This is an interview I did with a former student, Ashlee W., about her college experience. Ashlee is a second semester college student at a small college in Oklahoma.
Me: So how are you, Ashlee?!?!? What’s it been--five years!
Ashlee: I’m awesome, thank you. It’s been about that long I’m pretty sure.
Me: So I was wanting to interview you because I think it would be interesting to ask people in college what their experience has been like and if they have any advice or tips for new college students. So let me ask you. Before you started college, what did you think it would be like? Did you have an idea of what you expected?
I was nervous about being older than some kids that were just out of high school.
Ashlee: I really kind of had this idea of what a big college would be like. Just how they show it on TV or something, a classroom with a ton of students. And teachers that really couldn’t care less about your grade and such and such.
Me: So did you think it would be pretty intimidating?
Ashlee: Yes, especially dealing with financial aid and learning how exactly college works. And also I was nervous about being older than some kids that were just out of high school, in math especially because it had been so long since I was in math and I wasn't good at it when I was taking it, so yes definitely intimidating.
Me: So was your original plan to start college immediately after high school?
Ashlee: Not really, I wanted to take a year off because I think my senior year after high school I had a busy summer and thought the rest of my year would be that way, and I just wanted to experience life without school for a bit.
I dropped out after the first week because I clearly was not ready and didn't know what I was getting myself into.
Me: Do you think taking a “gap year” worked out pretty well for you? I know some people think taking that year off is a great idea.
Ashlee: Yes and no, because I enjoyed my time off, but when I went that next fall after the break I dropped out after the first week because I clearly was not ready and didn't know what I was getting myself into. But now, I regret it a lot because I see people I went to high school with about to graduate and I just think to myself that that could have been me.
Me: So what was it about that first week that caused you to drop out? I mean, I’m not trying to make you feel bad or anything. I just want to share with high school students and new college students what college is actually like so they won’t be shocked. I assume starting was kind of an overwhelming experience for you.
Ashlee: It's totally fine. I was worried about financial aid because I didn't know how it worked and worried about paying for college. Then when I started classes, I put off my work, and that weekend I went to a One Direction concert and didn't do anything. So I put it off and was so nervous to go in empty handed with nothing done. So I wasn’t good at organizing my time or putting school first.
Me: I see, so you just didn’t feel prepared. Also, I think a lot of people worry about paying for college.
Ashlee: Right, and now my second time around it’s not as big as a concern for me because I have more of an understanding about financial help. I have Okpromise, and it's been a major help with easing the worry of money. And now I’m not as afraid to go to the financial aid office with questions on how I can manage the money aspect. I hope that made some sense. Writing all my thoughts about it is not as easy as I was thinking.
In college, a lot of times you have to go out and look for help yourself.
Me: No, I get what you’re saying. I think it can be intimidating for students to seek out the help they need. For one thing, you might not know exactly what kind of help you need or where to go to get it. Also, it’s different than in high school because sometimes in high school the help just comes to you. In college, a lot of times you have to go out and look for help yourself. Was that your experience?
Ashlee: Yes, and I don't think they prepare you for financial aide in high school as much as they do about which college to go to and how to apply and such. Also about what you said in college, you have to go out and look for help, and that could also apply to anything other than financial aide. Because in high school they really coach you on how to do things step by step, and now in college you have to figure it out. And what I had to learn is that I just had to go and do it because no one was going to come and help me; I had to grow up and do it. Which is hard for me because for one thing, I’m a pretty timid person, and for another, my parents usually did a lot for me that I should have been doing for myself. And in college I wasn’t going to have my mom tag alongside me figuring everything out for me.
Me: Yeah, there’s definitely a steep learning curve and maturity curve when you start college. I felt the same thing myself. So what advice would you have for an entering freshman about financial aid?
Ashlee: Probably not to let it ruin their life where that's all they think about and worry about. Because there is aid out there that helps with college. Okpromise is saving my life right now, and it takes a lot of the financial aid burden off. I realize that that's not everywhere, but I figure that there's something similar, not sure. But they also have scholarships for just about everything. I say that it's taken some of my burden off, but I actually will have to stress about it in a few years because it will only cover my tuition for I think 2 more years. Which is another regret I do have about waiting to go back to college for so long. All those years I could be getting a lot of free money, I wasn't taking advantage of it and it didn't even really cross my mind.
Me: You mean it didn’t cross your mind that the money would expire eventually? Is that how it works?
Ashlee: Right, I didn’t really know that there was a limit on how long it would apply for me. That's to my understanding.
