, however, was almost a month in length—a lot of time. That leads one to ask the question: Is the current length of break best for students? There are multiple arguments that can be drawn up both for and against the idea of a near-month long break. I submit that a shorter winter break is worthy of review by the university.
What are a few of the main reasons for a winter intersession? For one, the break provides a measure of study relief after final exams. Finals can be a draining time of year, and many students can suffer from stress, anxiety and other negative health effects during the exam season. According to Georgetown Student Health Services, stress inflicted by finals can become a source of fatigue, frustration with friends, difficulty making decisions, headaches, eating issues and panic. Having a period to unwind with family and friends, eat home food and get full amounts of sleep after exams can be a valuable relief.
The break also provides an opportunity for students to earn money in part-time jobs, work on resumes, complete applications for summer activities and internships and (as many sophomores like myself find ourselves even more aware of) to fill out applications for study abroad. If there’s a time to be productive, kick back and read a book or grab a ticket to the nicest tropical island in the Caribbean, winter break is the time to do so.
I would assert, however, that having a break that lasts as long as ours does is not always the best decision for students. When break stretches from the middle of December to the middle of January, students can lose a number of things. First, students can easily lose some of what they had learned the previous semester to memory. Some argue that the point of university is to learn study habits and ways of thinking, but the knowledge that is learned carries enormous value and shouldn’t be lost due to lack of re-engagement.
Second, Brandeis has the privilege of being located in Massachusetts. It’s a wonderful place to be, and it’s an amazing location for a first class university; however one thing that everyone in Massachusetts has to deal with at some point is snow. Snow serves as the wrench in the machine for schools, and even a few inches can shut down a university’s functioning for a day or more. This issue leaves professors in a jam—do they shorten their classes in the spring semester to account for the lost class day, or do they stay to their course and be faced with rushing to finish their lessons or being unable to do so at all?
Unlike many public primary and secondary schools in the Northeast, Brandeis does not truly expect and plan for snow days in its schedule, and therefore learning time is lost. One would hope that professors would account for the possibility for a snow day in their lesson plans; however often they do not, and not everything that should have been taught in the semester gets covered.
I propose that the university reexamine how long winter break is generally scheduled to be, and to decide whether the current three to three and a half weeks is the optimal amount of time for students to have off. Taking into considering the price of tuition and the amount of learning and learning time that can be lost due to the intersession and lack of days available for academic makeup, finding an extra several days in the spring semester might be worth doing. At the very least, looking into the concept might turn out to be beneficial to everyone involved.