For the past 48 hours, I’ve been chugging Rockstar energy drinks and triple-shot lattes while slaving away at pages and pages of readings, essays and study guides. The last time I saw my twin-sized mattress before 3 a.m. was in August. The only thing that prevented me from dropping out of school two weeks ago was hope — hope that a letter from University Health Service and a virulent cough would get me an extension on my term paper; hope that my grandma would keep her promise to buy me a diamond tennis bracelet if I graduated from college; and hope that after fall study break, my batteries would be recharged and I would return to classes rejuvenated, refreshed and reenergized.

I’d like to think of fall study break as the University’s own little academic bailout. If all the students on campus failed their classes because of anxiety and stress, the University’s empire would crumble. So, with the intervention of a two-day break, the University stays billions of dollars richer, and we students are given two extra days to get our shit together.

Behind every bailout, though, there tends to be a bad economic decision and a failure to plan on both the executive and the clients’ part. I can’t help but wonder if we’re abusing our resources and making a poor investment.

Being a student is an overwhelming challenge. In between studying for classes, going to meetings and office hours, doing community service and waiting in line for 30 minutes just to get an undercooked piece of beef from the dining hall, students don’t get a chance to take a moment for themselves. The demanding pressures of being a well-rounded student leave most of us in a total state of exhaustion by the end of September.

Like the millions of homeowners led astray by greedy bankers and manipulative lenders, students are vulnerable to pushy advisors who persuade them to take 18 credits and intimidating student organizations that overload your Inbox with dozens of tempting opportunities. Signing up for every table at Festifall that gives away a free T-shirt is like going to the mall and applying for a credit card at every store. You probably won’t ever get turned away, but the freebie might cost you the loss of every extra dollar (or in this case, minute) you have.

The same applies to course load. Students who register for a full load of classes knowing they struggled to pass the three courses they took last semester just because it “looks better” are asking for a foreclosure on their enrollment status. There are only so many “W”s, “I”s, “P/F”s and “C-“s you can get on your transcript before red flags start going up and your academic credit score drops significantly.

I’ve noticed that a lot of students overextend themselves to impress their friends and family. Students’ competitiveness is disturbing, and each day they go head to head with other students to see who can get the highest grades, build the best résumé and ingratiate themselves with the most professors. While a little friendly competition is good for keeping you on your toes, trying to keep up with the Joneses is an emotional meltdown waiting to happen.

Like many Americans and government officials who feared Wall Street executives would abuse the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, some University officials and alumni worry that students won’t use their time off wisely. During the homecoming weekend, I heard several alumni express how foolish and unnecessary they thought fall study break is. According to them, students are out of the classroom too much as it is. They argue that the study break will only give students two more days to party.

I can only pray that those heartless people aren’t interested in a career in education.

While it’s true that American students are in class a lot less than our international counterparts, it is also true that most learning is done outside of the classroom. Besides, a neurotic student who is spaced out in the middle of class will hardly be as effective as student who is alert, happy and energized.

I, for one, am happy that the University decided to provide its students with a much-needed mid-semester academic bailout. Who knows, maybe the University will decide to give us a stimulus check for our grade point average in December.

Shakira Smiler can be reached at stsmiler@umich.edu.

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