What an 18 Year Old Thinks College is For


End of Summer | New Faculty

Greetings from the end of summer! I hope you’ve had a chance to rest that brain, renew your research, stretch out those syllabi, and strapped yourself in for what is shaping up to be :

a fall semester

I took my own advice and unplugged for several weeks. Unplugging means only checking email on my phone, opening the laptop fewer than 3 times during a two week stretch, and slinking around the home farm doing agricultural things. Fear not, I spent a day working on the NGSS with some CTE colleagues and other academic things. I also took my cousin out one day. She’s headed off to college in a mere few days and the interaction was a good one. But a puzzling one. Let me explain:

We went to lunch and then did some shopping. I asked her what she thought college was going to ‘be like’ and what she wanted to do with her life. As an 18 year old, it was very idealistic and immature in nature. But, hearing her thoughts got me thinking:

what do 18 year olds think college and real life is supposed to be like?

Her answer:

“i just want to travel” “i think it would be cool to just travel the world” but when asked what she wanted to do she shrugged her shoulders.

When asked what she was majoring in, “i’m going to try English.”

My response,”why just try it? why not go for it.”

And she had no response.

Her family is bearing the burden of tens of thousands in loans and yet she cannot verbally communicate any futuristic desires outside of traveling. No goals have been set. In fact, she hasn’t even pursued her license to drive and she leaves for college in days.

What 18 year old doesn’t love to travel when they don’t have to pay for it? Any trip she’s taken in her short life has been bankrolled by someone else with little or no consequence to her at all, so of course she wants to continue the lifestyle of someone else footing the bill!

What do we do as faculty who will soon welcome tens of thousands of these immature and idealistic students into our classrooms? We cannot undo what’s been done (or not done) at home the previous 18 years and now we’re tasked with educating these students to prepare them for the world of work knowing that they will likely return to the safety of home where mommy and daddy bankroll their lives with little expectation or consequence.

As a faculty (new or old), it’s extremely frustrating to have these students walk into class. Yes, they’re all full of energy, they want the experience, they claim they want to “serve” and “give back” but it’s a marginal commitment because they know the moment that life gets rough, they can run home. The moment the real work begins for class, they can call home. If they land a job after graduation and don’t like it, they can move back home. They’ve learned virtually no coping skills or life skills except: HOME.

While I love home like everyone else, no one has pushed these students much and no one has gently nudged them out of their nests of comfort one bit. I love my cousin but her lack of motivation, zero drive for future self, and inability to go beyond the ‘college experience’ frustrated me to no end. I wish she felt as strongly about her education as she did about picking out a new backpack that day.


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