Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dear First Year Students

There are a few things I'd like to mention, now that we've gotten to know each other a bit.

First, if you took a course in high school and vaguely remember it, you can't rely on your memory to write a college paper. You actually need to know your shit before you think you're an expert, and one high school class doesn't make you an expert. Seriously, don't tell me you're going to write a paper on, for example, what your high school teacher said about Macbeth. You need to think and know things yourself. Welcome to college.

Second, don't stick that late journal into the stack of journals due today that I collected today. I've graded and handed back that earlier journal, and the syllabus says clearly that I don't accept late journals. It's rude to stick your late paper in there and pretend I've screwed up or won't notice. Grow up. No, you aren't getting credit. Welcome to college.

Third, it's okay to mess up. If the worst thing that happens to you is getting an F on a paper in this course, you should celebrate. It's not, as one of my friends would say, a dead baby in the emergency room. And that goes doubly for this paper, because you'll have an opportunity to revise for a better grade. I know it's scary. Welcome to life. In my experience, life gets scarier the more I experience and know about it.

Finally, it's okay to be overwhelmed with everything and to cry in my office. You aren't the first, and you won't be the last, and it's okay. I do hope you'll take good care of yourself and feel better. But it's okay. To a certain extent, being overwhelmed at times means you're doing college right. You have to learn to balance the overwhelmedness out a bit, but you'll learn to do that.


  1. Welcome to college.

    And really, trying to sneak in a late journal? I don't think so.

  2. Yeah, I was just blogging the other day about how students aren't allowed to fail enough. I really think that opportunities are missed when we give too much slack to students -- no matter what year they are. And I think it was Renaissance Girl who just wrote a blog about "in praise of difficulty," too. Perhaps this has been on the collective academic mind as of late. Oh, of course it has! Here's October.

    Seems like we usher in October every year with thoughts about students needing to be challenged more -- and to grow up! October is when I start thinking about character and integrity. I guess my tolerance for those without the above only lasts approximately one month.

  3. my daughter flunked her freshman writing class the first time because she didn't think she should have to take it, and didn't put much effort in. went better the second time.

    she is in a fiction writing class now, and is both intrigued and worried because it is something she hasn't done before, and she wonders if the peer reviews will be harsh, and will her ideas be any good? i'm amazed; class just started this week, and she has put several hours into conceiving and plotting her short story, the first draft of which is not due for weeks. so, i think she learned something after that early failure.