Let’s get real: Expectations of University life

in Opinion by

When I first decided to come back to school two years ago, I thought, “Oh, this will be great! I’ll dedicate all of my time to studying, and just write some freelance articles on the side to make some extra cash.”

Ha.

Oh, how my younger self was so nieve.

It’s not only enough for a college student to be “expected” (yes, in quotations because i’m generalizing and not everyone has these expectations) to get straight A’s or maybe a couple B’s, but they are also expected to be involved in organizations on campus, hold some sort of job (if not two or three) AND have a social life outside of school. Because come on, how is this unreasonable to expect of an adult?

What was that? You only work 12 hours a week and don’t have straight A’s? Well wow, you must be lazy compared to Betty over there who works 20 hours a week, gets all A+’s and still finds time to volunteer on the weekends.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a few professors over my years here at SCSU who have supported the fact that I cannot always make it to class or may be a day late handing in a paper, due to working on things here at the Chronicle or my freelance jobs that I have. Interestingly, all of those professors have been people who continue to work in their industries hands-on, outside of academia. And many of them have stressed to me that making those connections outside of school in your potential career field, are sometimes more important than getting that A on a test.

It is unfortunate – the pressure and strain that society and people around you put on yourself. I’m going to head over to the always inspiring Eleanor Roosevelt for this one.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

This is the truth: No one. Not your Mom. Not your Dad. Not your best friend. Not your significant other. Can make you feel lesser of a person without your own agreement. Again, this is an unfortunate feeling that many of us come across with the pressures that society as a whole puts on us, but it is the truth and must be remembered.

Imagine going to a university in a country with free tuition (yes, there are economic downsides to free college tuition and is a very controversial topic, but for the sake of this piece, just go with it), a country like Denmark or Finland who put education first in their communities. They don’t want you to stress over making your rent for the month, or having “just enough” food to eat no matter how low quality it may be, or racking up tens of thousands of dollars worth of student-loan debt. They want you to be focused on yourself and how you can help make society better – as the person that you are, with the best resources possible to help you succeed.

The New York Times published an article this past Aug. on the cost of living off-campus and noted that it’s not necessarily the tuition of schools that is driving prospective students away – a lot of the time it’s the other expenses such as room and board and personal expenses. The approximate cost of living, even within the same region of a city, varies from school to school. So for example, when a student goes to apply for financial aid for their school, and gets their tuition covered and possibly a little more to cover the amount it costs to live in a “one-room, low end house on the bad side of town”, it’s looked at as “good, this student can manage.” But as many of us know, that is not a fact. That is not reality.

The reality of a college student who has to pay their way in school is to have multiple part-time jobs that pay minimum wage, which is not liveable in most cities throughout Minnesota and the U.S. According to Student Loan Hero, Americans owe almost 1.3 trillion dollars in student loan debt across the country. And not only is it a problem that many college students are having this debt to pay off for 20+ years, they must work to make ends meet while they are in school, while also eating poorly – which adds to nutrient deficiency, as they are trying their best to get great marks in school while also working on building up their resumé. This should not happen. This should not be the reality.

When a human being is working hard at studying in-depth on subjects to further their minds, they should have the best resources at their finger tips. And I don’t just mean the internet with it’s plethora of information, I mean having a healthy, protein-filled breakfast; a proper lunch with a break to even have time to eat the lunch; a dinner that isn’t surrounded by ramen and your laptop because you have no money for food and need to finish that paper before work; an evening where you can relax with friends and not have to head out to work until 3am and then wake up the next morning and be exhausted to learn.

Life is too short to live with this much stress, and these expectations are not helping students succeed as they should.

Something needs to change.

Jessie is the Editor-in-Chief at University Chronicle. She is a senior at St. Cloud State University and is working toward a B.S. in Print Journalism, a B.A. in Geography and a minor in British Studies. Jessie’s social media channels are a mix of nerdy goodness and political banter. Follow her on twitter @jessieannwade for all that is lovely.