After Eighteen: College is feeling like college

Jacob Lawrence is a freshman at UMass, Amherst where he is finishing up finals, before heading to the Island to fish.
courtesy of Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence is a freshman at UMass, Amherst where he is finishing up finals, before heading to the Island to fish.

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year. This week’s dispatch is from Jacob Lawrence, who is attending the University of Massachusetts, where he is a declared communication major with a minor in Spanish.

The honeymoon is over….College is starting to feel like College

“The best four years of your life.” I have heard many people describe college differently over the last couple years but that seems to be the overall consensus of the best way to describe college in so few words. And for the last six months, I definitely would agree with them. Sure I have pulled a few all-nighters, I’ve gotten my heart broken a time or two but for the most part college life has been very good to me. However, they call it “higher education” for a reason and there are definitely some high expectations that come with it.

Looking back to the first few weeks after we had come back from winter recess, things were pretty normal. I was attending class as I normally did, I took notes about 98% of the time (I’m not perfect, I did doze off or watch Netflix once or twice in class). I was doing a good job of balancing my extra-curricular activities, my social life, and of course my studies. But little did I know I was in for a rude awakening.

It all started the Friday before the Valentine’s Day three day weekend. Everything was right in my life: I had a thriving social life, I was showing up to class on-time and well rested, momma had just put some more money in my bank account, and, best of all, for the first time in my life I had a special someone to spend Valentine’s Day and the rest of the weekend with and she was arriving in a couple hours. I arrived to Spanish class that day floating on cloud nine, and my teacher brought me right back to earth with only a simple sentence: “We are going to have a test on Tuesday.” Now I like to think of myself as a fairly good in Spanish. I am nowhere near being fluent, but I can speak and write with confidence. However, memorizing 50 different words and grammar rules is no easy task in English, let alone another language. Eventually class ended and while I wasn’t thrilled about having a test coming off of a three-day weekend (I mean who would be?) I wasn’t too worried.

Next I went to Biology which was my last class of the day. In 55 short minutes I could go back to my room and get it nice and clean for my big weekend. My Spanish test was still in the back of my mind, but like I said, I wasn’t going to let it ruin the weekend I had planned. I knew I’d find time to study. I always do. So as I’m sitting in class my instructor is going on about something plant-related while I was trying to take notes that I could use. I love animal biology, but there is something about plants that goes in one ear and out the other. Just as she is about to dismiss us for the weekend she announces that we will be having our first big exam — on TUESDAY! So now I had two tests coming up on the same day for two subjects which I find challenging. And I had no idea when I would be able to study for them. I looked down at my phone and found that it was too late to call her and cancel; she was halfway to school. It looked like I had no choice but to cram, much to my dismay.

I knew that there was nothing that I could do about it now. So I went on with my weekend. And while I did have a really fun time, in the back of my head the whole time I was thinking about studying for those tests. The good news is that I did find time to study, the bad news is that it was at 7PM the night before the tests.  I had less than 24 hours to study for two tests in two subjects which were not related by any stretch of the imagination. Needless to say, it was a long exhausting night and I knew the minute that I finished both tests that I had not done as well as I should have.

On top of that, my self-pity and a much-needed nap would have to wait because I was reminded by a classmate about a two-page sociology essay due the next day.  I eventually got the paper in on time and received a fairly good grade on it. Unfortunately for me this was only the beginning of a very academically demanding and stressful few weeks which wouldn’t end until spring break!

Between February 18th and March 7th my schedule averaged at least two tests and two papers due every week, in addition to chapter after chapter of supplemental readings online and primary readings in textbooks as well as smaller write-ups and responses to readings. This doesn’t include the week I missed just before spring break because of the flu.

While the physical work load itself is very large and the demands and expectations are high, I feel that the intangibles are what truly make the work near impossible. There are a lot of expectations for us college kids and the pressure is on us to do well for multiple reasons: the biggest being that our grades have a direct effect on our future career prospects. My dream is to go to UCLA, USC or possibly Harvard for graduate school, but one bad exam could dash all my hopes. Even if you look at the immediate future or the present,  the pressure is still there: I need to keep at least a 3.0 GPA in order to keep all my scholarships. I cannot even imagine what would happen if I were to lose my grants and scholarships. But I have a feeling it ends with me being back on Martha’s Vineyard for a little while longer.

Since I have been at school I have adopted a motto. This motto sums up everything that I have been told growing up about college, from the academic to the social. That motto is simply “college.” Admittedly this motto is very basic and ambiguous, but that’s why it works so well. I go to this motto when I am unsure about which decision I should make in a given situation: if I get dealt a good hand, I just say “college” and go about smiling. In this case I was dealt a very, very bad hand, which consisted of countless all-nighters, a lot of reading, pounds and pounds of junk food and a lot of energy shots. But nevertheless, I just chalked it up to “college,” and I took care of business.

Since I have been writing these [MVTimes] articles a lot of people have come up to me and my parents and made comments about my articles like: “Boy, he must be getting straight A’s for him to be doing all this partying and socializing,” or “Does he ever study? Or does he just socialize and party?” And to those folks I say: Thank you for reading my articles; rest assured it’s not all fun and games. College is starting to feel like college.

By the way, things didn’t work out between me and —-.