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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

College blues

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For my whole life I’ve heard the phrase that “college will be the best four years of your life.” I can’t determine if that’s the truth yet, but there is one thing that I know so far: college is hard. Really hard. Sometimes I see my friends (or rather high school friends) posting pictures of what seem to be endless weekends: sorority parties, fancy nights on the town, and endless Netflix. And then I realize that it’s a Saturday morning and I’m on 2nd Libe scanning through Facebook when I have three essays I should be writing. And a test on Monday. And a problem set.

I knew that college would be difficult before I got here, but I never knew just how demanding Carleton would be. My high school was tough too, and very fast-paced but nothing prepared me for what I think is the most challenging aspect of Carleton academics: the schedule.

When I first started looking at schools, I knew that no other colleges had a schedule like Carleton’s. In fact, it was the singular item that deterred me from wanting to apply Early Decision here. I think the challenging thing about looking at the schedule from an outsiders perspective, and particularly a high school senior’s, is that we don’t really have anything to compare the schedule to. My high school ran like most colleges do: with four classes per term for a total of eight classes. So I thought to myself that I would be right on track with how classes function in college. But boy was I wrong. Ten weeks is a tiny amount of time to be learning massive concepts like the foundations of computer science and the linguistics of Japanese. It would be hard for anyone, including the geniuses on Carleton’s campus.

Not only is the curriculum extremely quick, but also your classes change so frequently that it’s hard to get a firm grasp on what was even expected from you in the first place. I notice this to be especially true regarding writing. Each professor has a different set of expectations on how they want you to write papers for their class. One of my professors last term assigned incredibly short essays and wanted you to link everything in the course together: the broader the better. This term my professor wants us to focus on certain elements from a reading and really zero in on those. I’m more accustomed to the later, and thus it was very challenging first term for me to shift my way of writing to fit the demands of the professor. And in the end I ended up just getting lost and losing a little faith in my own writing.

But in a way I think that is the purpose of this short schedule. It makes you question the way that you have done work in the past, the way you think and tackle new problems, the way you absorb material. And does it completely stink sometimes? For sure. Does it force you to really go into office hours if you want to be successful? I definitely think so. But am I also incredibly proud (and sometimes a little shocked) of the work I’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time? Absolutely.

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