Last time I wrote about rumored free money for college and the bitter pill of truth that many parents and students find themselves swallowing over the summer following high school graduation. Now I want to say some truthful things about college in general. I believe I am qualified to say these things as a college graduate, a former college professor, and the parent of a college student.
First, it would be helpful to remember that colleges are businesses—BIG businesses, in fact. Just like any other business, paying customers are necessary for survival. Colleges offer guided campus visits, send recruiters out to high schools, and paint rosy pictures of their campus experience and future prospects for their graduates. Not to say that any of the information is false, but it can be misleading. The mega-colleges such as UT and A&M really have no need to recruit or be rosy. They are the businesses with a bouncer at the front door who only lets in the coolest customers.
That leads me to the next truth: The mega-colleges have no trouble attracting or retaining students-customers, so they have little to no investment in being nice or helpful, especially to freshmen and sophomores. This attitude is not limited to the big-name colleges, but also exists in some smaller, less well-known colleges. Are you in a freshman English Composition class with 300 of your best friends and need some help with your assignment? Or need some explanation as to what you did wrong on the assignment you failed? Sometimes there are tutoring centers that can help you, but you are not likely to have any direct contact with your professor. If you do have direct contact with him or her, you are likely to find a very cranky person who has no compassion for you. The vast majority of professors HATE teaching freshman-level courses and are in no mood to provide you with personal attention. If you can survive until you are a junior, you have proven your persistence and have likely lost some of the silliness and neediness you had as a freshman—now your professors may take a little interest in you.
The next truth: All college campuses lose their charm once you have been there a while. It seems every student on every campus reaches a point where they hate the college, the town, the carillon bells that used to sound so collegiate, the activities that used to seem so exciting, and the fellow students who used to seem so interesting. Some colleges are good at slapping away the romance within the first month of fall semester, while some colleges help you remain romantic through most of your freshman year and maybe part of your sophomore year. It has been 22 years since I graduated from the University of Tennessee so the campus has re-gained it's rosy glow in my mind, but I have not completely forgotten some of the miserable times I had there and how badly I wanted to get out of Knoxville! There are two main reasons for this phenomenon: First, the three or four years following high school graduation are filled with challenges as a person transitions from dependent child to independent adult, whether you attend college or not; and second, strip away the ball games and social life and college is just plain, old hard work.
I tell you all of this, not because I am trying to discourage you, but because I believe you can make better choices when you are equipped with the truth and have a realistic idea of what you are getting yourself or your child into. When students head off to college with just the rosy point of view and find themselves struggling or disillusioned, they tend to think something is wrong with themselves. They take it very personally. This can lead to dropping out, depression, or worse. Is it not better to know up-front, the challenges one will face and prepare for those challenges?
I will continue this next time. Meanwhile, please share your own experiences and questions! SpringCreekArtsGuild@gmail.com