Me: Wow--that’s definitely something that students in Oklahoma need to know. I wasn’t aware of that the money from OKPromise would expire. So what are some things you’ve learned about college that you had to learn the hard way or that you wish you’d known when you started?
Ashlee: Something just recently actually--I’m not sure if this was something I should have been expecting which is obvious or not, but last semester my history teacher was literally so easy; he gave you exactly what would be on the test, and all you had to do is study that and eventually I stopped taking notes on what else he was talking about and just on what would be on the quiz. Now I’m in a summer intersession class, and I took my first quiz in there the other day and did horribly because you have to read the chapters in depth, look at his slides, and take good notes because it's not just some test you study for by what he actually talks about in class. I guess it's not that I wasn't expecting that; it's just not like what my first semester was like. But of course as you move on up in college, it gets harder.
Me: So you figured out that each professor is different. They all teach differently, and some are harder than others, I guess?
Me: How is college different from your expectations?
Ashlee: I can give you an example. In my comp class she would teach us one day, the next week our rough drafts were due, and then the next week we would turn in our paper. But it wasn't until two weeks after that when she would post grades, and I had thought it would be more punctual.
Me: I actually have heard of professors who wait until the end of the semester to grade any of your work and give you your grade. When I was getting my Master’s degree in library science, all the assignments were due at the very end of the semester. It was the strangest thing. The professor would grade everything at the very end, so you didn’t really know what your grade was until after the semester when you saw your grades posted.
Ashlee: That would drive me crazy, I’m very impatient when it comes to seeing my grades.
Me: You posted that you have a 4.0 so far, right?
Ashlee: Yes and I’m pretty proud of that considering my grades in high school. My goal in college was to do better than I had in high school.
In high school, for me it was like if you didn't do one assignment, not a big deal, but in college it's crucial.
Me: What advice do you have for new college students for keeping their grades up? How is college work different from high school work?
Ashlee: In highs chool, for me, it was like if you didn't do one assignment, not a big deal, but in college it's crucial because I’ve noticed that there's not as many grades taken so everything you turn in needs to be its best. The advice I have that I actually need to take more seriously myself is not to put stuff off because when it's hours before a paper's due, you’ll be thinking about dropping the class, not going, or just not turning it in. Every bad decision to not do it will run through your head, and it's extremely stressful. Even though I have turned in some pretty good papers on short notice, but that's beside the point
Me: I know my students’ number one problem seems to be procrastination. :-( Even though they know they are guilty of it, they don’t seem to want to change it, oddly enough. I have also had students wait until the last minute to submit their papers because I have them upload them online, and then they have problems uploading their papers and end up having to turn them in late and get points counted off.
Ashlee: Yes, that's one thing my comp teacher stressed was that TurnItIn can be slow, and you might not get your paper submitted on time if you wait until the last minute.
Me: Well, you seem to have learned a lot and become more confident about your college experience. That’s good news.
Ashlee: I know I still have a lot to learn though--I can only imagine.
As I’m learning how to be an adult it comes with a lot of frustration and stress and trying to not just give up.
Me: Do you have anything you want to add about your college experience or any other “grown-up” advice? :-)
Ashlee: My motto, I guess you can say, is just struggle now to succeed later. As I’m learning how to be an adult, it comes with a lot of frustration and stress and trying to not just give up. I just think about how it's shaping me for my better life when I have everything I’ve worked for. So I’ll have fun, live life in my 20’s, and learn to struggle so I’ll be somewhat of an expert at it later.
Me: Okay, well, I’m going to let you go then, Ashlee. Thanks for chatting with me and sharing your expertise. I think you know more about college that you realize!
Ashlee: Oh definitely, and thank you for asking me to do this, I enjoyed it very much
Me: Good, I’m glad to hear it. You’re welcome!!!! Okay, bye now, Ashlee! Good luck! I’m glad to hear things are going so well for you.
Ashlee: Bye bye it was so great talking to you
Me: You, too! :-) Bye!
***My thanks to Ashlee W. for sharing her collegiate expertise with me and my readers. If you would like to share your college experience on my blog, please leave a comment with your contact information (email or Twitter handle, not your phone number please) or tweet me at @WriteNonsense. Thanks!***
If you are an Oklahoma college student, here is some information you need to know regarding the expiration of Oklahoma's Promise, which Ashlee brought up in our interview:
"Once you start postsecondary education (any education after high school), your five-year time clock starts ticking. The year that you do not attend will count against your five years of scholarship eligibility; however, you can use Oklahoma's Promise again until your eligibility expires. Please contact the Oklahoma's Promise office for an exact date of eligibility expiration if you are unsure. (Limited exceptions to the five-year limit can be considered only if the interruption is due to certain hardship circumstances such as illness, injury, military service or other extraordinary situations. Please contact the Oklahoma's Promise office for more details. In no circumstances may an Oklahoma's Promise student receive benefits beyond a cumulative time period of five years.)"--from OKHigherEd.org
You know that person with that one little flaw--that person who would be perfect...
