Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Cynic's Guide to College

With two weeks left until graduation, and the vast majority of my undergrad work behind me, I feel I can safely say I've gotten through college. I've gotten some questions from the teenagers where I student teach about what life is like after high school. These questions have gotten me thinking about my last four years here, and what follows are the tips I came up with, none of which I will share with my students. Their idealism is still so intact and refreshing. Ah, youth.

-Don't believe the hype.
Despite sweeping generalizations that permeate culture about, "this IS  what your college experience will be like," being at a university is kind of different for everyone. Personally, I didn't really start having fun in college until halfway through my sophomore year. Some people love it from beginning to end. Some people drop out or transfer. Some people set couches on fire. Some people study too much and make the whole 200-person class look bad. It varies.

-(A lot of) Professors don't care about you.
Especially at a research university, the #1 priority of most professors isn't student achievement or teaching content well, but getting published in academic journals. It is not uncommon for professors to not email students back, not show up for pre-scheduled meetings with students, or for them to simply be really, really bad at teaching. This is certainly not the rule for every professor, and I've met some really great, compassionate educators at college, but unfortunately, these people were the minority. College teaches you to proactively accomplish things because oftentimes you are the only person who really cares about your own success.

-Grow up.
By all means, do stupid shit in college. I certainly did. Multiple times and in multiple countries. However, at this point in life you have to be held accountable. Everyone is an adult there. Walking around campus some days, that thought is concerning. But everyone is complex, and you can certainly have fun, do ridiculous stuff, and embrace that side of yourself, as long as your alarm is set for responsibility o'clock the next morning. Also, always get a sober driver and drink a lot of water. Surround yourself with people who give a shit about you.

-Change your mind.
The plan I came into college with doesn't correspond at all to the degrees I'm now leaving with. And many of my friends are in the same boat. Two of the best decisions I made in the past four years, applying for the school of education and going abroad, were not part of my plan. They kind of just came up, I thought, "Well, ok." then did them. While I wish I'd been a little more organized about the whole thing, taking chances on stuff I wasn't sure about led me to the best experiences I've ever had and the best people I've ever met.