The biggest addiction in college: skipping class

Part of my job as an Admissions Advisor at Eastern Washington University is to give presentations to visiting middle and high school classes that come to see what a college campus is like.  I nearly always start off my presentations by asking the students how they think college is different than high school.  One day, a very bright high school student responded by saying, “You don’t have to go to class if you don’t want to.”  He was absolutely right, but I think he was caught off guard by my response when I said, “But you don’t have to go to school right now either.  You could just drop out and run away and you wouldn’t have to worry about school ever again.”  The entire class (and especially the teacher) looked at me like I was crazy, but that was exactly the point I was trying to make.

It is obvious to almost everyone that there would be negative consequences associated with skipping class in high school.  In college however, it is more difficult to see these consequences because there is no assistant principal calling your parents when you skip and assigning you Saturday school.  The consequences still exist, though, and it is important to understand them.  It is also important to understand the reasons why a college student might skip a class so you can make an informed decision for yourself when you attend college.  When you miss class, whether the reason for missing is excusable or not, you are missing out on the opportunity to gain additional knowledge.  Of course it is possible to gain that knowledge in alternative ways or with additional effort, but really if you are already skipping class are you going to put in the additional effort?

I’ve worked on college campuses for the past nine years and one of the most commonly overheard conversations in the dining halls goes something like this:

Student A: Hey did you go to class today?  (Student A is not asking because they went to class and want to follow up about a certain topic covered in lecture.  They skipped and want to know if they missed a quiz or something)

Student B: Yeah I was there, where were you?

Student A: I didn’t feel like going.  Did we do anything in class?

Student B: No, not really.

Student A: Oh cool, then I didn’t miss anything.

Really?  You think the professor just stared at the class blankly for the class period and didn’t say a word?  That may be how it occasionally works in high school, where your teacher allows you to work on homework during the entire class period, but in college a professor lectures to the class for pretty much the entire time.  However, I understand what the student is probably thinking.  They think they can just read over notes from a friend and read the class textbook and pick up everything they would have learned by going to class that day, and honestly that would work for some classes and for some students.  All students have different learning styles and while some do better absorbing material when it is spoken to them, others learn better from reading the same material.  My question is, though, why not just do both?  There is no easier way to get the information than sitting in class and listening for 50 minutes.

One other way college is different than high school is that in college you are paying to attend your class.  According to EducationOnline.net the current average cost for a year of tuition at a 4 year public college is 6,585 dollars a year or 2195 per quarter.  A college quarter is 10 weeks long so that is 219.50 and the average student is in class 15 hours a week so that comes out to $14.63 per hour of class.  If you are going to skip a class then, whatever you are going to do with that time better be worth at least 14 dollars.  If you skip class to take a nap or play World of Warcraft, are those things worth 14 dollars to you?  14 dollars may not seem like much, but if you were to skip class just once a week for the entire quarter, you would be out $140 over the course of ten weeks.

I realize it might sound like I’m a bit of a prude who never skipped class and that isn’t true.  On occasion I did skip class, but I had to believe that I would pay at least 14 dollars to do whatever it was that I did while I skipped.  For example during my senior year of college there was a presentation on campus that was happening during one of my classes that I wanted to attend.  The presentation was by Graham Kerr, who was a TV chef and a childhood hero of mine (if you were a huge fan of Emeril Lagasse growing up maybe you can relate) and I felt like seeing him speak was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  If I had to I would have paid at least 20 dollars to see the presentation, so for me I felt comfortable skipping my class to attend.

Maybe if college students had to pay someone cash every time they skipped a class they would think twice about whether or not it was worth missing class.  You could work out a deal with your roommate so when either of you skip class they have to pay the other one 14 dollars.

However, we are still left with the question of why do college students skip class?  I think I have come up with the answer, and it comes back to me telling that high school student they could drop out and run away if they wanted to.  College is the first time most people have full control of their lives, or at least realize they have full control over their lives because really they could have always just run away.  Discovering and exploring that freedom is one of the most exciting, and scary, parts of college.  I believe college students skip class is a way to rebel against the system and show they are in charge.  More simply, college students usually skip class just because it is the first time that feels like they can.

Now I know exactly what any college student who regularly skips class would say back to me, “But class is just boring.  That is why I skip it.”  To be completely honest, that student might be right.  However, since in college you can pick almost whatever classes you want, maybe that student should take subjects they find more engaging and that don’t feel like a burden to learn about for an hour.

College is about developing a work ethic that will serve you for the rest of your life.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret; most people will occasionally be bored at their job.  Now if one day you felt like work was going to be boring and decided to skip it that probably wouldn’t go over very well with your boss.  You have the opportunity to set habits that will stick with you for the rest of your life and the decision is yours on the habits you develop.

