Saturday, January 28, 2006

Danger, Will Robinson (if you're a frosh)

USA Today took a look this week at the dangers facing the first-years. Good story. Worth passing along to anyone you know who's in college, going to college or has a kid in his or her freshman year.

It's been a busy week. I did my "What You Should Really Know about College" speech to a very nice corporate group. They laughed in all the right places and many came up afterward to say they were already Phan/Prof readers. Shucks, thanks. And though I've been slower about posting lately because of writing deadlines, I have lots more stories to share and new ones coming in. So keep visiting.

I'm also back in the teaching mode, not just a college class, but water aerobics classes at a local health club, something I got certified to do during the hubbub over getting fired from the university last spring. It's fun being back on my feet, talking to students, dry and wet, again. I think in another life I was Professor Shecky, stand-up comedian. There's such a high from getting people to laugh out loud. I LOVE it.

OK, kids, it's pouring rain here in drought-land. My ancient paraplegic doggy is squawking for her pain pills (thank heavens for Remedyl, which has probably added a year to little Kubby's life) and I need to finish re-reading 1984. That Orwell. Foretold the future better than Nostradamus.

More later. And if you have anything to share about the dangers of freshman year, please share them in comments here.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This might not be exactly related to the USA today story, but runs parallel to it.

I have seen a childhood friend of mine in India go through something similar to this. He was at home all through his education , even during undergraduate years. He had told me once that he had tried smoking once and had a couple of beers at a friend's place who was staying at the dorms. But other than that he was on a very short leash with his father around. When he joined a masters program away from home, he just went wild. I came to know of him smoking two packs of cigs a day and drinking himself silly. And doing it consistently while he was away from home. I believe he got into trouble with the police a couple of times over public drunkeness.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this a problem in European countries--- Americans abroad aside?

9:52 PM  
Blogger SuperHolmie said...

When I look back at my freshman year, which was 1991-2, the thing that very well almost effed my life up all to hell was hooking up with a boyfriend the first week of school. I always wonder what my life would be like now and what kind of people I would have met had I not been otherwise occupied.

Several high school teachers gave some nuggets of advice to us as seniors, during April or May, right before graduation:

Never ask how long papers have to be. This annoys professors because prescribing a length is useless. Assign two pages and people will either have trouble condensing down to two or will write one good paragraph and then a page and a half of complete bullshit. So don't ask about the length. I was glad someone told me this, because it was HILARIOUS to watch the kids in class who did ask, and the subsequent wrath of the professor. Honestly, some got downright angry when asked that question.

Also, if you miss class, don't ask if you missed or are going to miss "anything important". Instead ask what you can make up, if you can meet with the prof when you get back... because asking if you missed anything important is implying that the class is a general waste of time.

Other things I noticed on my own-- in college, effort is not necessarily rewarded in the same way that academic achievement is, but effort is noticed and could mean a letter grade's difference if you're right on the edge, one way or the other. Get to know your professors, because you always end up needing letters of recommendation when you apply for scholarships or jobs or whatever. Furthermore, it is great to have a conversation with a real adult about whatever subject they teach. Kind of like mental sorbet after being around your slutty, boozehound friends.

Finally, a lesson I learned the hard way: protect your GPA. I graduated with a BA and a GPA of 3.34. My senior year I decided I wanted to go to medical school. Despite taking 8 hours of chemistry, plus A&P and a few other things, I could not get my GPA high enough to even be considered for admission. I mean, you just never know when you will really need your college records to speak for you. Anyway, when I went to grad school a few years later, I absolutely busted my ass for 2 years and graduated with a 4.0. Now that I'm about to start doctoral work, I am so glad I have a good GPA and a spotless transcript. Like I said, you just never know when that kind of stuff will make a difference.

Sorry I wrote a tome. But since I'm a teacher, I know what you're dealing with in a freshman class.

10:20 PM  
Anonymous smirktastic said...

That article was scary. Could've been anybody that I knew when I was in college. We all binge drank occasionally and did stupid things and thought looking after each other was enough. Thankfully, nothing tragic ever came of it, but looking back, I know it was more luck or grace of God than any brains on our part.

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's scary to see how the youngsters self-destruct at the beginning of the year. I was an Orientation Leader at my uni, and it was amazing that these kids would ask me the same question within the first 10 minutes of meeting me"Where can I get plastered tonight?" Since I don't drink, it always created a very awkward situation, because I didn't know what to tell them. I see this problem as one in which parents never explained to their children the idea of responsibility..Ironically, most of the kids that were with me at my orientation(which was just two years ago!) aren't even in school anymore, because of stuff like alcoholism, and drug abuse..

