When I first graduated high school, furthering my education was the last thing on my mind. Although I was already accepted to NMU and had all intentions of attending in the fall, it never struck me that I would actually be attending school. From what I had heard, college was this amazing place where you chose the classes that appealed to you most, only had to attend if you wanted to, rarely had homework and never had class on Fridays. It wasn’t until after I barely passed my classes that I realized how crucial and telling those first fourteen weeks of college life really are.
This occurrence seems common among college freshmen. Many are living on their own for the first time, and the independence is much more appealing than attending classes. Making new friends in the dorms by partying late on Monday nights requires some definite sleeping in, often at the expense of one’s studies. It doesn’t help that the media has always portrayed college as some 24-hour party thrown by Van Wilder himself, where red keg cups and white togas rule all. But on the contrary, the first year of college is actually a rite of passage of sorts. As a result, first-year students are forced to find a balance between their new-found freedom and their demanding studies.
When forced to weigh their priorities right off the bat, many freshmen buckle under the pressure. According to the United States Department of Education, in 2008 alone, 30 percent of students left after their first year of college. Furthermore, half of that number never went on to earn their degree. While money often does play a part in these numbers, many students who leave are either too lethargic to return or simply realize college just isn’t the place for them. In that case, it’s better students finds that out after their first year. What I find disappointing is when students let one lazy semester get in the way of their education.
Not to mention, while freshmen at NMU may be stressing over the task of staying afloat with at least “D’s” their first year, they have it relatively lax compared to some colleges. Schools like Harvard Medical School work on a pass/fail grading scale because students become more concerned about excelling when average, or “C,” work is not accepted. With this process, students who produce work considered satisfactory are given a “pass” while students with unsatisfactory work are given a “fail.” This may seem like a nightmare to most college students, especially freshmen, but it may actually pose a valuable argument. If first-year students were aware right away that screwing around would cost them their chance at higher education, I’m certain that first- year drop-out rate would decrease substantially.
After my first fateful semester at NMU, I realized something that incoming freshmen will all realize sooner or later: the first semester of college makes or breaks you. Professors offer greater challenges on purpose, aptly weeding out those who do not make the cut. So to new students trickling on to campus this next semester, remember that while the excitement of college may seem unbearable, don’t forget that one bad semester may ruin the future of your education.