If going to class is such an inconvenience for you there is a way around it.  You could go pick up a nice piece of cardstock, print yourself out a fake degree, doctor your resume, and start applying for jobs.  Now that plan might not work out so well if you are planning on being a neurosurgeon or looking for a job that needs special training but there are tons of job where you just need any college degree (what do you think all those philosophy majors are doing, they aren’t opening a lot of philosophy shops in the mall).

You might find the thought of faking your college degree to be morally off-putting but you could justify it in the same way you justify skipping class.  When you apply for a job an employer rarely, if ever, contacts your university to ensure that you were awarded a degree which is similar to a college professor not taking attendance in the class.  You could learn how to perform job duties by watching videos on YouTube in the same way you could catch up on a missed class by reading the textbook.  In all honesty, with a little training you would probably end up doing fine, and there are plenty of examples of people doctoring resumes or faking degrees who were highly valued employees within their organization.  The question you have to ask yourself, whether you are skipping class or printing out your degree, is how many shortcuts in life are you willing to take?  Are they worth the consequences?  What do they say about your work ethic?

Comments

  1. Lesia Miguez says:

    Excellent article, keep it up!

  2. patti says:

    Hi Seth

    Enjoyed your article very much.

    Skipping class is usually not considered a big deal but your article certainly gives “food for thought”.

    Thanks

  3. epeterson says:

    Skipping class is a big deal. From the perspective of the professor, specifically me, students need to understand that I plan each class day to be something specific, to talk about something specific, and to prepare students not only for an upcoming asssignment or test, but also, for their life. Being accountable to his or her decision to enroll in a class means going to class.

    More importantly, students who regularly skip class typically either don’t pass or earn very low grades.

  4. Harry Xu says:

    I am a college student in China,we here skipping class is very common among college students and the professors or counselors are not so responsible as those in US. I think most students who often skip their class in the college keep it as a habit. Once they skip for the first time , there will be a second . So we had better don’t miss any class in a quarter.The article is pretty good and I can’t find these kinds of articles on my school website.

  5. anon says:

    My life was out of control and I was a chronic class skipper excuse maker extrordinar! I was diagnosed with ADHD and now things are in control, and my attendence has improved 90%, and I stopped making excuses… You are on to something. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Armo says:

    You are forgetting about the prof. that just reads his book in class.
    I can stay home at read it to myself.

  7. Nanna says:

    (Armo: +1 to that)

    “Now if one day you felt like work was going to be boring and decided to skip it that probably wouldn’t go over very well with your boss.”

    … And that’s precisely why you should skip classes, in college! Do it while you can!!!! Remember — when you get a job, most of you won’t be able to stay at home just because you “feel like it”!

  8. khalid says:

    im a college student and as you said im addicted to skipping classes and i think that the best reason is that the student is not convinced with the classes he is taking like you said but we are not always free to choose our courses so many coursses i take in college but i dont appeal to them so im always skipping class and im looking for a soluion to this problem but tell now i did not find one, still good article and thanks for it.

  9. jess says:

    I strongly have to disagree with most of this article. I’m a junior in college and have missed classes mostly due to the fact that I work 30some hours a week and have other classes that demand a lot of time. I run 5-10am shifts and have an 8:30 class but can’t always find someone to cover the shifts for me. Some of my classes are more necessary to my major while others I had no interest in and was forced to take. Take other possibilites into account before saying a lot of students skip just because they can.

  10. Tobias says:

    This is a very ignorant article and shows how out of touch people are with the young. I’m not surprised they don’t turn up for lessons.

