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The Difficulties Of A College Education - With A Free Essay Review
Emily Bluemling - Instructor Seymour - English 101 - 7 March 2012
All work and no play! It seems as if that is the average college student’s life nowadays. Or at least that is what it feels like to most. The average college student faces many challenges with their education, sometimes on a daily basis. The initial difficulty is the cost of education. This can be a problem even for higher-class students, as the cost of school is inflated almost yearly. This can lead up to another problem that many students face, which is the difficulty of staying in school while working full or part-time jobs. If they manage to handle all of this, they must deal with the most important part of college; the course load. Depending on the variety of classes and levels of difficulty, the course work can become very stressful for many students. This stress can either be alleviated, or aggravated by another difficulty of college life, the students’ peers. In today’s society, all of these difficulties can weigh down heavily on the average student causing some students to be unable to complete college.
The cost of education fluctuates, depending on a few factors. One factor is whether a student chooses to go to a community college, a state college, or a private college. If the student is able to enroll in a private college, or even a state college, they are now faced with an enormous bill. “Higher education is very expensive, taxing the resources of the already overtaxed, middle-class family” (Reeves 6). They can choose to apply for grants, loans, or scholarships, but there is no guarantee that they will receive any of these. Even for those who choose a community college, cost can still sometimes be a problem. As author Dave Leonhardt says, “Then there is the cost. Tuition bills scare some students from even applying and leave others with years of debt” (268). If they are unable to receive a grant, loan, or scholarship, they do not have many choices to come up with the money to further their education. This can be very frustrating, causing many students to either enroll, and end up dropping out, or possibly never enroll at all.
If students decide to enroll in college and either completely pay for their education, or partially pay for whatever reasons, many are forced to work full or part-time jobs. This creates a variety of issues that some are unable to solve on their own. Author Dave Leonhardt quotes the president of the University of Virginia, John T. Casteen III, “Colleges, Mr. Casteen said, present themselves as meritocracies in which academic ability and hard work are always rewarded. In fact, he said, many working-class students face obstacles they cannot overcome on their own” (Leonhardt 268). One main problem is that working full or part-time leaves little time for actual schoolwork or study time. The average amount of time needed to study for a class properly is about 2 or 3 hours of work per hour of class time. This can become very aggravating for students, especially when left with so little time to complete the work. This incites more and more students to fail to complete their college education. “Many more students from all classes are getting four-year degrees and reaping their benefits. But those broad gains mask the fact that poor and working-class students have nevertheless been falling behind; for them, not having a degree remains the norm” (Leonhardt 266). Another issue for these working students is that after a long days work, they become very tired and do not have the energy to keep up with their work. This can lead to a downward spiral, where the student does less and less schoolwork and increasingly starts to fall behind in their classes.
Andy Blevins, of Chilhowie, Virginia, who author Dave Leonhardt continually references, represents another problem that students who work full or part-time face. “I enjoyed working hard, getting the job done, getting a paycheck, Mr. Blevins recalled. I just knew I didn’t want to quit” (Leonhardt 266). This is a problem that is more common than one would think. Sometimes a student will make decent money at their job, and because they are not doing so well in school, they believe that they can drop out of school, focus on working for a time, and then re-enroll when they are more financially stable. “Almost one in three Americans in their mid-20’s now fall into this group, up from one in five in the late 1960’s, when the Census Bureau began keeping such data. Most come from poor and working-class families” (Leonhard 266). Unfortunately, what was once decent, or great money, generally over time becomes worth less and less. “College graduates have received steady pay increases over the past two decades, while the pay of everyone else has risen little more than the rate of inflation” (Leonhard 267). The students who end up dropping out to work usually do not enroll in school again, which only widens the gap between lower and upper-class students in a college environment.
Once a student decides to stay enrolled in school, they are now faced with a much higher volume and quality of work then they were used to doing in high school. This can cause a serious problem for some students, especially those who never had a chance to take AP or college-level classes. The pressure from the amount of work necessary to pass these classes can weigh heavily on some students. To complete this course-work, students must be willing to actually be in class, and do work outside of class as well. “After four years, the bad habits of not being on time and attending sporadically have become second nature. Such habits are unlikely to make for a very productive worker” (Reeves 2). When a student has retained bad habits whether they are from their home life, or from previous school experience, it is easy for them to carry these habits into college. If they hold on to these bad habits of not being on time or slacking off even a little, it becomes harder and harder to maintain their school work.
The caliber of college-level work is much higher than high school work, and if the student is unable to measure up to these new standards, they will not be able to succeed. “Faced with a dilemma in a play, poem, or novel, many students become angry if pressed to offer a point of view. Expansion of vistas is not on their agenda. They want me to provide some notes, which they, or someone, will copy or record, and they expect me to produce a test, which, when graded, will produce a range of grades from A to B” (Reeves 2). Students are expected to participate in class, and usually participation is graded as well. If the student is unaccustomed to participating in classes, this can be difficult for them. They must be able to use the resources around them to help them complete their work, and if they are not willing or able to do so it can be very difficult to sustain good grades.
