Some lessons can’t be taught in a classroom

Caitlin Sirse

While it’s easy to think students already know who they are upon entering college, the fresh faces roaming around the university with campus maps tucked discreetly between textbooks and computer printouts of schedules will soon learn that what is taught in classrooms is only a tiny fraction of what they will take with them from Kent State.

Here’s a list of things I needed college to teach me, but never could have learned in a classroom:

Grades don’t matter.

OK, they do. Not as much as you think though. As an A/B student, it was the hardest academic blow for me to receive my only F in six years of higher education – but was also one of my most liberating experiences. I learned there’s a difference between a student failing a class and a teacher failing a student.

If a student wants to learn and is willing to put forth maximum effort, that professor better be ready to teach — and he definitely needs to be ready to try different approaches for different students. It helps my self-esteem knowing I didn’t fail, but was failed.

Let it go.

Whether you’re in a classroom full of obnoxious peers, trapped with an impossible professor or a dormitory full of drama, you’ll do yourself (and others) a favor if you can brush off the small things and focus on the bigger picture — what’s right for you.

Pick your battles.

You can change situations by adjusting your attitude. It’s true. Don’t push people around and don’t get pushed around. College is an excellent time to learn the differences in when it’s appropriate to keep your mouth closed and when the claws need to come out.

Get what you want …

Don’t be afraid to be the kid who participates in class when no one else will answer. You’re here for a college degree, right? Don’t just receive a diploma — get an education. Don’t be afraid to speak up for injustices at home, in the classroom or in your community. You have a voice for a reason.

… and know how to get it.

Use your resources. If you’re having any legal problems, visit legal services. It’s “free” — well, you paid for it when you wrote a fat check for tuition.

There’s a free writing center at the library, and they’ll tutor any Kent State student. If you have doubts about your writing, I guarantee you’ll become a better writer by making frequent visits. If you have body or health concerns, the Student Recreation and Wellness Center can do a fitness assessment for $20. The psychology department offers $5 clinic visits to all students (fees can be negotiated for students who can’t afford it). Seemingly small problems can escalate into larger ones and there are people that can help. Take advantage of everyone who’s on the campus to help you.

Don’t get trapped.

Explore campus, downtown Kent and surrounding areas. Even if you’re convinced you have the coolest dorm room because your resident adviser is laid back and everyone always wants to be there, get out. Everyone needs a change of scenery to relax, think and rejuvenate sometimes.

Find time for yourself.

School, work and friends constantly bombard college undergrads. It’s easy to get stuck in a routine of pouring over homework all week and balancing parties with work Thursday through Sunday. Don’t let your roommates’ night class prevent you from going to Target to pickup laundry soap. You’re a big kid now, so go alone (you might even enjoy it).

Deal with it.

Things will happen in your life that you can’t control, but in order to grow, you must accept it and move on. Of course, you can cry until your eyes run out of tears when someone breaks your heart. You can be angry at the world when a loved one dies. Don’t spend your college life locked up in your room wishing to change things out of your control. This heavy stuff that’s tough to get through only makes you stronger.

Everything you go through has happened to someone else. The way you react now predetermines the kind of person you’ll be. If you’ve actually gotten through this entire column and remember nothing else, keep in mind that your decisions are yours alone — no one else can make them for you or take them from you.

Caitlin Sirse is a grad student and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].