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What I Learned in College: A Cautionary Tale (1 Viewer)

Dome Vongvises

Senior HTF Member
May 13, 2001
Well, it's a semi-long, semi-essay, warning to younger folks, all out rant type of deal. Read it if you like. I'm feeling mighty depressed right now.
Graduating college has been the most unexciting, unfulfilling experience I have ever done. Where's the sense of satisfaction you get with a degree? I feel like I wasted four years of my life.
This was so way different from graduating from high school. Graduating high school, I was surrounded by friends. Graduation was filled with elated joy, tears of sorrow, and a sense of contentment and accomplishment. That night, we went "camping" on this undeveloped land that was on top of a small hill of sorts. It was Wes Ray, me, and about six other people. I don't ever remember any other time where I had so much fun. And this was the first time I have ever received the smell of piss on a campfire. :laugh:
Summer was great that year. I don't remember much of it, except for some strange feelings of happiness and nostalgia. My closest group of friends consisted of four people. But something happened that summer that should've foretold what was going to happen in the future. Two of my friends changed colleges (one got a kick-ass scholarship to Louisville, the other one ran home). I was left with only one of my closest friends going to college, and as the years through college would progress, we just drifted apart.
For the first year, I lived with my brother. Needless to say due to my immaturity and quick temper, it didn't work out that first year.
First day of college starts and boy am I ever excited! I still remember that I had Oreo's cereal that day. I think the first thing I attended was CHE 105 (Intro Chemistry that was above 101 I think). In walks one of the kindest professors I have ever seen (to be honest kids, you can tell it goes downhill from there). We gotten a syllabus, and I was ready to crack the class. Other classes I had that semester were Spanish (still useless even in retrospect), English, and a seminar class on the atomic bomb. This would mark the first time I've ever gotten a B in a class, let alone two in the same semester. It was a shock to myself, because I had gotten nothing but A's all my life in high school (and not joke classes either).
I had a great time that Freshman Fall semester. Went to some exciting football games (anybody remember Kentucky 97-98 when they had Tim Couch? That was eons ago.....). Got to go to Clearwater, Florida for New Year's. I think I'd like to live there someday. Got to go to my first ti.....stri....."gentleman's" club ever. ( :laugh: ). Woke up the next day and was ready for the Outback Bowl game.
Freshman spring semester was a piece of shit. I took 18 freakin' hours for some strange reason. I think that's where my college experience started going down the toilet. Two of my classes were on opposite sides of campus. Coming back from class, I felt dead-tired everyday and fell asleep at 3:00 and woke up at 9:00 pm. I studied hard for the first time ever. Guess what? Still ended up with one A and the rest B's.
Summer break provided much needed rest for me. Besides getting reunited with my friends, Episode I came out which was but a brief respite from all the work. I tried to recall all the details from this summer, but I can't (more on that later).
For my sophomore year, I lived in the dorms. That's right. If you hadn't extrapolated the conclusion by now, I lived with my older brother in an apartment for a year, and I now decided to try the dorm experience.
I made some great friends. Living with football players proved to be rather amusing. They are the farthest thing form a stereotypical jock.
I had one of the most challenging classes in my life that sophomore fall semester. It was CHE 231 (Organic Chemistry). I could not believe the sheer volume of things I had to remember for tests. You know you've got problems when an 80 and above counts for an A. You're thinking "80 and above? That's preposterous and shows nothing but a lowering of academic standards". Well buddy here's the thing: The averages on these tests were somewhere in the 30's and 40's. Each problem consisted of a none-or-all kind of point scoring. I escaped with a B, by making an A on the first test and final. Needless to say, I made two C's on the middle two tests.
Sophomore spring semester wasn't a cakewalk either. I had organic two and animal physiology as well. I kept studying harder and harder, my grades kept failing to go higher. I was beginning to get extremely discouraged at this point. It seems no matter how much of an effort I put into class, it was showing less and less on exams. What's my effort? How about studying two hours after class on each subject and studying two weeks in advance for each class. I didn't know what to do.
Summer comes and goes, and Junior year fall semester starts. I went to living with my older brother again, and needless to say, we get along a whole hell of a lot better now. I take Physics I (Algebra based) and Cell Biology. Cell biology at this point now takes the crown for the hardest and most challenging course I have ever taken to date. Besides a gargantuan amount of material to learn for a test, he'd put these "thinkers" on the test that would just thump me for days. It's bad enough you have to learn about concepts A, B, and C, but when a professor decides for a question on a test, "Hmmmm, how do those concepts apply to concept 3?" Get my drift? Again, needless to say, the answer you come up with will never match up with his logic. To cite specifics, I had learned a shitload of information about cellular signalling and that headache inducing MAP kinase cascade stuff. For the final, he came up with some funky shit about cell growth and whatnot. I went in the final with an A for the class, came out with a B.
My Physics I teacher was the first asshole professor I've ever had. Not only were his tests rather unfair, but he was arrogant and lacked the compassion of a decent human being. He made sure the students knew they were undergrads without a degree, and he was the almighty physics professor with a Ph D. My final for physics was one of the worst days of my life. Besides being hit with two waves of diarrhea during the test, I only had a freakin' business calculator to work with!!! You see, I lended my first calculator to my brother to use for another test. Also, my backup that day ran out of battery power. My Physics professor refused to lend me one of his scientific calculators. The fucking bastard!!! Once again, I received all B's for the semester.
