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.
It’s spring time! You all know what that means: warm weather, shorts and tank tops (my personal favorite thing to wear), and students seem to shed their conventional anti-social and bitter personalities brought on by the cold weather like a chrysalis and suddenly everyone is a social butterfly. But wait there’s more. As every student 14 or older will tell you before you can officially break free from the shackles that is higher education there’s one last obstacle: Final Exams. And a high school final exam doesn’t compare at all to a college final exam. No matter if it is take-home or in class, the only good college final is no college final.
I have a couple of regular “pen and paper” exams to take care of but it seems this time the cards have also dealt me a take-home exam. At first I thought that this was awesome. That’s one less crowded, hot, windowless lecture hall that I didn’t have to show up to. And best of all I didn’t have to study! When I finally sat down with my laptop to take the exam I didn’t think it was so awesome. I figured that since I was such a great writer, and I have multiple A+ papers and three other articles in this newspaper — which I am being paid for — to prove it, that I could do some brief research and review of past materials for supporting evidence and then fudge my way through the rest. What had never crossed my mind was that since it is “open book” (I can use any notes and the textbook in order to answer the questions) that she can ask questions about super specific concepts and use terms which we had not covered since week two; and she had no reason to expect anything but the best. And you know what the best part was? As if she had read my mind and figured out what my plan was, each answer had to be 350 words or less! To put this into perspective, everything that you have read so far from the title to this sentence here is about 360 words.
“It’s impossible”, I thought as I read the first question. I had a paragraph’s worth of words to write an intelligent and thorough answer about how the problems plaguing our environment are also in fact social problems and, more specifically, how each environmental problem affects different social and racial groups around the world. Considering that problems regarding the environment, society or race by themselves is a topic big enough for me to write a book on, it goes without saying that I needed to painstakingly read as much of that textbook as I could in order to find the key points which tied the three together. For those of you who remember having to do those reading open response questions during the MCAS exams growing up it was the grown up version of those. Having to read over and over huge chapters of this textbook…what’s worse is that I couldn’t “mark-up” or highlight the book because I need the book to look as new as possible so the person or company buying it off of me in a week will give me the most money for it, which unfortunately won’t be anywhere near how much I paid for it. But that’s also another blog entry for another day. But after two cans of Monster Energy Drink, a large Domino’s pizza and a whopping six and a half hours in a small cubicle with no windows I finished all four questions. You heard me right. It took a high-school’s school day to finish four questions. Welcome to higher education.
As a former all-division sprinter in track and field (side note: none of you realize how much it kills me to say the word former but that’s a blog entry for another day) it’s easiest for me to look at my academics in terms of a 200-meter sprint. You are full of energy and excitement in the beginning and are convinced that you are going to do well. About a third of the way through the “race” you lose focus a bit worrying about what everyone else is doing. Then you gain focus at the halfway mark and are determined to finish up strong; not realizing just how exhausting that last 100 meters is going to be. Right about now I am at the final 20 meter mark: I am so close to the finish but I am exhausted and just want to quit but I know that I have to do everything in my power to finish strong and beat that final opponent. That opponent at this time is the deadlines which seem to keep stacking up. How am I managing, you ask? I’m leading this race, but let’s just say that I will be the first to jump for joy when I cross that finish line. It better be about 65 degrees and sunny when I come home. Fire up the truck pops! I see a nice spot on Norton Point, some grilled food and a soda in my immediate future.