  11. Sal says:

    Although I am not encouraging people to skip class, but just playing devil’s advocate towards a few statements.
    You responded to the student with “But you don’t have to go to school right now either. You could just drop out and run away and you wouldn’t have to worry about school ever again.” That would have been a great idea except we live in a society that emphasize importance of a degree over competence. We live in a world dominated by institutions. Someone can be very good at a certain expertise but without a college degree, most people won’t hire you. Having a college degree is, to an extend, a need for survival. (Although I am NOT implying that we should eliminate institution because we do need institution, imagine how many jobs are created as a result of institution, eliminating the structure or need for educational institute would mean no more jobs for professors. What will the philosophy major do?)
    In respond you mentioned that you can also fake a degree but there is a huge difference in faking a degree vs getting a degree but not attending class. Faking a degree is considered fraud and is illegal, therefore, the consequences would be either getting fined or imprisonment, the end result can be more risky and more expensive. On the other hand, getting a college degree while not attending class would be like “buying” a college degree, it is actually legal and, while expensive, can, in the long one, be more beneficial than faking a degree. With that said, I do agree that if someone is paying 14$ an hour just to play warcraft or partying, it can be stupid. But if that college degree, along with good social skill, can get you a decent job than the 14$ hour may be good long term investment. But of course getting a college degree doesn’t necessarily gets you a good job, you need to have knowledge and actual skill as well. The college degree only gets you hired but not keeps you hired. Therefore, at the end of the day you need to have the actual skill that matches up with the degree. But how you attain that differs for different people.
    You responded with “why not just do both?”. Well. the answer is simple, maximizing efficiency. This is only targeting the people who are using the extra hours in effective ways that help them attain the skill but perhaps not in a classroom setting. For example. Two person pursuing the same degree, both learn better through self study rather than listening to a lecture; one attend an hour of class because of the obligation to follow the standard of an institution but is really not learning efficiently; the other person skip the hour of lecture to spend it on self study which is more efficient for him. So with 1 hours of study, which student would actually be more efficient and more skilled? Now, you may think, its only an hour, even if its a waste of time, why not just attend anyway? That is very true, but, not everyone, even those who attend class everyday will spend 24 hours a day studying. Most people really just spend 2-3 hours a day on studies on one class.
    Continuing with the example provided previously: 2 students, both attending college to get a degree, on average spend around 2 hours a day to study for one class. Assuming that the students learns better through self study; one spend 1 hours self study (efficient) 1 hours in lecture (not efficent); the other 2 hour on self study (efficient x2) . In 6 month, one person have accomplished a skill,but the other have accomplish 2x more skill or even 2 skill. (I understands that this is only theoretical and in reality it may not be the case.)
    Overall, I am not saying that you are wrong or that it is right to ignore the professors who work so hard to try to teach you, I mean if no student attend class, the professors will be teaching an empty classroom, so obviously that is not what I am encouraging, but just to provide a different side of the situation. I mean we all sacrifice a little in certain areas in order to gain a little in another area, this is something the student have to decide for themselves which is more important to them, one cannot just assume that people learn or live the style we want to. Every one have their own logic and reason.

  12. Salviati says:

    Students generally skip class because they value learning far less than the development of their social lives. This behavior is cultivated in our nations high schools, where students are encouraged to prioritize extracurricular activities over academics by their parents, administrators and coaches (many of whom are teachers). The non sports extracurricular activities are little more than social gatherings. Sports on the other hand are students first exposure to how the world functions, where there are consequences for absence and poor performance. The students internalize this farce and transfer it into the college setting where the power dynamic shifts from administrators unconditionally backing parents to administrators conditionally backing professors. This ultimately leads to poor performance on the part of students and mediocre college graduates.

  13. martina says:

    Sometimes the books are better than a way which insructors are teaching. add some dull boring unmotivational instructors personality and you get even the most enthusiastic students out of class. but i know its impossible for teacher to admit a fault but thats ok.

  14. Kathryn says:

    I am a college senior and I skip class regularly. In fact, it’s the end of the semester almost and I can barely remember the last time I attended class a full week before last week. I work almost 20 hours a week to help my father pay bills. I do not party with other students. When I’m missing class, I’m usually sleeping because I just can’t get enough sleep. I’m able to study the few hours before a quiz or exam and ace it. Yes, sometimes I don’t do that well, but I never receive the lowest marks. I usually do exceedingly better than the students who never miss a class because society has drilled it into their heads that it is not okay to miss. When I do attend class, the students ask questions that can be easily answered by opening their textbooks or by thinking just a little bit. The whole class is wasted to answer one question and I’m left feeling unfulfilled and like the time I “pay for” isn’t worth it. I feel like I’m not advancing in my classes when I go, so I do not attend. As well as this, two years ago, I developed extreme stress and anxiety around my classes which resulted in stomach issues. It is hard for me to go to class once I get flare ups and it is also extremely embarrassing to explain to a professor.

    How is it right that I get penalized for this? I am able to prove that I have knowledge of the material. So what if I don’t show up. That doesn’t mean I’m not dependable or responsible. It doesn’t mean that I’m wasting money.

    I definitely do not value learning more than my social life. To generalize like that is outrageous. Just open your eyes a little and I guarantee you will find other students in my situation.

  15. Clarence says:

    I agree with the entire article. Whether a student feels like something or not, they still make in-responsible decisions and pay for it later when they are 40 still working the same job for the same pay.

  16. Meh says:

    aha.. at top it did say speak your mind.. so I’ll take this space to rant.
    (please note: everything is going to be disjointed if anybody bothers to read my comment..)

