Freshmen should respect education

Curt Harris and Curt Harris

Parents, as you look around our fine school today, keep in mind one thing: odds are, if you’ve worked hard to make sure you could afford to send your kids here, they could care less. I don’t say this out of malice, spite or any other petty emotion. I know this from personal experience.

Let’s turn back the clock six or seven years; heck, it’s been so long I don’t remember. I started here fresh out of high school, with high hopes and expectations. My parents had saved enough money to send their oldest child (me) to school for four years.

Like many freshmen, I was glad that I didn’t have to deal with their rules, curfews and responsibilities. So with a modest bank account and no bills, guess what I did? If you said study hard and mature into a fine young adult, you’d be embarrassingly wrong, at the time at least.

I did what comes naturally to college students: nothing. If I didn’t like a class, I didn’t go; sometimes for a day, more often a week, once for half a semester. My modest bank account had a steady leak. I spent money on all sorts of important things like alcohol and … more alcohol.

To the surprise of no one but myself, my grades were horrible and at the end of my second year, the University gave me two choices: either take classes during the summer and get a “C” average or better from that point on or stay home next fall and then come back in the spring and get a “C” average or better from that point on. Either way, if I didn’t get a “C” average, I was out of the University for five years.

I stayed the summer, and nothing changed. With a month left of classes, my bank account was near empty and I was on my own for food. Logic says get a job, but it was at that point I realized I might not be getting the “C” average I needed to remain in school. So I was forced to choose between either getting a job and having a steady supply of food or having plenty of time to study and remain in school. I’m still here, and for a month I lived on generic brand Ramen noodles and whatever my girlfriend had the sympathy to give me. I also had a non-stop 24-hour study session which saved me by the slimmest of margins.

My mistake was I took my education for granted. As a result, I wasted two years of my life and a whole lot of my parents’ money. My parents kept their word, and after four years, I was on my own. So here I am now working forty hours a week to pay for my education (as well as all my other expenses) completely on my own. I had no idea I’d be here for 21 semesters when I started.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s a great story and all, but not my kid.” Fine, believe that if it helps you to sleep at night, but let’s face it, if you didn’t earn it, you probably don’t value it. A college education is a privilege; not a right.

It’s called tough love and if you’ve cared enough to save money to send your kids to college, you most likely don’t want them to drop out and live with you until they’re 32.

So push baby bird out of the nest. If they fly, good for them. If they plummet to earth they’re bound to bounce when they hit the ground. If they come home every weekend to visit, convert their old room to a study or an office. They’re not going to learn anything new at home, that’s why they’re going away in the first place.

Force them to get a job. I don’t mean tell your child to get a job, force them to by not giving them money. Yes, I know many parents and students feel that taking a full load of classes and working is too hard. That’s a load of crap. If you’re in class and studying for 8 hours a day, you could work 4 hours a day, have 4 hours of leisure time and still get 8 hours of sleep. Although, no college student sleeps that much without skipping class. A job is forced time management. Trust me, it’s a good thing.

So as you look around campus today, remember: your kids are just that, kids. Odds are they won’t appreciate what they really have until it’s gone.

So get them out of your house and on their own. They’ll appreciate you and higher education that much sooner. Man, I’m starting to sound like my parents.