18 Questions Teenagers Have About College…Answered

This past Friday, I came across a Buzzfeed article listing 18 questions that teens have about college. This particular post struck a nerve with me. As a first-generation college student from an economically disadvantaged family, I had more than my fair share of questions. Even when I went to college, I didn’t fully understand what I was getting myself into.

I was fortunate to be able to get through both college and grad school in a combined three and a half years. While I realize that my university course load was aggressive, and that I didn’t have as wild of a college experience as some people might have, after reading through the questions, I think there’s a good bit of advice I could lend to incoming students. Note that the answers below come from a combination of my own experience, my time working for a for-profit university, and my own research. Your mileage may vary.

1. How will I know what courses I should take?

As much as I hate to say this, there’s a decent chance you won’t know what you want to take. Yes, there’s likely a degree you’ll have in mind going into college. Your academic advisor will be able to help point you in the right direction if you choose to stick with that plan. That said, a significant portion of those I went to school with changed their major at least once. While I never changed my major, I actually made it all the way to my final semester before realizing there was a field of study I cared more about than what I was majoring in.

If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have been an education major rather than a broadcasting major. Take advantage of those general education courses that colleges make you take. Diversify your courseload with those classes. You might find that you have a different passion than what you originally thought.

2. How do you keep in touch with friends from high school, especially if they’re planning on going to college far away from you?

Admittedly, I’m not the poster child for this question. I talk with nearly no one from high school anymore. By the end of my freshman year, there were only 4-5 people I went to high school with that I still talked to, and nearly all of them were different people than those I hung out with in high school. People change. You’ll change. You’ll find new friends at college. Embrace this.

3. Is going to a really good (and therefore expensive) college worth it for undergrad?

This one’s pretty simple. Are you planning to go to grad school, med school, or law school?

Yes: Then it’s worth every penny, provided you have good grades.
No: Not in the slightest.

In working in admissions for a graduate school, I couldn’t believe the horrors I heard from my co-workers who laughed at where some people got their undergraduate degrees. Universities are like the 35 year old version of the popular kid from high school — no matter how shitty they really are on the inside, they’re going to say they’re the best and ridicule everyone to hell on the outside. Grad school admissions, especially at prestigious institutions, is not all that it seems. If you have aspirations to be a doctor or lawyer, pay a bit more for your undergrad degree. If not, save as much money as you can. Community college is your friend.

4. Is staying focused in college as hard as adults say it is?

That depends on who you are. For me, I was willing to give up any semblance of a social life in an effort to graduate early. Therefore, focus was extremely easy. For the majority of college students, the urge to go out and party and fit into a social circle is more prevalent than you think, especially in your first semester. If you can make it through that first term, you’ll be in good shape.

5. Are parties at major universities that distracting that you flunk out?

Considering that it nearly happened to at least two[1] of my closest friends in college, definitely.

6. Is it hard to get a job right out of college?

That really depends on how willing you are to settle for an entry level job. If you think you’re going to walk right out of college and into your dream job, expect a long, uphill battle. If you’re willing to take smaller, less prestigious jobs to make ends meet in the short-term while gaining experience[2], it’s pretty easy.

7. Career-wise, is it better to choose a major that I’m not that passionate about but it will be easier to find a job, or a major that I really like but the career paths aren’t that wide?

That depends. Do you want to work in an office job the rest of your life? If so, major in anthropology.

8. On a scale of 1 to NOPE, how bad are student loans?

I can’t say they’re fun by any means. My entire college bill was paid by student loans and grants. While I’m in better shape than most people my age, I still won’t have my student loans paid off within the next five years[3]. Student loan debt is a major problem in America, and very, very little is being done to change that.

The problem is not student loan debt by itself. It’s the combination of student loan debt and other things, such as credit card debt, moving away from home too early[4], and not taking advantage of the lower tuition rates of community colleges. If you have scholarships, grants, or money from your family to pay for college, awesome. If you don’t, I’d encourage you not to let student loans stand in your way of going to college[5].

9. If you’re talented at Liberal Arts and nothing else, is it OK to try and make a career out of it?

Go for it! Just surround yourself with people who are brutally honest with you. They’ll help you to realize if you’re truly talented or not.

10. Besides having the ‘typical college experience’, is it really worth going to a four year college?

That all depends on the person. Many four year colleges have access to programs like study abroad, as well as internships that you would never get at a trade school or community college. That said, the cost difference is pretty drastic. Weigh your options carefully.

