What do students really want to get out of college? It has been a subject of countless books and movies, but it would depict a romantic look at the student culture (or teacher-student relationship). In other words, no one really knows the students' thoughts (or feelings for that matter). And then the shocking truth came out. (It actually came out in 2006.)
Cathy Small published "My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student" in 2006, which revealed the main reason on why students wanted to go to college. They needed friends, and the coursework was a small price to pay for it. Small used her sabbatical year to enroll as an undergraduate student at the very same university where she had been teaching for some time. She made friends, even asked them to record their daily routine in their diaries. She used the pseudonym Rebekah Nathan because she wanted to protect the students' identities, but it hardly made any difference at all.
Small's book confirmed what many adults have thought of teenagers: They would want to have fun; they must have (new) friends (to share those memories), and it might turn out to be their defining moment during their time in the university. Some may have frowned at the author's observation, but she disclosed a startling observation. It was natural for students to form groups, but it wasn't diverse as she was hoping for. These events took place before Barack Obama took office, yet the scenario didn't change much. There would be an upside, as most students realized that college would be a great leveler. Whether they earned their Ivy League education or have been middling in public schools for years, all students found out (too early) that college would be an eye opener. They share the same struggles during the first month. (Coping without Mom and Dad, using a washing machine, finding lecture halls.) It turned out not to be too difficult to socialize with different kinds of people.
Small's book would show five factors that students need to assess themselves. It should tell them the real score. Let's do an exercise: You're an English major student who found out (during Freshman Week) that essay assignments would be a top priority. If you're really learning from the coursework, then you must have made progress in reading comprehension, paper writing, and critical thinking, You should also be aware of your study habits and multitasking skills.
What Does College Really Teach You?
You want to party with your friends, but you must read a book. Your new friends might feel sorry for you, while some will show their complete ignorance about your studies (and make fun of your tidy room). You'll feel sorry for yourself, but you would learn a valuable lesson at this early stage of your studies. Skim reading long books could backfire on you, yet writing footnotes would be a time-consuming activity. You've been told about going three nights without sleep, and you would be hoping that it won't happen very soon. You'll do it by your lonesome, which can unsettle you sooner than you think. This is the set up that will enable you to study better. In your case, you would be able to read closely. If you really feel the blues, then you can email your old buddy or call your parents.
How you wish that you won't be writing long essays. You should be glad that writing would prompt you to learn other things. You were unaware of the library's existence until you were required to look for other titles (in the college library). You even learned a few things on setting up the Internet. Studying independently would be better than an all-night group session (with your coursemates). And you haven't reached the best part. (Finding your own writing style. Making a habit of finishing your assignment ahead of the deadline. Learning how to write a conclusion paragraph for an essay.)
Are you getting your money's worth? Small's book would suggest that most colleges have relied on research a bit too much, which could have stunted the student's learning curve. Luckily, you need to answer a questionnaire. You need to evaluate your course, even the available resources (in the university), and your professor (who is responsible for the course outline). This should be the right time to tell your thoughts, which could improve the coursework. But don't get too personal about it.
How are you managing your coursework? There are five telling signs, which will sum up your answers. You're turning on lectures on time. You don't rely on Wikipedia (for information that will support your arguments in your essays). You're not taking Reading Week for granted. You are using those group sessions (with your coursemates) wisely. You are expanding your vocabulary. Your professor should have noticed your scholarly approach to a written text.
Your DIY skills must be above average. There's more to life than your studies, and it has to do with errands. Doing food shopping week after week. Setting up a TV. Making scrambled eggs. Knowing when (and where) to do power naps. Learning to be considerate to your housemates. There's more to the list, but you don't have to enumerate it all. You're confident about accomplishing the tasks.
Learning Doesn't End in College
If you're a good student, then you should figure out that you must learn new skills that can help you find a job right after graduation. You can be the smart one, where you'll look for opportunities for an internship. Summer is not over, so you can look for a temporary job. And you must be ready to socialize in big groups. (You can't be all by yourself in an office environment.)
Small's book concludes with a ray of hope, noting that there are some students who were willing to work hard (in their studies). You should know where you are standing at this point.