Opinion—Long essays in college are simply silly

Pile of books

“My Books” by Jennerally is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 BURIED ALIVE-End of semester exams, projects and papers are often overwhelming. But a 12-page paper? Jesse Wiederhold says no, thank you.

Jesse Wiederhold

I am a good student. I check the syllabus, I keep up on my reading, I even study before tests/exams and I am quite capable of finding scholarly sources if need be. The problem is: I never feel like doing it; I never want to do it and I surely can’t seem to find any point or purpose in doing it. Maybe it’s just the ADHD, but I think there’s something more here. I think that long page counts for essays, unnecessary discussions on age-old topics and trivial busywork have no place in a modern education. To specify, they have no place especially in a modern-day college education.

I think I stopped learning last semester. I am a senior in my final four classes to graduate. This semester, I feel that all I have been doing is checking boxes and reading whack books to make my professors happy (except for two professors that I do love). However, this leaves me paying a good chunk of money just to be overloaded for one last ride on the rollercoaster that is college. Luckily, after this semester I get that diploma—assuming I get my work done. However, in the meantime I am just wondering why I have to do all this menial stuff.

Exhibit A: I have a class (and I won’t name it specifically so as not to offend anyone) and here’s the problem. It’s a literature class. As an English writing major, I know that all good writers are good readers. That being said, how can you expect someone to enjoy, or even keep their focus on, subject matter created eons before they were born. That’s history, not English—sorry not sorry. 

In this class we had to read about five or six different stories, the plots of which I forget because I hardly read them all, having three other classes and a job to attend to on a daily basis. In this class, there are no assignments. Only one presentation to give and three essays to write. The first essay wasn’t so bad because it was only four pages. Second essay comes, it’s also four pages. Fine, fine, I’ll do it. I think four pages is a reasonable essay length; surely that’s enough room to prove your point and get over it. 

Then, all of the sudden towards the end of the semester, we started talking about the final paper. The professor builds up to the kicker, detailing the requirements of the essay, and it’s revealed that the essay is to be 12 or more pages long. And if you didn’t feel that pain in your bones I either envy you or I think you’re not being honest with me.

 I dislike the idea of a 12-page paper very much. Think about it, that’s 12 whole pages of droning on and on about something that you may or may not even care about. I know I sure don’t care about it, and the professor tried to comfort us saying that it will be easy with so many sources. The professor also said we will have a nice paper and have things to take away from it. That’s just simply not true, I won’t. I don’t think writing about archaic literature older than the stars will serve me well as a journalist. Maybe some people are going to be librarians or historians with their English degree, but that’s not me.

To put the 12-page length requirement into perspective, a website called Essay Solutions states an important figure. 

“A 1,200-word paper could take anywhere from five hours to well over twenty,” they said. 

Now, onto the famous word counting site called Word Counter, who posted guidelines on how word counts match up to numbers of pages. According to their data, 12 pages of nonsense at 12 point font equates to approximately 3,000 words. As a rough calculation, assuming you’re a quick writer, this means you could very well spend 12.5 hours or more on this silly paper. This doesn’t include research. With work, getting enough sleep and all the other classes students are in—who has time for that?

Even if you spent an hour a day, that’s two weeks of dedication. Most of my relationships don’t even last that long, honestly. But spending 12.5 hours on an essay I am literally going to print off just to burn since it won’t be turned in physically is a reasonable request, right? I believe this shows a lack of respect for students and is putting an extra strain on them in already miserable times. Twelve hours is a shift or two at work. Twelve hours is two good nights of sleep for me. What is 12 hours for you?

In the end, I’ll do it. I will force my fingers to type up this goodness-forsaken paper. I will blab about it, groan and moan, but I will do it. I just think it’s entirely unfair, and a waste of time, unfortunately. I hope that someday colleges and professors will realize that 12-page research papers should be saved for graduate students who want to specialize in research and writing papers.

Editor’s Note: The North Wind is committed to offering a free and open public forum of ideas, publishing a wide range of viewpoints to accurately represent the NMU student body. This is a staff column, written by an employee of the North Wind. As such, it expresses the personal opinions of the individual writer, and does not necessarily reflect the position of the North Wind Editorial Board.