Junior Spring Semester starts, and boy was it a contrast. My Physics II professor was one of the greatest people ever. Not only was he a good teacher, he took the time to have mini study sessions and explain in plain detail how certain things worked (circuitry and whatnot). I liked this professor a lot, and since he took the time to help out a bunch of dumbasses like myself, I put some ungodly effort. For the first time in a long time, I got an A in a hard class. Junior Spring Semester would also be the very first time I ever got a grade I thought I deserved for effort, and in two classes to boot. I got an A for working extremely hard in Physics II, and got a B for slap-assing around in Genetics.
My Junior Semester year proved to be a huge turning point in my life. All the gifts as a student that I had in high school were slowly fading away from me. I was beginning to realize that I had a harder time learning things. In high school, I would tutor kids in Calculus, chemistry, and physics. Now, I was the one being tutored. I had a harder time remembering things, and I couldn't even get the most rudimentary concepts of science into my brain. I don't know what happened. At this point, confidence in myself was beginning to die. I couldn't figure out why my efforts in studying weren't paying off.
Summer proved to be an experience. I got my first paying job ever. And I also became a member of this forum. :) DVD collection grew leaps and bounds.
Senior fall semester was dull as bricks. I took Biochemistry (biology type), film class, and something else (I don't remember :frowning: ). Film class was the highlight of the semester, as I got to discover and love classics like Cinema Paradiso and Madadayo. I also watched my first French film ever, Trois Colours: Blue which I've come to hate with a passion. Anyways, needless to say, I was studying harder, having a harder time learning things, and ended up with two B's and an A.
Senior Spring Semester proved to be the most harsh on me. I made my first C ever, and to boot, two C's in one semester. Took the MCAT on April 20th, and I felt I did a shitty job.
I don't know what it was. Why did I have a hard time learning things in college? I was an extremely passive listener in high school, slept through several classes, never studied for more than an hour, and got all A's. I was an intense listener in college, took great notes, studied for hours on end in the fucking library, and all I've got to show are three A's, two C's, and the rest B's. That's far from being competitive for medical school. No use retaking classes. The first thing I learned about Medical school admissions is that once you screw up the first time, there is no second chance.
I'm feeling extremely dejected right now. Most of you folks are older than me, and I would love some encouraging words right now. Here are some of the lessons I learned in college:
#1 - The minute you don't feel comfortable in a certain major, change it immediately!!!
- I felt extremely uncomfortable in Biology. I was a hell of a lot better in chemistry and mathematics. But know, I got it stuck into my head that in order to be a physician, you had to have extensive biological background. Too late did I learn that chemistry is just as viable, and that you could take biological classes as sidework.
#2 - Professors possess some of the most brilliant minds in the world, but they make lousy teachers.
- Professors forget awfully quickly that they were undergrads at one time. They don't seem to rememeber that their brilliant minds come from long years of study and work in a field in which they specialized in. They unreasonably expect students to already have that level of logic developed. And when you come for help, they never give you a direct answer. You can explain to them in fifty million different ways how you've worked at a problem, and the same answer is, "you aren't thinking hard enough." Like I said, they've had years to develop their minds, undergrad students only have weeks.
#3 - You aren't there to learn; you're there to be weeded out.
- The reason professors give so much damn material on test isn't because there's this great sense of urgency to learn all this stuff: it's because they're looking for the next Ph. D. Ph. D's are a strange lot. They're looking for students to carry on their work, so by raising the standards enormously high on tests, they're hoping to find that one guy who can store all that information at one time. Every other student suffers for it.
#4 - You're going to make great friends.
- No explanation needed there.
#5 - Believe in what goes around comes around.
- I've often wondered how certain people could have a hard time learning in high school. I simply thought that applying yourself will always get you good grades. Needless to say (I say that a lot don't I? :D ) I learned very quickly that even when you put forth your best effort, you sometimes don't come out on top and get bad grades.
#6 - Believe in yourself and have faith when people believe in you
- All my life, I doubted myself. People would try to instill confidence in me, but I would always ignore it. The "bad" grades (B's) got to me, and I my confidence in myself was slowly slipping away. That, and it was becoming increasingly harder for me to learn anything. At times, I think I might have brain damage or something.
What happened after my last final? I went to BW3's and had lunch and a Pilsner of Guiness all by myself. I never felt so alone before. I made several friends in college, but because they weren't there with me, I couldn't even celebrate the occasion. God I miss high school.
I've left out some important details of my college story, like the death of a friend, and that my infatuation/crush with a certain girl (since kindergarten for crying out loud!!!) came to an end. But that's another story.
If you've read this, I truly appreciate this. And I hope that there's some words for me that will make everything all right. Last thing I need to hear is that things get worse.

