Senior reflects on crafting last schedule
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
Each semester, I look forward to the release of the next semester’s class schedule. Without fail, crafting a schedule for three months in the future instantly becomes the most important thing on my to-do list.
This year though, the release of the course schedule became an unwelcome lesson in the “sunk cost fallacy.”
I am currently finishing up my degree in mechanical engineering, but I also added a second major in applied physiology during the first semester of my junior year. Physiology was never something in which I was interested.
Quite frankly, biology had always creeped me out. I could barely watch CSI without getting queasy. Taking that first anatomy and physiology class, my discomfort transformed into intrigue as I learned how the human body was nothing more than a machine. It was much like what I had been studying in mechanical engineering for the past three years.
But how did a year-old foray into physiology combine with scheduling to give me a wholly unpleasant lesson about the sunk cost fallacy?
In a nutshell, all of my remaining physiology classes would be at the same time as all of my remaining mechanical engineering classes.
The earliest I could take them would be next fall, yet my scholarship ends when I graduate this coming May.
The sunk cost fallacy warns against basing your future decisions on what you have already done.
For instance, people don’t want to waste a sporting event ticket they already purchased, and thus sunk money into, and so they end up going to the game — even if they would be happier watching it at home with friends. People feel an obligation to make use of their money. Contrary to intuition, value from experience doesn’t really work this way.
The money for the ticket is already spent. You shouldn’t let that dictate where you watch the game. Pick the option that brings you the greater joy, satisfaction or whatever other criterion you choose.
Going back to my original situation, I am at the unfortunate point in my college career where I must choose whether it is worth spending an extra semester’s tuition to pick up a second, admittedly mostly-for-fun degree.
Intuition says “You have already completed half of the course work! Think of all those hours you spent! You wouldn’t want to let that time and effort be for nothing!”
Luckily, the logical side of me then says “Don’t be trapped by the sunk cost fallacy. Whether you continue on or not, you are not getting that time and effort back.”
Unfortunately for me, it looks like I will soon be back to being solely a mechanical engineering major. I have loved the time I spent in the applied physiology sports management program, however.
My fantastic professors I enjoyed and the many opportunities that I would never have had otherwise compensate for the regret. Of course, I am sad that it will be coming to an end, but even without picking up a second diploma, I learned much for which I am thankful.
Ray is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.