Courtesy, Briana Munoz
Briana Munoz felt forced to take seven courses last semester to graduate on time and protect her financial aid status.

I took seven classes last semester and somehow survived.

I don’t regret my decision. I passed all of my courses with A and B grades. However, there are plenty of things I would do differently if I had to do it again. For the sake of maintaining my GPA – and my sanity.

If you’ve gone to college, you know how challenging it can be to take four or five classes in a single semester. What would drive me to enroll in such an insane number of courses?

The truth is, money made me do it. My financial aid package clock was ticking, which meant that I was required to graduate within four years or face paying thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket fees for tuition and other school-related costs.

I understand that I’m not the first college student to take seven classes. It somehow seemed manageable to me because of the heavy course loads I had handled in previous semesters.

I tackled five classes while balancing two part-time retail jobs during my first two years as a college student. I figured that if I was capable of handling that, I could tolerate seven online courses while only working one part-time job at a juicery to cover the $350 in rent that I paid to my parents.

I learned the hard way how taking seven classes during a pandemic quickly becomes exponentially more difficult given the never-ending homework load and dreadful eight-hour Zoom-filled days.

I was lucky if I got to leave my room for more than five minutes to take a bathroom break or sneak in my first meal of the day. Moisturizing eye drops could no longer soothe my sandpapery eyes. Most days, I would exit out of each Zoom feeling exhausted while simultaneously dreading the online homework assignments waiting for me.

The opportunity to take classes from the comfort of my home seemed like a blessing since I wouldn’t have to be on campus all day. Looking back, I would have preferred having to drive or take the bus to campus rather than being tucked away hour after hour in my lonely, dimly lit bedroom.

There were nights that I went to sleep dreaming about the assignment I had last worked on, as if my brain had run out of events to reminisce on since most of my days consisted of being glued to my chair and computer. Before I was forced into virtual learning, I could rest my mind by dwelling on a song that I discovered while walking to the bus stop, or wonder about silly thoughts like where my professor bought her candy-red shoes.

But now all I could think about was checking my emails from professors. I know that being an overwhelmed student is nothing new, but when the comfort of your bedroom gets lost amid the stress of a makeshift classroom, things get quite blurry.

I was so wrapped up in my work that there was no time to reflect on how underwater I actually was. Instead, I would criticize myself for every slip-up or missed deadline.

“Why can’t I finish the simplest tasks?” I’d constantly ask while comparing myself to my classmates and their work ethic.

One day, my classmates and I were bantering about how the semester was going in a Zoom breakout room. My classmates shared that they were taking three to four classes, so when I announced how many I was taking, their loud gasps led me to an epiphany. I was so used to continuously downplaying my workload that I actually started to believe it was not a big deal. I needed to learn to give myself the credit I deserved for my effort and recognized that I needed help at times.

I promised myself that, from then on, I would begin to speak up and explain to my professors when I needed extra help or extra time to complete an assignment.

My parents saw how often I would stay up late at night typing away on my computer to finish assignments. They rewarded my effort by telling me that I would no longer have to pay them rent for the rest of the school year, which meant I could quit my part-time job at Juice n’ Bowls. I took them up on that offer immediately, having learned to lean into help when offered. And I was able to incorporate exercise, cooking and roller skating into my daily routine, which helped offset the pressure of my college work.

Taking seven courses in a single semester is hard enough. I only added to my full plate by wasting time criticizing every small mistake and missing out on the opportunity to lean on others when needed.

•••

Briana Muñoz is a recent graduate from California State University, Los Angeles, where she studied journalism. She’s also a summer intern with EdSource’s California Student Journalism Corps.

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  1. Pam Knapp 2 months ago2 months ago

    Congratulations on your success and understanding your struggle during this journey. Your comments and feelings are real and resonated with me. While not taking classes, working full-time remotely from a spare bedroom in our home truly did “blur the lines” of separation between home and work. I enjoyed this article and wish you continued success!

  2. Judy Dunn 2 months ago2 months ago

    Briana, your article was excellent!! Thank you for sharing your vulnerability. Your comments brought back memories from my 1970’s college years and a personal decision to finish in three years so I could teach elementary school. You learned how to play the “Game of School.” Congratulations!! Your Master’s Degree awaits…

  3. Loren Kaye 2 months ago2 months ago

    Outstanding article. Pitch perfect writing and good for EdSource for change-of-pace content.