First and foremost, I want to congratulate and wish the best of luck to the class of 2015. You have finally made it to freshman move-in day — traditionally the sweatiest day of the year in Williamsburg — and the beginning of the true college experience. You are standing at the doorway of independence with the best four years of your life and everything for which you worked in high school awaiting you. You should feel proud — even if that doorway is the entrance to a non-air-conditioned dorm located on the very outskirts of campus — the Botetourt Complex.
After the moving in is accomplished and orientation winds down, you will inevitably begin thinking about the reason you came here in the first place: your education. You may have done this already, accruing college credits from Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment classes. In high school, our guidance counselors instructed us to take the most advanced classes possible if we wanted to go to a competitive school, and they did so with good reason. College Board recently released the results of a survey that found “85 percent of selective colleges and universities report that a student’s AP experience favorably impacts admissions decisions.”
Most high schools offer advanced placement or dual enrollment classes that will enable students to receive early college credit. Students need to take these rigorous courses in order to have a competitive transcript.
Why all of the stress on taking college courses in high school? Colleges want to see that students embrace challenges and take education seriously.
However, this trend creates a major setback for the traditional four-year college experience. Currently, the College of William and Mary has no limit on the number of credits with which a student can enter the school.
This encourages some students to graduate early; students frequently enter freshman year as academic sophomores and feel pressured to finish their college career in only two or three years. This can be beneficial to students and their families financially, but it can also rob them of a year of college experience and can cause students to miss some of the best lessons the College has to offer. For example:
Being independent is no walk in the park. Conducting research, expanding social opportunities and still managing to get your own laundry done can be challenging . However, college does not mean complete independence — at least not while you can go and use a meal swipe at the Marketplace instead of cooking.
Everyone makes mistakes. You will learn this quickly when you attempt to make toast at 2 a.m. and accidentally trigger the fire alarm in Barrett.
Giving new people a chance cannot hurt. Maybe your roommate who showed up with the full set of Star Wars action figures will turn out to be your new best friend.
No test or class can fully embody the college experience, but the experience is an important part of entering the real world.
Other universities, such as Virginia Tech, have the right idea in limiting the amount of credit with which freshmen can enter college. While these caps are still incredibly high, they ensure that students will be forced from their comfort zones and will be able to participate in the total college experience.
At the end of the day, there is more to college than academic learning. College is about the experience and the stories — just make sure you edit them well before you tell your parents.