11. Will it really be as difficult as I’ve heard to get a job after getting a degree in English?

God no. Well…so long as you’re okay with working in a call center to start your career. Well-run call centers scoop up English and communications majors like a fat baby going after a bottle of Mountain Dew.

12. Will I ever be able to pay off my college debts?

If you go through college without using a credit card irresponsibly? Probably. Seriously though, if your institution offers a money management course to its students, sign up for that day one. You’ll thank me later.

13. How important is it to go to college versus just getting a job after I graduate?

That really depends on what you want to do with your life. Many businesses are now requiring at least an associate’s degree even for entry-level positions, so not going to college does limit your job opportunities. With that said, if you can get into an entry-level job at a company you love without a degree, and then work your way up, you won’t have to worry about student loan debt[6].

14. How do you make new friends once you’re there?

Keep your dorm room door open for the entirety of the first two weeks you’re at college except when you’re studying or sleeping. I cannot stress this enough.

15. Do you recommend sharing a college dorm with someone you already know or someone new?

It’s up to you really, though I have a pretty strong bias towards rooming with someone new. I didn’t get the option to room with someone I already knew[7]. What ended up coming out of that though was rooming with a complete stranger who would become my best friend. While there are roommate horror stories out there, take the chance on meeting someone new.

16. What kind of job can I get with a degree in Visual Fine Arts?

Not a fucking clue. If someone knows the answer to this, I’ll happy post it here though.

17. Should I switch my major to something more practical?

I feel like I’ve answered this same question three or four times now[8]. That said, you need to explore how passionate you are about what you’re learning and how good you are at it. If you’re not both extremely passionate and at least very good at what you’re learning, you should probably consider switching your major, regardless of how practical your current one is.

18. Why does college cost so damn much?

If I had the answer to this, I’d be rich.

Everyone Else Is More Talented Than Me

I used to do blog series on my old blog over various topics. I hadn’t officially started on here yet((That Tiny Tirade is a legacy series that pays homage to one I had on my old blog, Fuck You Fridays)), so I figured now would be as good of a time as any.

The idea for this series — Everyone Else Is More Talented Than Me — came about as a result of a pair of conversations I had just before Christmas. The first conversation came from a real-life friend, TK. TK and I have known each other since college, and though we live states apart, we do text semi-regularly. A recent conversation played out as such.

TK: Tim, you need to write a satirical book. I’m serious.

Me: I’m writing a fiction book currently. But I’m interested. What’s your idea?

TK: My idea? You pour your brain onto paper. Instant classic…Vonnegut would be proud.

The second conversation wasn’t so much a true conversation as it was a television show viewing and my reaction to it. As I’m sure you’re aware (since you’re on the Internet, that is), Comedy Central’s long running show, The Colbert Report, ended on December 18th. The show’s end is not a surprise, as lead man Stephen Colbert will be taking over for a retiring David Letterman next year. Yet, despite the notice (not to mention Colbert talking about it on the every episode of the show since roughly October), it still felt to me as though one of the greatest spectacles of satire was ending far too soon.

As a young child, many of my family members told me “no matter how good you are at something, there will always be someone out there who is better than you at whatever you’re good at”. I always felt this statement was nothing more than a way to advise me to temper my hopes and put a realistic set of checks and balances on what I think I can do versus what I actually can do. For example, I have a decent ability to catch things reflexively when they’re unexpectedly thrown in my direction. This has proven to be the difference between a pen being stopped in midair, and said pen hitting one of my coworkers on more than one occasion. That said, my reflex catching isn’t good enough to stop a line drive baseball from hitting me in the face. The line is somewhere in between.

I’ve tried to do a lot of things in my life that I thought would be a good idea. I’ll talk about them at some point in time in coming posts. An abbreviated list is below.

  • There was that time Rock Band (the video game) inspired me and a few friends to try to make an actual rock band
  • My spontaneity once prompted me to move across the USA on 10 days notice
  • There was another point in time in which I thought I was good at speaking other languages. Madrid taught me otherwise.
  • A rather recent occurrence involving said fiction book I’m writing and a non-fiction book that told a better story((At least in my opinion)).

There are other stories I’m sure I’m forgetting right now. Once I remember them, I’ll be sure to talk about them too. If nothing else, this will be an exercise in self-deprecating humor and humility. My hope is that it’ll amuse you along the way. After all, if I’m going to write satire and humor — both of which I feel I’m decent at doing — there’s bound to be someone out there who’s better at it than I am.

