The Real World

diploma-and-graduation-capIs it just me or are kids today less independent and self-sufficient than in previous generations? I mean, technically I can call them kids seeing as I’m old enough to have one entering college (glad I don’t). Really though, I feel like some of these kids today are so ill prepared for the real world and I fear that it’s only getting worse. I know this sounds so defeatist and I have nothing to reference other than my own experience, however, I’m sure if I talked with other generations they might also say the same about the “new generation” coming up and the challenges they face. Although I know that with each new generation we have advancements and change is good, sometimes I worry about the values being imparted or rather lack thereof. I know I haven’t written about work in a while. Mostly it’s because people from work have found my blog and some people find it disconcerting and have “encouraged” me to quit writing about “sensitive information”. I should have taken a clue from Dooce in that it’s never good to write about work for fear of being fired. However, I have to share this more as a learning experience than a complaint session. I truly hope that someone reads this and realizes what a disadvantage they give their children by doing everything for them instead of encouraging them to do things for themselves.

So, a little background for those interested… In my current position I rarely meet with students, at least certainly not as frequent as when I was on the front line. I’m usually stuck in my office pouring over excel spreadsheets and entering and reporting data, what fun. Anyway, I was steadily plugging away in my office the other day when I overheard a conversation between a staff member and a student. Now, keep in mind, I tell you this conversation so you can share with others what NOT to do. I find that the most common thing I do in my daily life is share with others how not to make the mistakes I or others have. In this case the girl was sobbing uncontrollably and happened to be in the office of a male co-worker. I’m going to go ahead and reinforce stereotypes here (get over it) and state that the poor girl’s luck ran out beginning with the moment of being called back into the office of someone who wasn’t exactly the sensitive type. Where was I? Oh yes, girl sobbing uncontrollably. Here she was, trying to register for the spring semester three days before classes and being told it was not possible. I mean, I felt for her. So much so, that I almost went over and interrupted to give her a side-hug and box of tissues. I could feel her desperation and wished there was something more that could be done but this was a lesson she would have to learn for herself. Anyway, I could hear him stating the facts and I could hear her argument in between sobs. The gist of the situation is that she applied to transfer for the fall term as an upper-level student with junior status based on the assumption that she would have her Associates of Arts Degree completed. This means that we gave her the benefit of the doubt and allowed her to register and attend the fall term with the stipulation that she provide us with final transcripts within 60 days of the beginning of the term. She kept repeating, “So what you’re saying is that I’m screwed,” and “You’re basically telling me that I can no longer go to school and my life is over.”

Sad, right? I mean, from the way she puts it you would think that she’d been conscribed to a life in the African diamond mines. What really gets me about this conversation I was listening in on is how she really didn’t understand that her lack of planning would NOT necessitate an emergency on the part of our office. Side note: One time I was forwarded an email that had come in response to our email we send when a student has yet to pay their bill and we are set to purge them from coursework for non-payment. In this email the student complained that his university email wasn’t checked very often (even though it is the official method of communication) and we had an incorrect mailing address on file (even though it’s what he reported on his application and failed to update) and that “a phone call would have been nice” (as if we have time to call all 16,000+ students to remind them about the payment deadline). So this poor girl in this poor man’s office was sobbing and arguing and the like about how she had received notification from her prior school that she was nearing graduation so she assumed she would be fine. There we have it folks. Assumption. It will get us in trouble 11 times out of 10. She literally received an email from her Advising unit indicating she was nearing graduation (congratulations!) and then without following up or communicating with her Advising unit in any way she just up and applied to another school as a transfer student. Come to find out not only did she fail to apply for graduation with her AA degree (which, in the state of Florida, if you graduate with your AA from a Florida Community College you’re automatically accepted into a State University as an upper-level student) but she also happens to be a few credits short of completion. If she had gotten the email and visited her Advisor she would have been notified of the correct courses to take for the AA degree and the correct timeline for applying to a University. Again, she did none of the previous mentioned tasks but rather just got that email and went on her merry way.

Here’s where she’s up a creek without a paddle. She did not respond when we first sent her the congratulations you’re admitted letter indicating she had 60 days to submit all final official documents, she did not respond when we emailed toward the middle of last term in regards to final transcripts from her Community College, nor did she respond when we placed the hold on her account before registration began back in November telling her that although we gave her the benefit of the doubt in registering for fall term she would not be allowed to continue without proof of her AA degree as she had indicated on the application. She waited until just before the first week of classes in January to come in and speak with someone. UGH. I don’t know what to say about that other than we, as humans, have a tendency to avoid situations that remind us of our failures so maybe she saw the emails and thought, “maybe it will just work itself out,” so she must have just hoped the communication sent was incorrect and that somehow it would fix itself so she could continue her studies. My point in all this is that we shouldn’t assume anything, really hardly ever. Follow up with people, ask questions, double check to be sure tasks have been completed, research your own answers to be sure that what you’re being told is correct, and for goodness sake don’t wait until the last minute to take action. I genuinely felt sorry for the girl. I bet she’s never had to do much in her life on her own. I bet her family has stepped in and finished tasks, brought her the missing homework she left on the kitchen counter, repeatedly reminded her to complete tasks instead of learning the hard way. Look where she is. This poor girl is back at her Community College for the spring term finishing up coursework for her AA degree with the hopes of returning this summer. There goes her transfer scholarship, her housing and meal plan deposits, her parking pass payment… now she’s learning the hard way what preparedness means.

So, the moral of this story is don’t be like her. If you are a parent, please let your child fall on their face once in a while. They need to learn the hard way sometimes. This is what makes us stronger. If you are a student, take charge of your life. Do as much research as you can in advance of your circumstances. Don’t show up the first week of school as an out-of-state student and wonder how you are going to pay your bill because you don’t have the money (true story). Look online for all the information you can muster up and use that information to your advantage. It really worries me to see people skate by with mommy and daddy’s help never learning to fend for themselves. These are the students who end up as adults with no real marketable skills. These are the students who don’t possess a solid work ethic. These are the students who do not know how to lose graciously. It’s not all about winning. Mistakes are made and we learn from them. Life is about all the imperfections that make us human and God’s grace that gives us everlasting life. Okay, that’s all, I’ll step off my soap-box now. Hope y’all are having a good week! 🙂

*I have to make an addendum to my post. My good friend, Hannah, a college professor, pointed out that I made the mistake I argue against. In this I assumed that this student was a result of helicopter parenting and it’s not fair to make that generalization when I’m arguing against making assumptions. I’m right in saying one should never assume things will just be done for them or that things will just work out. However, making assumptions on character is a bit different. Although I will state here that this student may have had amazing parents and yet still be irresponsible it is not fair to lump all college students into one pot. There are plenty of “good” kids out there. In fact the majority of folks out there are “good.” I will fully admit that the population we see in our office is a small percentage of the whole and should not be used to generalize, so I apologize for some of my statements that were rather harsh. I do want to warn against the habit of helicopter parenting. I still think that it’s a terrible habit and I hope that as we continue to educate others we, as a society, will begin to encourage independence  and a proactive nature in our new generations. Thanks!