I’ve always heard that college is nothing like high school, it’s a whole new beast, a different ballgame, it’s on a whole new level (I had to ask my friend for another saying and that’s what he came up with), but up until last week I only half believed them. Sure, I knew college would be harder than high school, I mean like c’mon, its college…it’s not supposed to be easy…but at the same time I guess I never truly realized how hard it would actually get. In high school you could get by with sleeping in class, never paying attention, and doing homework in the lunch period 30 minutes before it was due; college, however, has been a different story.
College has been a kick in the butt, and has made me realize that I can’t just go with the same approach that I did in high school. In high school, when I used to sit down and start working on something, I would spend, on average, around 60% of my time actually working. The other 40% of the time I would be scrolling through Facebook, reading the newest sports headlines on ESPN, or mindlessly watching random, obscure videos on YouTube. Additionally, studying for tests usually happened the night before the exam, or even the day of. In terms of homework, I did it as late as I possible could while still being able to get it done, and on top of this if I actually managed to stay awake for more than half of my classes it was a huge victory. These were all norms for me in high school, and I accepted them as definitions for how things were done. I believed it to be impossible, or at least extremely difficult to work consistently without getting distracted and surfing the web. The idea of studying for a test multiple days in advance just seemed like a waste of time. And unless it was a final, I simply didn’t see it as worth to exert more than a small amount of energy studying. Homework I often felt to be busywork handed out in order to see who had willpower and who would crumble under the weight of the US Secondary Education System
Coming into Hopkins I decided to employ a similar strategy; that
is, I decided to do the same things in college that I did in high school. I took long naps, I surfed the web endlessly, I procrastinated on homework, and I studied the bare minimum for my exams. Not surprisingly…this didn’t work
Now when someone talks about failure, it’s a very relative thing. I high school, for example, I, for the most part, considered failure to be anything below an 85 or 90 %. I’m not saying this to boast, but it was the simple truth. Due to the fact that high school classes were conducive to good performance, as teachers held office hours every day, classes had 30 or fewer students, and less content was covered over more time, and due to the fact that the average GPA for many of my intended colleges was quite high, it was natural for me to shoot for, and expect, high grades.
Now, along with my sub-par work ethic, with me to college had also come these same bars for success. Coming in I still treated these nearly perfect grades as normal, and anything below said standards was subpar. After getting my first round of midterms, back, however, everything changed.
When I got that folded sheet of paper back from the TA, their stoic look droning out all hope of my doing well, my heart dropped. As I turned the test over my worst fears were confirmed. Forget falling slightly below the bar that I so unrealistically set for myself, my score on my first physics midterm made getting a 75 sound like something worth dying for. My head immediately dropped into my lap, supported by nothing other than my hands and the thought of being able to sleep as soon as I got back to my dorm. Sure, I’d done poorly before, but poorly used to mean getting like a 75 or 80, not getting the 50 I so glamorously received on my first ever college exam. I thought that maybe this was just a fluke, and that my other tests would go way better. Sadly, this simply wasn’t true. In total, my final mid-term grades for the four exams I took ranged from the 50% I got on physics, to a high of 76.5% on Macroeconomics.
I thought my life was over. I mean, sure, one poor grade was okay, but FOUR??? What was I going to do? And anyway, these were only intro courses, what was going to happen when I hit actually difficult courses? I was in a constant state of distress for at least a week after I got my results back. I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to, and not going to lie, the thought of just giving up completely crossed my mind multiple times.
Eventually though, I got out of this mental rut, and I soon realized that the answers to my questions were all internal. I had to be introspective and really look deep into myself, my work ethic, my study habits, and most of all my commitment, and it was through this process that I realized that I needed to change things up. I had to stop sleeping through class, I had to do the homework as early as possible, and I had to actually pay attention while doing my work. It’s these changes that have helped me realize success in college, and I’m hoping that if I stick to my new habits and improved work ethic, I’ll reap the rewards.