...if you could just change that one itty-bitty thing.
Or maybe there's someone with a whole lot of flaws, but he has a sweet inner core, and if you could slough off all the ugly stuff on the inside, he'd be a shining star.
If only you could change that person!
So can you change other people?
My answer is a resounding NO!!!!!!! *oh, such ugliness and pessimism* No, no, no, no, no! You can't change other people and you shouldn't even try...
I have met young people over and over again--it tends to be girls, unfortunately--who feel like they can "change" other people--usually boys they like. The thing is that you can't change other people. So if that's true, then why did I write "kind of" above? It's because yes, you can influence them. You can mentor them. You can try to be a role model for other people But the thing is that you can't change them. The only way a person can change is if he or she wants to change. And if that inner desire isn't there, it just ain't going to happen.
Let me give you an example.
I grew up with this very interesting guy. He was good looking, smart, funny--everything you'd think a great guy should be. He came from an impoverished background, and he was raised by a single mom. Expectations for this guy were pretty low, and it reflected in the choices he made throughout his life. He joined the military, left it, got married, had a couple kids, got divorced, went to prison because he couldn't control his temper, became a pothead, and drifted from job to job, mostly returning to Burger King. I've tried over and over again throughout the years to convince this guy that he is worthwhile and intelligent, that he can make his life better, that he can go back to school and create a happy life for himself. And even though he wants to be happy, he wants a better job and a better life, he still refuses to change. He just keeps at the same dead-end lifestyle. And you know what? There's nothing I can do about it. He has to choose the life he wants to lead, and I can't do that for him.
There is a particularly sneaky kind of person out there that you should know about. I've noticed it in guys, but I have no doubt that girls do this too. Read this exchange and see if you can detect how this guy is manipulating the girl.
Boy: I'm not any good at anything.
Girl: That's not true. I'm sure there's a lot you're good at.
Boy: No, I'm not. I wish I were smart like you.
Girl: You're smart. You shouldn't put yourself down.
Boy: I'm just telling the truth. Nobody likes me. I'll never get a girlfriend. I'll just be alone my whole life.
Girl: You're a great guy. Any girl would be lucky to go out with you.
Boy: No girl would ever go out with me. I bet you'd never go out with a guy like me.
How do you respond to something like that? Have you ever met someone like this--someone who reels you in by making you feel sorry for them? This is the strangest tactic I've ever seen, and I have seen it before. I actually knew a guy like this briefly, and there for a second he had me trapped by his pathetic-ness. But then I figured out his game and got away.
These people make you feel like you should help them, like you could be the person who helps them get their life turned around. They hook you by evoking your sympathy and then reel you in by making you feel like you could be their hero. Don't fall for it! Believe me--they've done this over and over again, and it's a manipulation tactic.
Here's what happens when you fall into the black hole of trying to change someone who doesn't want to be changed but keeps stringing you along anyway. You are under constant stress because you know that the other person can change and that the person is worthwhile--if only you could find or say the right thing to help that person. The person becomes your cause, and you devote far too much time to "helping" him or her. You neglect the opportunities in your own life because you're so focused on this other person. Other people associate you with this deadbeat and conclude you must be a deadbeat also. Now, the level of doom and gloom corresponds directly to how much time and effort you devote to your change-up project. For example, the guy I mentioned above--well, I didn't devote too much time to helping him out since I didn't see him that often, so my own life wasn't overly affected by his loserdom.
One of the truly ugly sides of loser manipulation is the abusive relationship. I was just talking to a colleague about this, and we agreed that somehow, without consulting one another, abusers have figured out the magic manipulation formula: be sweet, turn mean, make the other person (usually a girl) believe that it's her fault, become verbally and/or physically abusive, apologize and promise it'll never happen again when she's had enough, and start the whole cycle all over again. The girl stays in the relationship because....*sigh* I'm not a psychologist; there must be tons of reasons the girl stays. One of them, I'm sure, is that she truly believes she can change the other person.
So what does all this mean? Well, here's my advice, and it's going to sound pretty harsh--dump the dead weight in your life. That's right. Don't hang out with people who are downers. You don't have to. And whatever you do, don't feel like you're responsible for their happiness. If someone is a jerk or if someone is a loser, that's their problem, not yours. And if you're with an abuser, get out as soon as it's safe to do so and never look back.
