College, Please Stop Babying Us

I have to admit, my jaw hit the floor when my drawing professor explained our first project. He seemed to be chuckling as he described the vast amounts of work due within a month, but looking around at my fellow students, I could tell they definitely weren’t chuckling. It wasn’t just the sheer amount due (and there was a lot), but rather it was the fact that it seemed to come out of nowhere with little instruction or buildup. This assignment was sprung in the second class, with no prior instruction. Just… surprise! Elario.

It felt like being taught how to fly by being shoved off a cliff.

The project itself was relatively straight forward: design and draw menus, outdoor sign panels, and a word-mark/logo for the fictional restaurant Elario. Seems like something that is normal for an Advertising student right? Except this project was assigned before we were even taught the basics of drawing. As well, it all had to be done on top of our existing heavy (very heavy) workload. 3 sign panels, 2 menus, and 1 word-mark. Freaking Elario.

Fast forward a month, and I stood there proudly handing my project in. It wasn’t perfect, in fact it was far from it. But after approx. 50+ hours of work, I was happy to have completed it, and truthfully I was proud of the work I had created. I am not amazing at the “drawing” aspect of design, but what came from the tip of my pencil wasn’t absolutely terrible. However, as I looked around the room, I realized I was almost alone in my pride. The class was emptier than usual, with at least a third of the students opting to not show up rather than admit that they hadn’t finished. Of the students that did show up, almost half of them hadn’t completed all required elements, and were merely showing off one or two panels, or maybe half a menu. Despite the clear deadlines set, so many students didn’t make it, and ended up either chickening out or handing in incomplete work.

The professor walked around the room and talked to each student one by one, and one by one the students that hadn’t completely finished gave their various excuses for not finishing. Those excuses usually boiled down to one key theme: there was too much work, and not enough time. I listened as every student said this, or complained about this out of earshot after class. Too much work, not enough time.

And then came the worst part;

Most of the students who made a half-decent excuse were given an extra week. No penalty. No marks taken off. Just free time.

I was floored, and enraged. I had put in the effort, pulled all-nighters, sweated, (cried a little), and submitted the project on time. Here my peers were, getting mercy after not putting in the effort. While any anger and resentment towards them was and is pointless, it leads me to my main point:

Stop babying us.

Stop letting things slide.

Stop listening to excuses.

I have spent my entire life being told that university would be hard; that it’s nothing like high school. Yet looking around, I have repeatedly seen deadlines being extended, exceptions made, and students generally bullshitting their way out of completing assignments. Students are still carrying the mindset of a high-school student.

Throughout this semester there has been some stressful and difficult moments. The amount of work every single one of my classes have asked my to create is overwhelming at times, and I have submitted my fair share of assignments late. But I think a valuable lesson isn’t being taught in my classes: you have to put in the time to be successful. You have to put in the effort to reap the reward.

Elario sucked. The weekend before it was due, I locked myself into a room and spent three straight days working on it, working fifteen hours a day in order to complete the project. That was hard, that was awful. But it is what was required. I know a lot of students that started the project the day before it was due. They didn’t give up their weekends like I did, they went out and had fun. They met with friends, they drank, they watched Netflix, they slept.

They “didn’t have enough time” to complete the project?

I feel bad for them, I truly do. Unfortunately this mindset isn’t something that will fix itself, and it is becoming clear that professors are becoming less and less ready to be the ones fixing the problem. But as someone who has worked freelance in the design industry, this kind of shit isn’t tolerated in the real world. When you have a job to do, you have to sit down and do it. You don’t get to say that you didn’t have enough time, or that it was too much work. You either do it, or you don’t get paid, don’t pay rent, don’t eat.

To my fellow students: Elario was incredibly hard. And I get it, you wanted to have fun. Like me, you probably had so much stuff due that the time you usually allow for homework was already filled up with your various other projects. The thing is, this is the time for you to learn how to manage a full workload. We are adults now, we need to stop making excuses for our actions, and just get shit done. Trust me when I say this; missing out on a weekend of drinking occasionally won’t be something you’ll remember years from now. Eventually, all that will become less and less important, and the habits and lessons you learned in this time will be what sticks. So take the time now; force yourself to work your ass off. Finish the projects even if it kills you. Put out your best work, and then do better next time. Learn how to get shit done, you won’t regret it.

To my professors: the time is now. I understand that it can be tough to be “mean” to a student and tell him/her no. I understand that you took this job because you love helping us young people grow and learn, and that giving us a zero on a project because we missed a due date seems incredibly awful. But through babying us you are doing more harm than good. No employer is going to care that we got a bad grade in this course, or that we had to retake it. Getting that 0% could be the most valuable thing you teach us, because it may help us to understand that we can’t half-ass life. I would rather fail now in college in order to understand that lesson, than find myself losing the trust and respect of my future employers as I play catch-up on overdue projects and find myself constantly making excuses for incomplete work. I know we seem convincing as we complain about how little time we have, but trust me if you saw how much time we spend on Netflix daily you wouldn’t have so much pity.

Elario was hard, but projects in life will be even harder; even more stressful. If we can’t figure out how to get shit done now, the future is going to be rough. So stop making excuses, get out of bed, and get to work.

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