I spent two days this past week advising new students. In case I didn't already know, they are only 18 years old. Babies. Not that they'd want to know I perceive them that way, but the conversations I had with them about their course load and class choices told me so.
My job was to help them pick a first-term schedule -- make sure they picked courses that fulfilled some general or major requirements, and that were appropriate for their skills, given their SAT or ACT scores, or AP exam results. I was also supposed to help them choose some courses that excited them; we all know that what excites a student and what a student is required to take is often not the same thing. Particularly for first-term, first-year students at a big university, stuck with picking courses from those that are not already full.
Many of them wanted to take a course called "History of Film." Not surprisingly, that one was closed out long before they set foot on campus. For all I know, it was closed out before they got their acceptance letters. Another course that peaked interest but had no space available was a philosophy course called "Love and Sex." Lest anyone not know that kids like to watch films and think about sex, these course choices show it. It was a little hard not to laugh. I had to reassure them that these courses are so popular that they are offered every year, and that they will probably get another chance to take them sometime during their four (or five or six) years at the University.
Most students were concerned that they not be too challenged. I heard, from every one, "Is that going to be too hard?" They don't want to fail. Who can blame them? Nobody does, and everybody has heard that college is hard. And most of them know that their high school grades don't really reflect their ability; I saw way more "A's" than I should have been seeing, given the (more often than not) average test scores that accompanied those transcripts.
I found it disheartening to see so many students unsure of what they were capable of -- most said they wanted to avoid math, foreign language AND science, and if they could get away with courses that didn't require much writing, well, that would be good too, "because I'm not so good at writing." Hmmm...that's quite a lot to avoid in college.
Of course, I held their hands (almost literally) and assured them that people like them -- like me -- could get through college and live through the occasional wretched math or science requirement. And that -- gasp! -- they might find that a well-taught course in a subject they previously had no interest or ability in might peak their interest (and therefore their ability as well). And that there was nothing like focus and determination to get one through and that they could DO IT. Did I say I was a cheerleader? It goes with advising, I've come to find out.
Most of them left my table with a pretty typical first-term freshman schedule: philosophy of the social sciences, intro to sociology, writing 121, Math 111 and something like "disc golf" or "Hatha yoga."
Maybe they'll get the love and sex class next term. :)
- My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.