"It's Time I Tell You Why you're Here"

by Lisa Baumgartner, Alex Reid, December 4, 2008

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I entered undergraduate school in the Fall of 2005. Since then I have spent four years working diligently towards my degree in Communication Studies, with a minor in professional writing. I have strived to maintain a GPA well over 3.0 and I made it a priority to engage in class discussions and campus clubs. When I first came to college I was excited beyond words. I had been dreaming about it for the past four years in high school and I couldn’t believe I had arrived. Not only was I itching to meet tons of new people, drink excessively and party like it was 1999, but I was excited to learn!!!

All throughout high school my teachers told us that their jobs were to prepare us for college. That’s why they stressed being on time to class, handing in homework assignments on time, becoming involved in the yearbook club or student government; it was all a carefully designed plan to help us succeed in undergraduate school. I didn’t truly realize this until my third week in, when professors here weren’t declaring specific deadlines, guiding us through our papers, or holding our hand through every project. It’s like high school was riding a bike with the training wheels on and undergrad was when the training wheels were taken off; you had to see for yourself if you could ride on your own. It was scary but invigorating at the same time. I was eager to prove to my new college professors that I was somebody you wanted to have in class. I prided myself on being on time to class, handing in all assignments on time, and excelling in class projects or presentations. It may sound like I'm bragging or talking myself up, but I wouldn’t be saying these things if I didn’t have the grades or relationships with my professors to prove it. My main point is that school has never been a chore for me. Besides having to wake up early every day, I love being in school and having endless opportunities and resources at my fingertips; I wish all undergraduates felt the way I do about being in school.

I’m a senior now and I’ve recently had the opportunity to sit in on several freshman level courses. What I saw reminded me nothing of the courses I took my freshman year. No one was willing to raise a hand, offer a suggestion or even make a comment; it was silent for the entire hour and fifteen minutes- besides of course the professor who was lecturing. It may have been the particular type of classroom I was in, that I didn’t witness any student participation. However, you’d think that questions would arise in one’s brain when being lectured on the Holocaust.. The lack of motivation from these students, not only in this class but in other aspects of the college community, is heartbreaking. I do not see the eager fire in their eyes, the fire that so deeply burned within me my first year here and even burns deep red and orange now. It seems to me that undergraduate school is just the next logical step for most graduating high school students. They enroll in college because they don’t want to A) get a minimum wage job, B) be the only one of their friends who doesn’t enroll in college, C) end up having to go to a community school near home. None of these are the right reasons to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars for an education you don’t appreciate. Not everyone should go to college, not every has to, and not everyone has to go right after high school.

My best friend entered a community college right after high school and dropped out after one semester because she said she just wasn’t ready. She wanted time to reflect on the past four years of high school and figure out what it was she really wanted to do with her life. No one berated her for it; we all said, “Hey man do whatever you have to do, do what makes you happy.” It seems like going to college is the “popular” thing to do. For most freshmen, as I once was, coming to college is about having fun and meeting new people and there is nothing wrong with that. But trust me when I say this, as you get older and enter your third or fourth year here you start to realize the amount of money it’s taken to get this far. Then you start to question, is this major really what I want to do in life, are these the grades I really want to put on my resume, is it too late to pick up a minor or add a second major? After the first two years of fun have dwindled down and the glamour of college slowly erodes away we realize why we’re here. And it’s not for the fraternity parties on Tompkins, or Cortaca Jug, or $1 pint night at Red Jug: it’s for an education; an education that will serve as a stepping stone into the ‘real world.’ An education that cost well over thousands of dollars to receive, most of the time up to 20,000 dollars or more per semester (when figuring in book costs, housing, meal plan, laundry services, printing fees and depending on what university you attend)- this stuff isn’t cheap. When so many people are praying for the opportunity to learn in a higher education institution it should make you realize the privilege you’ve been granted to be able to afford an education of such standards.

Now if you decide to spend all four years of undergraduate school partying harder than anyone in history, and only doing the minimum amount of work asked of you, that’s your business. But you’ll most likely end up jobless after graduation, living in your parent’s house and feeling utterly useless since you’ve retained no useful skills or trades from the past four years of your life. My recommendation is to just get involved. Stop thinking of class as class and start trying to find at least one thing in each class that interests you. Talk to your professors. Your professors are the most important connections you’ll ever make here. They are ten thousand times wiser and more experienced than you are. Therefore they will be able to guide you in the right direction or stimulate ideas in that alcohol-soaked brain of yours. Get the ball rolling. Even if your friends think SGA is lame and every academic club on campus is lame, attend a meeting anyway. And by the way, since when did being involved and being smart become an imperfection or lame characteristic? Be that one freshman student that stands out among all the rest and strive to achieve greatness. Greatness could simply be the act of raising your hand in your 200- to 300-student filled lecture hall or stepping up to be a team leader on a project and accepting responsibility for your team's success or failure. Turn off "The Hills", "E!", "Sports Center," and "The Soup" and trying opening one of the many textbooks you paid up to 300 dollars for. Take no shame in appreciating your education and waste no more time denying it. This is me saying this, your fellow peer that you’ve probably had a beer or two with at $1 pint night. This isn’t your mom or dad or advisor. I’m telling you this to benefit you, not to lecture you. Open your eyes, I know you have them…look around and see what the world has to offer.

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