I Bet You Wish You Knew This
When I graduated high school I suddenly felt this sense of entitlement. I didn’t feel like more of an adult per-say but I felt like I deserved free time. I wanted time to myself and to find myself! It was as if tossing up that graduation cap somehow waived all future responsibilities.
The realization that this was an incredibly ignorant assessment didn’t come until I stepped foot here on the HCC campus. The moment my foot touched the pavement I knew I had to get back into the groove of things, and ever since then I’ve found myself and others around me struggling to do just that.
In 2005, Hart Research Associates estimated that around two in five (42%) of recent public high school graduates were not adequately prepared by their prior education to meet the expectations of college. Those numbers haven’t changed much over the last decade.
This means that a large portion of high school graduates in the U.S, although fully eligible to attend college, find themselves lacking the basic skills needed in order to succeed. More often than not do students find themselves in remedial courses for English, Math, or Biology, because they struggled to meet specific criteria needed in order to place “average.”
So I asked myself: why is that? How are we not being better prepared for this? What do we need to know?
After pondering that final question for what seemed like a lifetime, I finally came to this conclusion: there is no such thing as an easy college-career. It takes: time, discipline, and a lot of heart in order to succeed in college and in life. I wish someone told me that going in, but there wasn’t anyone there to. So, I’ve come up with some tips:
Manage Your Time Well
Homework and test deadlines may seem far away, but they sneak up on you faster than you think. It may sound cliche, but before you know it, it’s the night before and you’re cramming. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean do the assignment the moment you get it, but college is primarily about time management. You have to be organized in order to succeed.
“I found myself struggling a lot first semester,” says Emanuel Soares, a student in his third semester at HCC. “I took a math class that required me to be online a lot. And you’re given all the assignments in the beginning, like the first day you see everything you are supposed to be doing all semester. That overwhelmed me!”
Soares continues, “I looked ahead and it just started killing me, I blew it off, and it got to the point where I had to tell my friends I couldn’t see them because all my math homework was due the next day. I wish I was told to break it up into bits and pieces, and to only look ahead if I felt comfortable with what I had already learned. So I’d say self management and time management are key.”
Soares is right in a lot of aspects. College is primarily time management. That’s been drilled in my head (and I’m sure yours) since day one. Every teacher in hHigh school attempted to give us the same lecture, but to us it was just that, a lecture.
“See, what I do is I have a whiteboard in my bedroom. That’s where I write down everything I have to do that week.” says John Kuroghlian, a student also in his third semester here at HCC.
“It helps me focus. As assignments are given to me, I write down the days they’re due and I write down the best times for me to sit down and do them.”
“I try to stick to it, but sometimes it’s hard to.” Kuroghlian sheepishly admits.
But Kuroghlian has a good system, he not only looks ten steps ahead as to when the assignment is due but he also decides when the best time to do it is.
Kuroghlian gives a bit of insight as to how he stays on task: “If I have an essay due say next Tuesday or whatever — I say to myself: ‘okay, I write slow, so I’ll come up with a topic tonight, and focus mainly on the point I want to get across, once I get an intro down I feel like I was productive.’”
It may sound cliche, but it’s a cliche because it works. If you don’t come up with a system that works for you, you’ll surely struggle. For me, some down time in between class is a must. I never had a study hall in high school, I was in a particular program that made my schedule so tight it just didn’t allow for one. I always felt like had I had that free period I would’ve used it productively.
My first semester, I struggled with finding things to do during my breaks. I’d search the halls aimlessly in the hopes of finding a familiar face and would fail. Then it hit me: why not just do school work? Why wait until I get home?
I’ve found that both my time, as well as my school time have become equal in value. It balances me out. So definitely find that place for yourself.
Don’t skip class
It’s easy to skip class. It’s tempting to skip class. Do NOT skip class. Our whole lives we’re told when to do things: when to go to school, when to leave, when to play, we were even told when to eat lunch. College gives us a new sense of freedom, suddenly we have all the control. And suddenly that power goes to our head.
The College Board (in association with Scholarship Search) estimated that the average student skips 13 classes a semester, 26 classes a year and will skip 104 days in the entirety of their college career. Financial Aid estimates that $591.50 per year, or 26 classes, is wasted on skipped classes.
When no one is holding our hands we’re tempted to test our boundaries. The thing that no one tells you is that it’s time to set our own boundaries. In college, as well as in life, no one will ever tell you what you can and can’t do. It’s time to make those decisions for yourself. Make the right ones.
“Skipping class in college is very easy. Sometimes it’s actually easier than going to class.” says Anthony Costa, a former HCC student that recently transferred. “The difference between college and high school is that in high school everyone is afraid to skip, they know their moms will be called. They had us perfectly trained. And they were right to.”
“In college the professors don’t care whether you show up or not, and I think that’s a harsh realization. Being someone that coasted through high school primarily using my personality, not having a connection with a professor is hard. Not having someone say ‘you have to go here,’ ‘your next class is here,’ or ‘do this work’ was hard.” Costa boldly states.
“You’re responsible for you and only you. Don’t worry what everyone else is doing. Go to class, get the education you’re paying for and graduate. I wish someone told me that.” Costa concludes.