7 Reasons You’ll Read This Blog Post With A Click Bait Headline

Disclaimer: This post is part of this blog’s That Tiny Tirade series. It can (and likely will) contain harsh language, scenes and storylines not suitable for children, and some content that may be unacceptable to other readers. This post may also contain strobe lighting effects.

Hello there! You’re finally here. It’s great to see you around. But why are you here exactly1You know, other than the fact that you have a crippling addiction to my writing, as evidenced by the fact that you’re reading this at 4am on a Tuesday while sipping from a 40.?

*thinking….thinking…thinking*

Oh, that’s right! I have a list post 7 reasons why you’ll read a blog post — this very one, as a matter of fact — with a click bait headline. I guarantee you’ll be shocked at #4.

#1. You’re a super attractive person

And you’re generously endowed too. Image credit: ioneglobalgrind.wordpress.com

What? You don’t think you’re actually attractive? Fuck you, this is the internet. EVERYONE is hot on the internet. It doesn’t matter if you’re good-looking in real life, on the internet every man looks like a cross between all the good parts of Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt, while every woman is a mixture of Kate Upton, Beyonce, and whatever a Taylor Swift is2I’m presuming it’s an individual capable of fixing holes in my suit at lightning speed.. Face it — everyone wants in your pants. Or kilt, if that’s what you’re into.

#2. This post has lots of pictures that have nothing to do with the article at hand, but are great for image search hits

Image credit: weknowmemes.com

Some of you likely clicked on this article thinking there would be substance for you to read. Perhaps you could find something to learn amid all the bullshit and terrible writing on the internet. You would be wrong. That’s not how the internet works. If your articles aren’t picture-filled, you’re fucked. Well, that’s presuming you don’t forget about the fact that…

#3. This blog post is a content marketing goldmine

Image credit: wrestlingoutofcontext.tumblr.com

You thought you needed to optimize your posts for SEO? You thought wrong! SEO is dead and content marketing is where it’s at. It’s not enough to add subliminal this post is sponsored by http://wrestlingoutofcontext.tumblr.com/ messaging to your posts, tweet bomb the shit out of your friends, family, and coworkers, or even to take out a second mortgage to promote yourself on Facebook. If your posts aren’t sponsored by someone, they’re not getting read. After all, it’s not like anyone actually clicks on ads anymore.

#4. You’d rather read an ad masquerading as an article than click on an ad.

Funny thing about bloggers (or websites) in 2014…no one actually clicks on your ads anymore. Why would we?3There are apparently people online who disagree with me and will click on any ad that interests them in order to help fund the ad companies. I call these people masochists. Not only are advertisements notorious for providing computer viruses/malware/spyware a pathway into your computer, they’re also incredibly annoying to look at. If your readers are clicking on your ads, there’s a decent chance they’ve been in a coma since 1996 and have just woken up. Say hi to them, then come back here and introduce them to how advertising works in the real internet.

#5. This post is short — just the way you like it.

No one has time for a lengthy blog post anymore. Gone are the days where bloggers could write 3000+ word long-form articles and be lauded by those around them before that blogger goes onto become a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle or the Cleveland Plain Dealer.4For the younger crowd, those were newspapers, an archaic way of delivering news to people. News was what journalism was called before large…ah fuck it…

Image credit: ironydesign.com

#6. People are suckers for lists

When you GIS “dumbest top ten list”, this is one of the top results. No joke. Image credit: ranker.com

Everyone likes lists and everyone LOVES debating lists. Look at the success of sites like Cracked, Buzzfeed, and Bleacher Report. None of those sites would exist without the list post. Here, I’ll even give you a list to debate. Here are the Top Ten Things I Wrote Down In A List Format.

  1. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog
  2. Faygo
  3. Testicular tortion
  4. A ban saw
  5. Jasmine
  6. Tupelo, Mississippi
  7. Cesaro’s pepperoni nipples. This is a thing.
  8. Scalene muscles
  9. Improper grammar
  10. Six women from Perth, Australia playing Twister against Duck Dodgers

Debate.

#7. You can’t help but share this list

It’s an uncontrollable urge. With the rise of social media you want — nay, NEED — to click like on everything. You MUST comment. You WILL SHARE THIS POST.

Image source unclear from searching, however it’s a still from the movie They Live.