For some students, the most difficult part of staying active in their college education can be their own peers. Whether they mean to be a negative influence or not, other students can be a colossal problem in remaining enrolled in school. It seems to be very hard for students to go to class when there is another student asking them to hang out, grab something to eat, or even to blatantly skip class. Author W.J. Reeves addresses this problem in his article, referencing another professor’s story of a student who arrived late for class with the excuse of a traffic-jam and a sick grandmother. “…the young professor learned after class from another student that the reason for lateness was a lie and that the person being visited was the late-to-class student’s out-of-town boyfriend” (Reeves 3). It is not fair to blame this all on peers, as it is one’s own choice to go to class or not, but it is still a problem seems to get in the way of many college students.
If a student is not capable of pushing through the challenges of college life, they will not succeed. In this day and age, a college education is extremely expensive, and if a student cannot access the resources available to pay for it, they will not be able to stay enrolled. Unfortunately, working a part or full-time job for some extra money, support their family, or to pay for their education can get in the way of their completing college. Some manage to push through the aforementioned challenges, but some end up letting the strain of their burdensome schoolwork get in the way of finishing their education. If they do not let money, long hours, or hard work get in their way, students still have to manage to avoid the lures of their peers. Only when a student is able to fight all of these problems successfully, will they be able to complete their college education and enter the world of college graduates.
Leonhardt, Dave. The College Dropout Boom. New York Times. New York Times, 2005.
Reeves, W.J. “College Isn’t For Everyone.” Business Resource Library. CBS Interactive, 1 May 2003. Web. 8 Feb. 2012
Your essay identifies three difficulties that students must overcome in order to avoid dropping out of college: economic, academic, and social. Of these three issues, the first is analyzed in greatest depth, while the last is barely analyzed at all, so the essay appears to get weaker as it proceeds, which is unfortunate. It may be that you devote most effort to the first problem you tackle because you think it is the most important. In that case, it would make sense to argue the point; i.e., explain why it’s the most important. If you can find evidence to suggest that more students drop out of school for reasons related to the cost of education, you should present that evidence and stress the point. You might also consider acknowledging (so that your choice of difficulties doesn’t seem arbitrary) the list of possible reasons for failure that you don't go into in the essay (for example, laziness, lack of motivation, psychological problems, family problems, drugs, alcohol, lack of preparation [which you touch on, but don't elaborate], lack of ability, sickness, stress, sports, procrastination, the internet, social networking, and assorted other modes of wasting one’s life!). In other words, in addition to justifying the emphasis you place on economic problems, you might justify your lack of interest in other problems. Are you focusing on three of the most significant problems? Are you focused on the kinds of problems over which students appear to have least control? Or are you just picking the first three that came to mind or that you came across? Finally, with respect to the general approach taken to the problem here, you appear to rely exclusively on two sources. These sources are journalistic, rather than academic, and are a little dated. Moreover, you use the articles as sources of information about the problems that impact college students' academic performance, but ignore the context in which that information is presented. Establishing that context would help your reader understand the significance of the evidence you present. For instance, Reeves' piece articulates an opinion about whether too many ill-prepared students are going to college. That would be useful for your reader to know, and it might be a claim that you could explicitly address the merits of in your essay. Doing that (taking a critical stance on the articles that you are reading for your essay) would give your essay stronger argumentative drive, especially if you disagree with the opinions of your sources. (I'm willing to wager that you have never read an academic essay in the humanities that does not disagree with someone else's opinion. There's a reason for that!).
Now aside from your general approach to the problem, you also need to work on some specific issues. One obvious one is the way you incorporate quotation. The basic template for quoting is this: Integrate, Contextualize, Analyze. Let's look at one example from one of the less successful paragraphs in your essay. Your final argument is the one in greatest need of improvement, because it relies on a single example of a girl being late for class to make a much larger claim than the example could possibly support, but the least successful use of quotation as such comes in the paragraph that begins "The caliber [I think you mean "expected caliber"] of college-level work is much higher than high school work, and if the student is unable to measure up to these new standards, they will not be able to succeed." That’s a good topic sentence, even if, from my tired perspective, college teachers’ expectations are typically too low, and possible getting lower by the year. The topic sentence is followed by a quotation that is not integrated into your paragraph. There is no introduction to the quotation (e.g., nothing like, "According to Reeves, ..."). There is no context provided, so we don't know who the students referred to are, what their background is, what kind of college they're in; in short, we know nothing that would allow us to determine how relevant the example is to understanding the general problem you are trying to address. And there is no analysis of the quotation. You don't explain what the relevance of the point that Reeve's is making is to your argument. You don't explain, in other words, how your reader should understand the significance of students' not being interested in the expansion of their vistas (whatever that cliche is supposed precisely to mean) and wanting instead notes, tests, and a grade. It sounds like the author of the cited lines is saying there is something wrong with wanting notes, tests, and grades, but what is it exactly? And how does it relate to your larger argument about the failure of students who are ill-prepared for the alleged rigors of college education? Instead of doing all of this work with your quotation (which is the kind of work you should aspire to do with more or less every quotation worth the trouble of including in an essay) you use the quotation merely as evidence of the fact that participation is expected in class, but doing that introduces discontinuity between the point being made by the quoted lines and the point you make, and in any case the quoted lines are not very strong evidence of the fact that participation is often expected, although since that fact qualifies as common knowledge, you don't really need to provide evidence.
Best wishes, EJ.