“I’m not going to say don’t skip ever, because there are those occasions where you’re sick or whatever, but I’ve had friends just say ‘meh, I don’t feel like class today’ and sit in the cafeteria! That’s where it starts becoming a problem.” says Elyjah Magliochetti, another third semester student. “I think to a certain degree we’re given too much freedom, we never had it before… I don’t know what to do with it… None of us do!”
Class is stressful sometimes, I can admit that. The work will pile up, but regardless, dodging class won’t make that pile go away. In fact, it’ll just make it grow. My suggestion is self discipline. Get in the habit of going consistently, and getting there on time. If you don’t the professor will take notice of the lack of effort, and your grade will suffer.
“There’s no such thing as a sure thing, that applies in college because there’s no secret way to success… You just sort of have to do,” Magliochetti adds.
In high school a majority of us wouldn’t have dreamed of missing a day of class! I’m in the small minority of people that didn’t mind. But we all were wired to go everyday regardless of the annoyance. No one wants to be here. But we get to be here. Count the blessings you do have, there’s a lot of people in other countries (and even in the U.S) that would kill to have what we have at HCC. Take that responsibility seriously.
Be easy on yourself
There are times where we take a cold hard look at our lives and feel ourselves crumbling from the inside. These are called existential breakdowns. The best advice I can give is to be easy on yourself, you don’t have to know where you’re going and how you’re getting there. But now’s the time to explore different fields, discover your interests and really learn who you will be in the real world.
An existential crisis is what occurs when an individual questions the very foundation of their life. They can be caused by anything: school work overload, issues with a friend, or even problems at home.
In 2008, the Associated Press conducted a survey on stress levels amongst college students. The numbers were remarkable. Studies show that four out of ten first year students feel stressed often. One out of five claim they feel stressed “most of the time.” One in four claim to have stress daily, and one in ten report thoughts of suicide.
“You’re all going through major changes, so those numbers don’t surprise me.” says Michele Weinbaum, a 48-year-old mother of four (one of which a handsome young man named Mitchell.) “When I was in school I remember the nights I’d sit up and wonder if I’d ever make something of myself someday, those were the scary nights. I was under the impression I knew everything about the world.”
“ I’d suggest calling your mother and asking for help, mine was there even for the scariest nights. That hand may not have a constant grip, but remember it’s there when you need it. Kids forget that. I sound like such a mom, ‘why don’t you ever call your mother!’ ” Weinbaum laughs to herself.
My mother’s words resonate with me. It’s okay to call and ask for help. We forget that we’re here to learn. College is supposed to be about furthering our education, it’s about bettering ourselves for the future. But how do you cope with a future you’re deathly afraid of?
“If I had to go back and tell my younger self anything, I don’t know what I’d say… I feel like I haven’t really learned anything after suffering through existential crisis other than they pass,” says HCC student Kevin Vrabel.
“They happen at the worst possible times though, it’s when everything builds up, it’s when you start to feel left behind or in the dark that you start asking things like: ‘who am I?’ or ‘where am I headed.’” Vrabel continues, “I guess in the grand scheme of things, there’s a lot [of] bigger things going on. And not just personally, but in the world. So if you feel your problems are large, and you’re unsure of the direction you’re headed in, just know that there’s a lot of people feeling the same way. And it will subside.”
Vrabel gives some insight as to dealing with them: “I make lists. A list of everything I want to do in life. It’s dumb but I do make them, I write down everything. If I repeat myself I put a star next to that thing so I know it’s important to me. It makes my problems seem miniscule.”
It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important, and it’s tough to get back on track. But keep fighting to stay on track and don’t allow those thoughts to control you, only allow them to fuel you in your continuing endeavours.
Get some sleep.
Sleep is important, and sometimes it’s easy to miss. Especially if you’re cramming to finish an assignment. But truthfully, it’s not impressive to stay up all night and finish an essay. Even if it’s a work of art, the real winner is the kid that finished two days before the deadline and caught up on sleep.
Education means sacrifice, there will be times you’ll feel like you’re being left out of things. More than likely your friends will be on opposing schedules; they’ll be headed out while you’re stuck at home writing an essay. Don’t justify going out and cramming later. It’s just stressful and you could use that sleep. Get in the habit of saying “I have to do school work” as opposed to saying “I have school work.” It convinces the mind this is a task that must be done efficiently. But that doesn’t mean let school dictate your life is important, your down time is invaluable.
If I could go back and tell my younger self anything it would be that: school is important, this day and age a degree is almost necessary to succeed. So, take school seriously. You slacked in high school, and that’s reigned true until this point but you’re working on it. Take this seriously, it’s important.
But don’t take life too seriously yet. You’re still young, don’t allow stress to consume you, allow it to fuel you. Manage yourself, set time to be yourself. And enjoy your time here. You only get one college experience and most people are too busy being stressed to even see what’s right in front of them. So pay attention to the little things.
And it also wouldn’t hurt to lay of the coffee…. But that’s really just more of a suggestion.
What about you? What do you think of the tips above? What else do you wish you had known going in? Weigh in in the comments below.