Although I had significant experience as an adjunct professor, making the switch to full-time academia was not easy. Believe it or not, there’s a lot to do. I have to prep for courses–trust me students, it takes more time for the professor to prep (at least the first few times they teach that certain course) than it takes you; write exams and come up with homework assignments; grade those exams and homework assignments when the come in; go to all sorts of meetings; try to prepare and follow through on my own research agenda; serve on various committees; attend many functions; and more. All while trying to learn the names of a whole bunch of new students.
This experience of moving into full-time academia is not something I’d change for the world. I’m happy to be here. I love teaching and interacting with students and I can’t wait to really dig in to some real research and writing. But the extent of the change, and the occasional (maybe “frequent” is a better word) feeling of being lost or a bit behind as I start into a new, life-consuming experience, reminds me what it was like to go away to college for the first time.
Sure, college is somewhat like high school. I mean, there are classes, and exams, and grades, and friends, and homework. But it is also so very different. Studying for college requires a whole set of new and improved skills and tools to be done effectively. And it tends to take a lot more time and require a bunch more self motivation. I remember when I started college, I was really excited about the freedom it offered, but unaware of the level of self-discipline success would require.
When we ask high school seniors and recent graduates, “Are you ready for college?!” we ask the right question but in the wrong way. We ask it in a way that, at best, we are asking them if they’re excited about college, if they’re ready for the freedom and moving away from home. That little exclamation point next to the question mark in the quote above, and in our voices when we ask the question of high school seniors and recent graduates speaks volumes.
We need to ask the question a little more sincerely. We need to ask, quite simply,
“Are you ready for college?”
Most students aren’t. Not because they’re not capable, but because they don’t even know what they need to be ready for. Let’s make sure we’re asking the right questions.
And students, make sure you’re asking the right questions, too. Ask yourself, “Am I ready for college?” And ask others, too. You probably can’t give yourself a complete answer, because you’ve never been there. So ask someone who has, and who has succeeded. Get yourself some tools to be prepared.
When you prepare for the moment, the moment is prepared for you.
And, as always:
You got this!