Three papers due by midnight, two tests the week before finals (who does that?), and, of course, don’t miss class because this material will be 50 percent of the final. Welcome to Hell Week at Hillsdale College, a time when we all ask ourselves, does strength really rejoice in the challenge?
With finals right around the corner, the library is packed more than it has been all semester and sleep schedules land in the toilet. Student stress is at an all-time high. I’ve experienced this phenomenon for the past three years, and there seems to be a natural order of things: Too much work and too little time.
The end of the semester is a time filled with bleary-eyed students sleepwalking through their lives, praying they make it home for Christmas.
But that’s not all that Hell week and finals bring to campus.
This isn’t a cliche pep-talk to remind 1,400 students that everything is going to be okay. It is a reality check. To my peers, I’m right there with you. I have papers due, finals to study for, extracurricular commitments, and not nearly as much time as I wish I had.
But I also have much more. I am blessed to be a student at a college that values truth. Here at Hillsdale, we’re surrounded by fellow students and professors that earnestly believe in the value of pursuing the higher things in life. I don’t love studying for finals or painstakingly revising term papers that I should have started weeks earlier, but I do love the eternal things that I am studying. As post-graduate life nears, I know that the coming decades will rarely give me the opportunity to pour over C.S. Lewis, Friedrich Hayek, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Winston Churchill for hours on end. This opportunity is a blessing not to be taken lightly.
To the freshmen tackling Hell Week and finals for the first time: Your class is supposed to be the smartest that has ever traversed this campus, but guess what? You’re going to be challenged and, more likely than not, knocked down. That’s normal — it’s a place every Hillsdale student has been at more than a few times throughout their time here. But the challenges you are sure to face over these last two weeks are just the beginning of a journey that will hopefully help you grow into a fuller, more complete human being. at’s why you are here. at’s why you chose Hillsdale College, of all places.
During my time here, rarely have I been accused of being the smartest, most accomplished person in any room. But I have picked up a small scrap of wisdom along the way (four years seems too short a time to learn all the lessons Hillsdale has to offer).
Thankfully, amidst the sleepless nights of cramming and hasty paper writing, I’ve come to understand what my student ambassador told me four short years ago: A Hillsdale education is about the cultivation of your soul in order to live well; it is about preparing yourself to live a life that is edifying not just to yourself, but to those around you, too; and ultimately, it’s about understanding what it really means to be human.
Hillsdale students are not defined by the GPA’s on our resumes or the cords we donat graduation. Such things are admittedly of great importance, but they are not ultimately what we will remember when we fondly look back on our college years. Rather, we will remember the small moments we shared with our peers and, hopefully, the lessons of great thinkers that we couldn’t quite t into a study guide.
Friends, embrace the challenge of finals, study hard — and most of all, try to learn a thing or two along the way.
Erik Halvorson is a senior studying economics.