Expectations of College--an Opportunity Wasted Essay

An Opportunity Wasted When I attended Eastern as a ripe 18 year old, straight out of high school, I had a romanticized ideal about what would happen. My expectations were framed in part from things I had seen in movies, and stories I had heard from friends when they attended their first semester of college. Having had an easy time in high school, never studying, never having to work very hard for an A; I spent the first few weeks of college trying to adjust to having professors who don’t know your name and do not care if you attend class.

The new found freedom I had acquired by moving into the dorm and away from my mother, weighed on me like a fifty pound block. I made poor decisions simply because I could, simply because there was no one to point out to me that I was throwing away an opportunity that not everyone acquires so easily. I was under the assumption that I would be able to breeze through college in the same manner that I had high school. I expected to have fun, to meet new people and make new friends.

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What I didn’t expect was that college isn’t anything like high school. What I didn’t expect was to find myself failing miserably in my classes because I was not used to having to apply myself. I had classes that actually challenged my intellect and this was a new experience for me. Instead of embracing it, I missed at least half of my classes throughout the semester. The expectations in my head were a far cry from the reality of college life. No one is going to come to your room and remind you that you should go to class.

Even if the professor does not care, it will reflect in your grade. Even if no one else notices that you didn’t attend class, when it comes time to show what you’ve learned on a test you won’t have the knowledge required. Reading the chapter in your book is not equivalent to having a professor there to help you understand it. At that point in my life I wasn’t even markedly concerned with the opportunity that I was throwing away. I was under the assumption that college would come as easily to me as all my previous education experiences had.

This was not the case. I spent my days hanging out with friends, shopping, and sleeping, instead of attending classes and studying. Doing these things instead of applying the knowledge I had gained from high school into the courses I was now taking in college. There were some things about the initial experience did happen pretty much as I expected. I did meet new people and I did make new friends. I learned some independence, though probably not in the best way, it was some independence none the less.

I did learn things about myself that had I not wasted the first few semesters of my college experience I would probably never have learned. There were other aspects of college life that met my expectations as well. The cliquish nature of a college campus is almost equivalent to that of high school. You can sit in the plaza and find the segregation even now. Sororities and fraternities, the high school groups, the upper class men, and the freshman. Everyone always looks for someone in a similar place in life to befriend.

Although some of this segregation is expected, a great point is made by Sizer about this in his writing. The segregation is as much expected as it is welcomed by most of the students. As Sizer states it in his article, “When one is out of his grade level, he can feel odd, as Mark did in his biology class. ”[1] This is true of most students, we relish in the simple classifications around us. We are most at home in our comfort zone, with people that we have things in common with. Having been through this experience of college once before, I discovered that much was the same.

However, I am different. This time, my expectations are extremely different. I understand that this is an opportunity to better myself, an opportunity that you must earn and is not just given to you. This time, my expectations are realistic. I understand that when I attend a class of 80 students, the teacher may likely not learn my name. This is a fact that is irrelevant. My experience is not about the teacher. My experience is about my own priorities, my own desire to gain knowledge and to better myself, my life and the lives of my children.

In Sizer’s writing he points out that “most Americans have an uncomplicated vision of what secondary education should be. ”[2] I believe this is also true of post secondary education, most people expect that college gives you a gateway into the intellectual community, an opportunity to find your niche, an opportunity to find yourself. I believe this to be undeniably true. I spent my first attempt at college learning about myself, instead of learning the curriculum placed in front of me, but it was a learning experience none the less.

I don’t believe that I would have found myself in the place I am now had it not been for that experience, and I would not now have the expectations that I do. This time around, college is definitely as I expected. This time around I am able to set aside the social groupings, be less concerned with who did what, and when. However, some of the anxiety that I didn’t experience the first time and expected is most definitely present in this second attempt at a post secondary education. To quote Sizer, in describing Mark’s experience in Math class he states, “He hopes he is not called on, and he isn’t. [3] I find myself trying to squelch that same feeling quite often. Knowing that most, if not all of my classmates are fresh from high school, leaves me feeling less than secure about my place. Aside from the nervousness, I find that I am enjoying this time around much more than the first. I definitely do not feel that Sizer’s conclusions about high school being merely about “taking subjects” to apply to my post secondary experience. In both my initial attempt and this time around, college for me has been a welcome dive into the realm of self discovery.

However the difference between the two experiences is that this time I like the direction that journey is leading me much more. This time, I feel like I am earning this opportunity for myself, and making the effort to incorporate all the facets of obtaining a college education into my experience. ———————– [1]Theodore R. Sizer; “What High School Is” (Fields of Reading, Bedford/St. Martin’s 2010) page 619 [2]Theodore R. Sizer; “What High School Is” (Fields of Reading, Bedford/St. Martin’s 2010) page 617 [3]Theodore R. Sizer; “What High School Is” (Fields of Reading, Bedford/St. Martin’s 2010) page 617

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