College: Still not for everybody

I know I already ranted about why not everyone should go to college, but I was reminded today of my first year at CSU. The class I TA’s my first three semesters was called CS 110: Personal Computing; it was an introduction to computers for non-majors that covered how to use Windows and Microsoft Office.

Now, this is pretty much the easiest college class possible, because it’s divided into units (one for Windows, one for Word, etc) and you can opt out of a unit by getting 85% or higher on the pretest; then your pretest grade is your grade for that unit. A few people, but not many, take advantage of that, which is somewhat surprising considering that all of the pretest questions are available in advance.

So let’s review. There’s a pool of questions, which make up the pre- and post-tests, ┬áthat are available from the beginning of the semester for anyone who wants to go over as often as they want. There are three TAs and over a dozen lab assistants to help you figure out the answers if you get stuck when practicing for the pretest. This is a 100-level (freshman) class.

And yet…we have people who fail to graduate because they take the class senior year and don’t pass.

I would like to offer commentary on this, but seriously…words fail me.

If you’re an undergraduate reading this, I’d like you to take away two things:

  1. If you’re offered an easy way to learn the material while doing less work, take it! It’s less work for you, the instructor, and the TA.
  2. Don’t wait ’til the last minute to take required classes, especially required classes in an area you’re not particularly comfortable with. This is particularly true of classes that may not be offered every semester; you really don’t want to wait a whole ‘nother year to graduate!
  3. If you don’t understand what’s going on, ask for help! What’s particularly annoying about people failing this particular class is that there was almost always someone in the computer lab ready to explain how to do something; the class was pretty much designed to be difficult to fail. If your class has a TA, he almost certainly has office hours; use them!

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