    I am a frequent skipper and have been known to miss 3/4 of my total classes.
    It got increasingly bad as I began cramming 8hrs before a test.
    Eventually I became utterly stress and depressed and well you can guess what happened next.

    My defense towards my destructive behavior:

    So I was taking my second quarter and I decided to change my learning style. I began to invest hours on independent studying. Reading the text book, taking notes and all that stuff. It eventually become meditative.
    But after a week or 2 I got extremely annoyed. The professor’s lecture was basically ripped off from the book. There was rarely any in depth deviation of the subject we were learning from. The professor practically assumed nobody was going to read the textbook and centered the lecture on introducing the subject at hand.

    So I sat there, fuming at the professor lecture and my stupidity for bothering to spend so much hours in learning something that was going to be retaught. To add insult to injury, I aced the test, found it despicably easy and all of the answers could have been found in the textbook. After that first test I began skipping class and learning things on my own. The habit of skipping class acted like a malignant tumor and began infecting my other habits and cognitive behaviors. ex. deadlines became relative

    What I did was irresponsible, wastes money and is a complete insult to others who actually attended class and worked hard to get an A. But just like cancer its damn hard to get rid of the habit.

    My opinion about your article: I understand it was suppose to be an eye opener. But it is a bit difficult for me to open my eyes any wider. I sometimes wonder if I should close my eyes. Maybe ill find the invisible solution to all my troubles. ( this is where somebody would comment: And pigs could fly )

    Anyways my advice would be to not give advice on things you don’t understand until you understand it.
    ( ahaha… the last sentence is a bit condescending …. it would be ironic if anybody got defensive )

    tralala~ im sorry for the deviations .. hey we even live in the same state.. how awe- some yeah?

  17. Anon says:

    I think attending class everyday is a very important part of creating a structured schedule and lifestyle for oneself. Structure will allow you to be as ultimately time efficient as possible. Most of your life long habits begin in your early 20s. If you spend them sleeping in till 2 PM daily, slacking off and binge drinking who knows what nasty habits you will drag with you for the rest of your life. In no way am I saying don’t have fun. I am currently a Vice President of a sorority, I go out to the bars or house parties easily 3/4 weekends in a month, as well as movie nights with my friends, and maintaining a steady relationship all while being a full time student and working at least 20 hours a week. There is a time and place for everything. Since having taken on all of these responsibilities I have noticed that I am very on top of everything. I am able to plan my day from 7 AM to 10 PM and accomplish most everything I need and want to do. Infact I have noticed my friends that skip class and don’t work are always confused, frazzled, and struggling to keep their head above water.
    Class is typically no more than 4 hours of my day. That may seem daunting but truthfully attending helps me understand all of my subjects much better, not to mention professors LOVE when you attend class. I also will occasionally go to their office hours if I have questions or need help and they are completely ecstatic when you come to visit. NO ONE goes to their office hours, so you get all the one on one attention you need for up to 2 or 3 hours at a time (if you have it). Professors are a resource that are under appreciated. I can’t tell you how many times professors have graded me easier because they know me personally, or allowed me to turn something in after the dead line. Establishing these kinds of relationships once you begin your major is crucial. Because believe it or not lots professors have other jobs… that have great internship opportunities.
    Going to class can do nothing but help you. I just don’t understand what benefit you recieve from skipping? Sleep while your dead, and try to find every class interesting in its own way. If you didn’t want to take a history class as a science major then you shouldn’t have come to a university. The purpose of getting a bachelors degree is to prove you are a well rounded person in all topics (History, english, math, art, science, etc.). If you only want to take courses focused on youre career field then you belong in a vocational school.

  18. John Wayne says:

    “I strongly have to disagree with most of this article. I’m a junior in college and have missed classes mostly due to the fact that I work 30some hours a week and have other classes that demand a lot of time. I run 5-10am shifts and have an 8:30 class but can’t always find someone to cover the shifts for me. Some of my classes are more necessary to my major while others I had no interest in and was forced to take. Take other possibilites into account before saying a lot of students skip just because they can.”

    Working to pay for classes you aren’t attending is like working to pay for a car you’re not driving: it doesn’t make sense and is a waste of your money. When folks are having to pay more money to re-take classes they thought were dumb or can’t get into the grad school they wanted because they didn’t want to hear a professor read from a book, they’ll think differently.

  19. cc1691 says:

    Time is limited for students.
    Some students may prefer working on personal projects, like a start up, or a coding project instead of going to class. Are you honestly telling me that starting a business or even working on something that the student is passionate about, like investing or cooking, is less valuable then going to class and listening to material, of which 90% will be useless in the real world?

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