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Rookie Mistakes in College
When the time comes to register for classes, the potential for Rookie Mistakes in College tags along. Usually you have an academic advisor, or someone who helps you put together a schedule for the classes that you need to graduate. That usually means an hour long (or longer) phone call or meeting trying to find classes that will fill your requirements and time slots that won’t conflict but also won’t take away your room to breathe. It can be an exhausting process.
Then come the electives: the classes that you don’t necessarily need to graduate but will give you credits which you do need to graduate. There are elective classes for all kinds of things, from painting to skiing to the art of meditation. It’s not always clear what you are going to get with an elective. They can be fun, or easy, which is typically what you want to aim for, but they can also be a lot of work. Knowing the class agenda is the key.
A class agenda is basically what the class is about and what is going to be done in the class. What’s the best way to find that out? The syllabus. Read it. Immediately when it is given to you, open it up, study it. Make sure you understand what you are getting yourself into, and if it isn’t clear from the syllabus—email the professor and ask clarifying questions.
Sometimes you can find a description of the class on your school’s website if they have a class catalogue. If that is available, start there. Even if it isn’t as detailed as a syllabus, it should still give you an idea of the purpose of the class or the main area of focus. Trust me, when you register for classes make a point of knowing what you are getting yourself into.
It may seem like an unnecessary thing to do. You may think you know what the class agenda is from the title alone. And you know what? You’re probably right—until you aren’t. After all, we’re all wrong sometimes. A whole semester, or quarter (8-16 weeks) is a long time to pay for one wrong assumption.
The “Dance” Class
It was freshman year; Dennis was 18 and riding the highs of his new college life. He had half a semester under his belt and was looking forward to the new dance class that he had registered for. Dennis had taken ball room dancing before, so when he saw a class called “Latin Rhythm” when he was trying to register for classes, he couldn’t pass it up.
Dennis couldn’t wait to start learning to salsa and tango, thinking that his dance experience would definitely help him score a few cute dance partners in the class. I mean, what better way to meet someone than in a dance class? He could impress them with his skills, and they could bond over their shared interests. Makes sense, right?
And what a story it would be! Or—would have been.
On the way to the first class, Dennis walked across some basketball courts, given a full view of the classmates he would be joined by. His stomach dropped.
His classmates were a group of mostly 50+ year old women in yoga pants.
To add insult to injury, his new teacher started the class off with the last words he wanted to hear:
“If you thought that this class was salsa or tango, sorry. This is Zumba.”
Instant, palpable dread. You see, Dennis signed up for this class at the beginning of the semester, and after the first couple of weeks, students are no longer allowed to drop classes without it affecting their GPA. And Dennis was well past the first couple of weeks. Meaning? He was stuck in Zumba class with the 50-year-olds and their yoga pants until the end.
This was not what he had signed up for. No cute girls, no tango, no salsa, and no way out.
The first few classes were horrible. On top of not wanting to be there, the “dance” movements were awkward, and the songs were clearly geared towards women, making the combination of the two both uncomfortable and humiliating. He had come here to impress girls, he thought, not to feel like one.
But what could he do? This was not the class agenda he thought had signed up for, but he had signed up and couldn’t go back. And so, Dennis, faced with weeks of a class he did not want and could not get out of, made a choice.
Dennis was no quitter, and even though he hadn’t wanted Zumba class, Zumba is what he got. He had mistakenly assumed he knew what the class agenda would be and that had backfired. But, rather than wallow, Dennis decided that if he was going to be stuck in Zumba, he was going to get the most out of it.
Dennis moved from his place at the back of the class to the front. He put his heart and soul into the movements, he was energetic, and, most importantly, he had fun with it. He went from being that eighteen-year-old that was too cool to be there to being one of the teacher’s favorite students. When the class ended, he walked away with an A and a fun experience.
While that experience wasn’t the one that Dennis had been looking for, he was grateful for it. Rather than spend the entire class upset that he was stuck, he learned to make the most out of what he had, and the result was way more enjoyable than the alternative.
After that, Dennis made sure to check the class agenda as thoroughly as he could before classes started. From then on, when the time came for him to register for classes, he knew what he was getting into.
Registering for a class and finding out it is not what you wanted is pretty common on the list of freshman year mistakes. But it’s also common in college life in general. The goal is that you never make the mistake to begin with (thanks to a certain blog post), but if it happens, you learn from it. Sometimes you can fix the mistake, or drop the class, and that’s great.
Sometimes, like Dennis would tell you, you get stuck. And in those situations, yeah it can suck, but remember that it doesn’t have to. Be open to what you have, commit to doing the best you can, and make the most of it. Who knows? You may even have fun.
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