I feel like I did pretty well with my Camp Hamp education. I enjoyed my time there and I was engaged intellectually with interesting ideas and work. And after graduation, I got into almost every grad school I applied to. I realize this is not the experience of many Hampshire students, however. I think that is really a shame. There is no one way to do Hampshire right, but here is my take on how to come out happy and successful:
Look, Hampshire classes really are not that hard. Especially if you only put in the amount of work you want to. You will need 12+ completed classes for your Div2. Also, the rest of the world seems to believe that learning happens in classes, so you need to have some to show for your four years in college.
If you really don't like a particular class, you can try to switch to another class. But if it's too late for that, don't just drop the class. Instead, carefully limit how much time you spend on the class. Just set aside X number of hours to finish everything assigned. It's a good skill to learn how to finish any given sized project in 2, 4, or 20 hours. Of course, the quality won't always be as good as you like, but you'll at least have completed something. Remember that even an OK evaluation usually says nice things and complements your Div2. Besides, if you handle things well, you won't have to take more than a few classes you don't like. The trick is to follow the next piece of advice:
Ideally, you don't want to get stuck in classes you don't want to finish. The true quality of a class is not clear until you've spent some time in the class. So don't shortchange your options. Go to twice as many classes as you need for that term until the work load becomes an issue. Many classes don't have work due for the first few weeks. Take advantage of that to feel out your options.
Your advisor gives you educational advice. They are not your boss. If you don't like their advice, seek other people's advice to complement theirs. If everybody agrees with your advisor then you are most likely wrong, not them. On the other hand, if your advisor is giving you bad advice, either convince them of your point of view, or switch to somebody else.
Keep in mind your advisor is probably smarter than you are. There is no harm in asking them lots of questions. In fact it's a really good idea to get advice from your advisor. Just don't let them run your academic life. They care about turning out a well rounded individual. You care about following your dreams. Your dreams more important. Just be sure that your dreams involve doing good work, and enough effort that you actually learn something.
Also, be sure to switch advisors at least once or twice in your Hampshire career. Look, you take a lot of their time, they won't mind if you swap them out for another person. And it will be good for you to try out somebody else for size.
Even if its crap, it's better to get it in on time, and keep up with assigned work than to get lagged behind the class. Deadlines are real in the "real" world. Get used to doing as good a job as you can in X hours, and then moving on. Of course, Hampshire makes it easy to push back assignments, and you should take advantage of this when it allows you to do significantly better and more interesting work. But only rarely does pushing work back really do that without significantly reducing the amount of time you will have to devote to work later in the semester.
People got away with almost anything while I was at Hampshire. That has some good sides. But really, why are you paying what will soon be close to $40k a year for? The chance to do what you want, in a supportive environment. You can't get an education without working for it. Aim for making it fun, and be ready to spend a little time on the non-fun work, and a hell of a lot of time on the fun work.
Hampshire is really pretty easy to get through. Spend some time in the outside world, and other places of higher learning and you will have to agree. The point, however, is not getting through. The point (should be) doing what you love and learning a lot from it. And if you want that, Hampshire can let it happen better than most places.
©2002 Alan Robinson ( arobinsonhampshire.edu)