Friday, May 10, 2013

College Isn't Hard, Self Control Is

I have a small beef. People keep telling my daughter that college is hard. She can’t quantify what is hard about it, just EVERYTHING!!!!!!  AAAAAAGGGHHH!!!  aaaand, off she goes screaming again. Stop that!!

College is not some tentacular nebulous vortex of doom that we survive like a right of passage.  There are no gangs of pretty or sporty people leaving trails of glitter, lipstick, and danced-upon footballs in their wake of lesser peons.

College is a learning experience that can be filled with all kinds of good and all kinds of bad, just like anything else in life.

Having the self-control to get yourself where you need to be when you need to be there with the work done that you need to do is the hardest part of college. End of story.

You are not required by law to attend college classes. No one is going to show up asking why you missed three weeks of lectures. If you’re failing a class, no one’s going to pull you in the office to confer with your parents. If you choose to spend your college term baked or drunk out of your mind, well, that’s your choice. No one is going to stop you.

Free will, people, you have it! The trick is to use it wisely.

Some common sense items:

* Know your options. In my area, there are at least six universities and three smaller colleges as well as innumerable tech schools. So there are LOTS of options.

Pick a college and look through the catalogue for a major. Something that you would enjoy learning and that you want to spend lots of time immersing yourself in. And here's the cool thing, if you end up not liking it, you can pick a different one!!!

Compare the class list with other the other college class lists for the same major.

(Personal story: I wanted an art degree. I picked a college and looked at the different kinds of art majors and what classes were required for each. Then I compared those classes with various other colleges in my area. I looked at SLCC, UVSU, Westminster, BYU, UofU, Weber State and a couple of tech colleges.

When I chose my college and the degree, I chose SLCC’s Illustration degree because it had all the classes I was interested in taking that would help me be successful if I ended my education at the Associates level. It would also transfer to a larger university when I went for my Bachelors in Art Education.  I did my homework, though. To transfer to a larger university, I needed to have a General Studies degree as well as an Illustration degree. So I completed both. As it happens, I’m also three classes shy of their Graphic Design degree.)

* Consider their extracurricular offerings. For instance, if you were to attend the U of U for engineering, they have a very active Society for Women Engineers chapter that does a lot of outreach. Also consider how that college meets any other needs you might have – cost, transportation, scholarships, etc.

* Have a couple of back-up majors in mind. Because if you’re normal, you like more than one thing, and there’s nothing wrong with being well-rounded and taking some extra classes just because they sound fun. I took a bunch of nutrition classes and aerobics classes because I’m also interested in health. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with having plans B and C in case plan A turns out to be suckalicious.

** Now comes Hard Thing One: picking your classes and your schedule. The only way to get into classes is to get your butt on the computer and pick them. Some classes are only offered on certain days and times. Some are whenever you want.

Your job is to go through the list of classes and compare them to your lifestyle. Yes, I will take a 7 a.m. English class, because I’m a morning person and I do my best thinking at that time of day. OR – I’m not enrolling for any classes earlier than 10 a.m. because I know I like to sleep in. Or – I have a job and my class schedule has to work around my work schedule.

You can make or break yourself in the very first term if you sign up for classes you KNOW you’re going to sleep through. Know your strengths, know your weaknesses, BE HONEST, and pick your schedule accordingly. Trust me, this is how you win at college.

** After the scheduling hurdle is surpassed, the for-real down and dirty Hard Part Two happens: you have to actually show up and do the work. If you want your college experience to be successful and something you can willingly show on a resume or in a portfolio, you have to show up and do the work. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.

College campuses are full of fun things to do, places to be, and parties to enjoy. If you find time to have fun and do the work, awesome. If you can’t balance fun and work, you’re going to struggle.  Too much fun = failing out. Too much work = burning out.

If you find that you’re struggling in a class, GO TALK TO THE PROFESSOR. They’re not going to come to you, they’re too busy for that. You have to do the work, talk to the people, and try to make things work.

Effort, it is required.

That, my friends, is what is hard about college. Making yourself be somewhere you may not necessarily want to be that day because you want the end results.

A college degree can be had (I did it with four kids while pregnant and post-delivery of my fifth) and a good time can be had while doing it. It’s only hard if you put more obstacles in your path than need to be there. One of those obstacles being: AAAAH, College is HARD! Because, no. Self-control is hard. The rest is just effort and corresponding results.


  1. Once upon a time, my husband thought college was hard and he didn't want to go. He finally convinced himself it was the right thing to do.

    At first, because he thought it was going to be hard, it was for him. Then he realized he was taking classes in stuff he enjoyed, and the less he thought about how hard it was, the easiest it got.

    His grades rose from a 2.8 GPA as a freshman to a 3.9 GPA for his Master's degree. Theoretically, the classes got harder, but his attitude about and enjoyment of the classes made them seem easier.

    The end :)

    1. See? Truth, it is out there! :) If they stop convincing kids college should be hard, they'll probably enjoy it more and get more out of the experience. I know I did. I also know that's why one of my brothers refuses to ever go.

  2. Hey Cutie, Yes I know that brother well. Hehe!
    I haven't gone to college yet, but my time will come, because..... I found out that my late Grandpa went just for the fun of learning. I found out this school teacher would have his kids pose while he sculpted busts of them for his art class. He didn't HAVE TO go, he really loved learning new things. Because of him my veiw of learning changed, and my plan is to start in about three years. which gives THAT BROTHER that much time to start.
    Also, I try to teach my kids how much fun it is to learn, and they love it. I am so pleased that they have chosen to look at school with those eyes. Because they do, I have the bragging rights to kids that are more inteligent than the school district lables their grade level.

    1. I agree, it really is so much fun to learn new things. Especially when it's a subject you're excited about to begin with! :)