J. Michael Martin is a professional writer, photographer, and adjunct professor.
You're Not as Prepared as You Think
I hate to break this to you early on, but if you graduated from the public-school system, then you most likely have not been educated for college. Even if you graduated from a private college prep school, you might not be prepared for college either. This is because success in college is not dependent on individual knowledge. Rather, success in college is reserved for responsible, well-adjusted, and internally motivated adults. That said, when I think college freshman, those are the last adjectives that come to my mind when describing them.
Every semester, I ask myself how the next class of freshman can be worse, and every semester they rise to the challenge. Before I continue any further, I want to point out that I was not prepared for college either. In fact, I've dropped out of college twice and changed careers multiple times. However, I ended up with multiple degrees from both private and public universities. Thus, I'm here to educate, inspire, and help you learn from my mistakes.
“But I made straight A’s in school, and scored well on entrance exams!” you might interject. I did too, and many other students scored well too. However, think back at how you earned those grades. Did you study hard every day? Did you read through the textbooks multiple times? Did you ask for help when you struggled to understand concepts? Maybe you did, and that’s wonderful. But if you were like me, then you probably listened well enough in class that cramming 10 minutes before a test was all you needed to do to succeed.
In my opinion, many college entrance exams are worthless and do not weed out people who will struggle in college. I took the liberty to make my own entrance exam below. Notice, there are no facts to recall, equations to solve, or sentences to interpret. This is a simple test to see if you will be able to succeed in college.
J. Michael Martin’s Super Awesome College Entrance Exam (JMMSACEE)
- Do you wake yourself up each morning, or do you require help getting out of bed?
- Do you study 4 hours or more each week without being told to do so?
- If you encounter an unfamiliar word, phrase, or concept, do you actively seek out the meaning?
- Do you read educational books and articles that interest you without being required to do so?
- Do you find your professional career path more interesting than your personal hobbies?
- Do you have a backup plan if your first choice of study fails?
- Are you able to focus on a specific goal or task for hours at a time?
- Do you ask questions often in a classroom setting?
- Are you motivated enough to push through obstacles when they block your way?
- Can you cope with failure (mental, physical, emotional, social)?
- Do you read the directions fully before you begin an assignment or test?
- Are you comfortable communicating your problems and frustrations in a calm and respectful manner?
- Are you comfortable working with other people on group projects?
If you answered “No” to 6 or more questions, then you most likely are not prepared for college. However, this does not mean you won’t succeed. This does not mean that you are guaranteed drop out. I specifically chose questions that my 18-year-old self would have answered “No” for every single one. I am proof that you can succeed in college without any of the necessary skills needed, other than an average ACT score and a decent GPA. However, to succeed, you will need to turn as many of those “No” answers to “Yes” answers, even if they are not in your nature.
It Takes Discipline and Hard Work
In fact, I still don’t wake myself up in the morning, but I married a wonderful and creative woman who enjoys finding interesting ways to wake me up with a cat each morning. I still have trouble coping with failure, but I had to fail many times before I understood that the sun still rises the next day. I still struggle with focusing (or lack thereof) on complex tasks I need to complete; yet, I’ve learned many techniques to maximize my efficiency. Just because you don’t have the tools this moment, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to acquire them. The trick is starting to change your behavior before heading off to college, instead of realizing you need to change after the first few tests.
Of the thousands of college freshmen I’ve taught over the years, I can only recall one young woman who would have answered “Yes” to every question. She is the only student I’ve taught that did not miss a single question in my course and continued to succeed throughout other courses. However, she is the exception for entering students, as well as general human beings in life. Most successful, straight-A students stumble at some point in college. But, just because you hit a stumbling block doesn’t necessarily mean you should change your major or drop out.
I hate to assign a failing grade to students, but 95% of the time the student fails because he or she fails to turn in assignments. Surprisingly, the failing student often attends class, listens to lectures, and performs tasks in a lab setting, but lacks the responsibility needed to complete and submit homework on time. Succeeding in a public 4-year college is not about what you know, but rather how responsible of a person you are.
Matthew DeWitte from Madison, Wisconsin on May 19, 2017:
I just finished up my first year of college. Your article is very well thought out, with hard work, you can easily get through college. All it takes is the mindset to know you can pursue your dreams.