2:24 AM  
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2:30 AM  
Anonymous Ragman said...

I was a freshman in 1990, when the drinking age in the state was still 18. It was scary to see the tight leashed kids that got to school and would go out drinking seven nights a week when they turned 18. I don't recall any deaths like those associated with hazing, but there were quite a few that had to drop out b/c they couldn't stay awake in class. When they could actually wake up to go to class, that is.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Angel, librarian and educator said...

I think there is a difference between being on a tight leash and parents who may be overprotective to the point of just not giving kids the information and education they will need to cope when they are on their own. If I had to describe myself, I was probably on a "tight leash" until out of high school. However, I did not go crazy when I got to college or went on some binge drinking marathon. Why? I think to a large extent I had a pretty supportive family. They drank socially, but always in moderation, and it was something that was passed on to the children. Unlike most American parents (I grew up in Puerto Rico, and also from what I have seen as an educator later), do their best to hide drinking and make it this taboo thing. If instead they modelled good behavior, showed that it was ok to have a drink at dinner, or with friends on a special ocassion, things might be different for a lot of people. And in case you are wondering, yes, I did have a drink or two in family before 21. My world did not end. I went to college, finished my degree, went to work, and enjoy my good glass of vino or a cold one now and then. It boils down to education and responsibility, but just my two cents.

As for reading Orwell, I am not sure I could reread it. I used to teach it in high school, so it is engraved in my mind by now. The way he could repdict the future, especially in the context of now, is extremely eerie. Best.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to SMU for one year - my freshman year. (Left immediately, as did several other people I knew.) Everyone was drunk, all the time. Not a lot of drugs, but plenty of drinking. I remember one kid who would come to class the next morning and you could SMELL the gin on him. Disgusting.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm commuting to school, and I don't think I ever encoutered any of the hazards mentioned in the article. Freeway driving is probably the only dangerous part of my college life.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

I'm not sure the problem is knowing the right thing to do but having the strength of character to make the unpopular decision.

How many of these freshman have the fortitude to stand up to their peers? How many would face being ostracized over making a good decision?

I think the problem is a bit more complex than the article describes.

7:33 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

Take early classes. 8 am is a pain, but you get more done during the day. Avoid night classes as its hard to review the material after class.

Take a short class from the university on how to study. Apply everything they teach you - it works.

Workout at the gym or go for a walk regularly.

Visit with your profs during office hours - even if you don't need help. Take the hardest problem that you cannot solve if you have to - but go see them at least every other week.

Live near campus so you can walk, but not on campus.

Don't go out to eat much. It is a waste of time and money.

Study at the libary. Hunt around for out of the way places to study - there are a lot on campus.

Do not get involved in varsity or any other sports unless you get a full scholarship.

Make friends based upon academic commitment. Drop friends who drink or do drugs uncontrollably. You don't want their drama in your life. This is doubly so for women who tend to get drawn into boyfriends' troubles. If he drinks - meaning if he or she gets drunk at all, dump him. If they show up drunk, shut the door in their face.

Take basic classes outside of your major. Pick four from - History, Business, Accounting, government, engineering, religion, drama, rhetoric, physics - they open you to other ways of seeing the world and provide a foundation for wherever you go next.

In your 3rd year, join a volunteer group or a political group that is well run and which has deep connections to the local or regional institutions. Again, this exposes you to the real world of getting things done.

If you can finish up early, but have to take 21 hours your last semester to do it - do it. You will learn a lot about yourself as you totally focus on your time management.

Its ok to be poor! You are gaining something that will make you rich.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Jeff the Baptist said...

I would argue that our future is a blend of Orwell and Huxley myself, but to each their own.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

Dangers of Freshman year -

Basically anything to do with alcohol. It's a wonderful way to socialize but also risky risky, particularly your freshman year when you have 'vulnerable freshman girl' written all over you. Regardless people will drink, a lot... and have a blast.
My advice is listen to the older kids, they obviously survived.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with 'red river' on this one point: "Do not get involved in varsity or any other sports unless you get a full scholarship."
I joined a sports team on campus with no scholarship. It taught me time managment! I also made some great friends and LOVED the sport! Also, if anyone one the team had a GPA below 3.5, they were required do a certain amount of study hours at the learning Center. It was one way that some teammates got in the study time they needed to be successful in school. They would not have done those study hours had it not been for joining the team. I think it was the best decision that I ever made in college!! I highly encourage freshmen to join a sports team!!

9:49 AM  

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