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The Vista Online



Dr. Jim Bidlack
Associate Professor, Biology

September 26, 2000


One of the reasons college graduates get good jobs is because they have proven how well they can deal with stress.

When I was a student, it was common to enroll in 16-18 hours a semester, stay involved in at least 2-3 campus organizations, live in a dorm/apartment with several roommates, and work (at little or no salary, I might add) for a professor who knew about the real world. It was stressful, indeed, but the excitement of exams, fraternity incidents, overdue bills, grumpy professors, and crazy girlfriends seemed to keep me going.

I recall one week in which I did not do all too well on an exam, the fraternity got in trouble for riding motorcycles down the stairs, my bank account was down to $1.80, and Dominoís pizza had requested a warrant for the arrest of one of my roommates. It seemed like a living hell and I had to take a long, hard look at priorities.

Stress can make you do some pretty creative things. It was on a Friday Night, before a 7:30 AM Saturday Calculus Class, that I was thinking about a party down the street and homework due the following morning.

Since this was a math class, and all, I took out the handy-dandy calculator, that we all wore on our belts those days, and performed an interesting calculation.

Assuming, back then, that a college graduate makes an average of about $20,000 a year more than non-graduates - for about 30 years, this means that a diploma is worth about $600,000 in a personís lifetime. Iím sure a diploma is worth more these days. And if you figure that most students graduate from college in 4 years, that means that every year is worth about $150,000. If you break that down to attending class 32 weeks a year at 16 hours per week, this means the average lecture has the potential to add $293 to a personís lifetime income.

That sure made me think. I mean, was Dr. Kaufmann, who was teaching Calculus on Saturday morning really worth $293 an hour? Which also made me think, at $293 an hour, 16 hours a week, and 32 weeks per year, professors should be making $150,000 per year. Hmmmmm.

Well, I donít think Dr. Kaufmann made even a third of that salary, but he was worth every bit of the tuition I paid at Purdue University.

Since that class, Iíve used Calculus on numerous occasions and even published a few papers on growth dynamics of plants using partial differential equations. So, even with a stressful week, I got the homework done and made it to class on Saturday morning. This is not to say I didnít enjoy the party that evening, but I did go knowing my homework was done and I had a new, positive perspective on education.

Perhaps the best way to deal with stress is through productive reasoning. Iíve always felt that there is a purpose for the many challenges of life, and school is one of the greatest opportunities we have to fulfill our lives. I relish the days of anxiety and anticipation when professors return exams.

Weíve all lived those cold hands, sweaty armpit, knot-in-the-stomach, and diarrhea days. But they are ever so much enjoyable when you realize that challenges are what motivate us to persevere, stay positive, and continue our quest for new knowledge. After all, life would be pretty boring if there werenít any challenges and people knew everything.

So whatís in store for you after college?

More stress, of course. But many rewards as well. When you find yourself overwhelmed in class, too tired to study, and disappointed in your academic performance, stay optimistic. The old saying of, ďwhat goes around comes around,Ē also known as the First Law of Thermodynamics, is really true. Hard work is rewarded. It just takes a little longer than you might expect.