As a fifth-year senior, I’ve managed to stumble down every deadend that sidelines people who attend this fine institution. So,while I may not be qualified to outline a detour-free map to guideyou from the day you start classes to the day you pick up yourdiploma, I’m eminently qualified to suggest which steps not totake.
With the understanding that a large percentage of the people whostart college with dreams of a diploma, a rewarding career and ahouse with a white picket fence end up stuck in less rewarding,menial jobs, I’ve attempted to briefly summarize the pitfalls toavoid if you want to end up on the Distinguished Alumni Donors listinstead of changing tires at Les Schwab.
Schoolwork = school + work
Schoolwork should always come first, but – unless you’re amillionaire – don’t focus 100 percent of your efforts on yourstudies instead of getting a supplemental job. No matter what kindof gravy-train financial aid plan you may be on, living downtownand going to the suck-your-wallet-dry Oregon University System willeventually sap all the resources you have available and you’ll beleft out in the cold when the government reserves run out. Naildown a part-time job, work-study or otherwise, that you can fallback on when the going gets tough.
“The myth of the bottomless well,” or, “parents”
For those of you leaving home for the first time, don’t think ofyour parents as a foolproof reserve to fall back on in times oftrouble. Chances are they stretched their savings to the max justto get you in the door to college to begin with. They may seem likea bottomless well of disposable income, but they’re most likelyleaning on a flimsy retirement fund and a steadily dwindling cacheof social security. In other words, they’re not going to be able tocarry your broke ass for more than the first year or so away fromhome.
Just buy the book
Don’t try to take a class without buying the book. Counting onfinding it on reserve at the library or borrowing it from yourfriends in the same class is a quick shortcut to AcademicProbation. You will be S.O.L. on the night before the test, hopingyour semi-legible notes alone will carry you through to passing thefinal. And your friends aren’t going to want to give up their $200book to give you some last-minute cramming time two hours beforethe test because they’ll be doing the exact same thingthemselves.
A dangerous Experience
If you plan on getting near any textbooks, purchased or otherwise,don’t sign on for the Freshman Experience program unless you havethe willpower of Mother Theresa. The combined recreational capacityof fifty freshmen away from home for the first time, all livingwithin a few feet of one another, is the quickest possible onrampto the freeway of Sin and Degradation. You will be lucky tograduate and even luckier not to end up in rehab within threeyears. This is not to suggest that such a destination isinevitable. But you should make a long, careful appraisal of howmuch internal discipline you actually possess.
More to success than grades
On the other side of the fun vs. responsibility equation: don’tgive yourself a hernia trying to achieve perfect grades. Cs getdegrees. When you’re going for your first big post-college job,your prospective employers won’t be painstakingly poring over everyline of your PSU transcript to see what grade you got in Stats 243and Underwater Basket Weaving 101. They’ll be perfectly willing toaccept any kind of valid diploma in the right field as proof ofyour academic prowess and base the rest of their hiring decision onyour work history and how enthusiastically you kiss theirgold-plated rear during the job interview.
I’m only one in a crowd of quasi-scholars who were never quiteable to balance their long-term priorities with their short-terminstincts to seek out instant gratification at everyopportunity.
If I could go back now, at age 24, and try to slap some senseinto my 18-year-old self, I think I could probably avoid most ofthe struggles I’ve gone through as a student over the last fiveyears. Unfortunately, I don’t have any access to a functioning timemachine. So hopefully I can reach out and slap a few of you.