Now I'm not advocating being mean or cruel to people. If someone honestly wants help or wants to change, it's up to you whether or not you should be there for that person. The trick is figuring out when someone is really devoted to changing and when they're just going through the motions.
For other ideas--
Read this article from The Huffington Post. Their conclusion is that you can change other people (say, what?) but only kinda/sorta.
And in this blog post, Lauren Suval says that we should adjust our perspective when we think other people need to change.
If you are in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you suspect a loved one is in an abusive relationship, the Hotline has signs to look for.
Have you ever changed another person for the better? How did you do it! (No, really, please share. I would honestly like to know.)
Today I had a bad experience. Whatever the reverse of serendipity is, this experience was that. It was out of the blue on a perfectly normal day. I got my daughter to school late and suffered some sharp words from the teacher. Ouch!
So maybe it's not that big a deal--it's not like I shot someone or lost a leg--but these tiny little criticisms can cause an otherwise sunny day to spiral into something dark and stormy. We've all suffered them--eye rolls, scoffing disguised as coughs (or not disguised at all), and sometimes out-and-out verbal assaults. What do you do when you’re the object of someone else's disdain?
Though I understood the logic behind the teacher's words—okay, yeah, I need to get my kid to school on time (even if it is preschool)—that doesn't mean it didn't hurt. Self-defeating thoughts ran through my head. I'm the worst mother ever…I'm so irresponsible…I let my daughter get away with too much…Everyone else knows what they're doing; I'm the only clueless one. I even came close to crying (I'll admit I'm pretty thin-skinned).
But then, I remembered the advice I told myself years and years ago that I’ve turned to repeatedly in my life. Now I'm going to share that advice with you:
This too shall pass.
That's right. Those negative feelings will pass. The bad times won't last forever. Things will get better. I know it doesn't feel that way when you're in the pit of despair, when you feel like the world is against you, but remember that it's exactly that--a feeling. And feelings are transient; they don't last forever.
I know I’ve had rotten experiences throughout the years—I was bullied in school, I had a terrible fight with my best friend from college that ended our relationship, my crushes were never reciprocated—but all that passed. It’s in the past. I got over it.
____________________________________ Oftentimes even if we know things intellectually, we don't acknowledge them emotionally.
And here's my second piece of advice: don't let other people determine how you feel about yourself.
Let's face it--people can be downright mean. Sometimes the world looks like a truly ugly place, and other people can reflect that ugliness in their actions and their words. What you have to remember is that if other people are throwing bad karma your way, it's their problem, not yours.
Now, this seems pretty self-apparent. Duh, you already know that you're not responsible for other people's behavior. But the thing is that oftentimes even if we know things intellectually, we don't acknowledge them emotionally. What I mean by this is that even if you know someone is lashing out at you just because he or she had a bad day, it doesn't mean that it's not hurtful.
You have to remind yourself as often as you need to that if a person's attitude is broken, it's not your fault and it's not your problem. That can be a hard idea to accept. Sometimes we might feel like if we did things a little differently, maybe the other person would be nicer to us. Maybe if we were just more patient or kinder or if we were more careful about what we did, the other person would be nicer to us. But that's not the case. The truth is that people with ugly attitudes are going to spew their hate no matter what you do. It's not because of anything you've done. It's just because they're unhappy. And that's not your fault.
I remember this girl I worked with the summer after my senior year of high school. She had the personality of a Tasmanian Devil and the sting of a bullet ant. If you said, "Good morning!" her response would be "Grumble grumble," *eye roll*. Actually, I don't remember any conversations with this girl. I just remember how horrible she was. For instance, months after we'd worked together, I saw her at the college library on the pay phone (yeah, OLD school), and so I yelped a greeting at her in surprise. Rather than acknowledging me with a smile or a little wave, she just held up one finger as if to say I-will-deign-to-speak-to-you-after-I-finish-this-very-important-phone-call-in-spite-of-the-fact-I'm-not-talking-and-there-doesn't-appear-to-be-anyone-on-the-other-end-of-the-phone. So after a few seconds standing there like an idiot, I just walked off. She just wasn't worth the effort.
And that's the hard truth: some people just aren't worth the effort.
So I'll leave you with this advice when negative karmic rays come your way--remember that this too shall pass and don't let other people decide how you see yourself. And good luck out there--it's a tough world.
For another perspective--
Here's a good article from Psychology Today about dealing with negative people.
How do you deal with negative people? Leave a comment below.
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