Rob Longmore

Stunt Coordinator
Jan 19, 2001
Remeber, Schooling is suppost to teach you HOW to think, not just remeber stuff to be recited in an exam!


Second Unit
Apr 30, 2000

Being in my junior year at UK, I have shared many of the same experiences as you. I started my first two years in the Computer Science program here knowing full well that I had no intention of being a computer programmer. Eventually I wised up and switched to Computer Networking. Ever since I did that, college life has been so much better. It is amazing how easier and more fun life is when you are doing something you like. By the way, who did you have for Physics? I had the engineering physics so we may have had different classes. Take care man!

Brandon Smith


Stunt Coordinator
Jan 17, 2002
Sorry if I may be a bit of a minority opinion here but, what the hell are you doing worrying about every class and grade you got in college? I just graduated in '99 and couldn't tell you what grades I got in a class. But, I sure could tell you some great stories about all the wonderful people I met, be it friends or that one drunk guy at that party that I never saw again. And all the times we stayed up late blowing off studying were alot more important to me than the times that I actually did study. The experiences are the thing, not the grades. I was like you, all A's in high school because it was just way too easy. My dad said something to me when they dropped me off my first year that I never forgot the whole time I was in college, "Don't forget you are here to have fun and enjoy the experience, just don't fail out." I think that sums it up perfectly.

oh, btw, I graduated from PSU with a 3.0 in ME and have a much better job than guys I knew in my major that had much better grades than me.

Nate Anderson

Jan 18, 2001
Geez man, you could've been describing my life. I've met some amazing people around here. Simply amazing.

So you studyed in college? That's cool. I know a couple guys who do that.

Leila Dougan

Mar 27, 2002
Sounds pretty close to my high school and college experience. I too skated through HS getting straight As and getting college credit for a few AP classes. I also studied biology (chem minor) and wanted to go to medical school. While I'm pretty good at biology and chemistry I decided somewhere along the way that I really didn't want to go to med school. Somehow, you couldn't drag me away from my computer (and still can't), so I have since ventured into the IT world. But I did the whole biology thing, right down to preparing for the med school application process. One thing I have learned is that there is a second chance. I had a roomate who got accepted to med school at age 36 and is currently attending it. He had flunked out of 2 universities when he was 18-20 then just worked for the rest of the time. Around 34 he decided to go back to school and apply for med school. It can be done, even if you don't have anything higher than a 3.5 GPA.
But anyway, I think your experiences are pretty typical for collge students. I know for me they are. And yes, many a day I sit here thinking "wow, I spent 4 years of my life studying a field I don't plan to work in" and feel like they have been wasted. But ya know what? They haven't. Despite the fact that I'm not doing anything remotely related to what I studied, I still learned plenty of other things in college. I really believe that the main reason for college is not academics, but instead learning how to think and problem solve. While it would have been nice to study a major that's closer to what I do, I don't regret for one instant going to college.


Senior HTF Member
Apr 4, 2002
"on a little street in Singapore"
Real Name
Yee Ming Lim
I'm non-North American (Singapore), so my experience might be a bit different from yours.
I guess the "declining" grades just means the curve got a bit steeper. in primary (elementary) school I was a straight-A student, top or second in class every year. (and yes, in Singapore they start grading right at the beginning of your education. even kindergarten nowadays. hence the universal feeling that our education system is far too stressful)
for secondary (high) school, I got into one of the top, if not THE top, school in the country (best results on the standard tests etc). I suddenly found myself decidedly middle-of-the road, getting a mix of As, Bs and Cs. maybe just slightly above average? got reasonably good, but not spectacular, results at the GCE O Levels, and managed to get into the affiliated junior college of my school, again considered one of the top JCs. managed reasonable A Levels, and got into the local university.
at university, I definitely got very average results, "gentleman Cs" all the way. although I'll be the first to admit I didn't work very hard.
my point (if you've made it this far ;) ) is that it seems to get tougher, but you have to remember you're now measuring yourself against a higher standard.
when I graduated, I was probably smack in the middle of my class, maybe below average even -- out of about 200, 2 got first class honours, almost fifty got second class upper, I'm among the next 130 or so that got second lowers (about 10-15 got third class).
today, nobody remembers what class honours anyone got. it probably has no bearing at all on who makes how much today, or who's happiest with his/her job. sure, better grades opened the first few doors to jobs, but after that it doesn't matter (much) anymore.
so don't worry about it, life is what you make of it. cheer up.
unlike Leila, I work in the field I studied. but you know what, I need to look up new stuff almost all the time. the whole point of college was teaching you how to think and how to look for answers, not to give you all the answers you will ever need.


Jul 13, 2001
Well I just transferred into a new college myself and I am going full time now. I am a junior as I had been going to college part time and working for the past couple of years and to be honest with you all I want to do now is get it over and done with and go back to working.

Making more money $$ of course. Or else why would I be going to college. :)

I actually find college to be quite easy myself. I mean you take good notes in class, study the assigned material before each class, do your homework and college becomes a cakewalk.

Well anyways I actually find it to be quite easy and boring myself. I can't wait to get back to my real life again *lol*

And I do agree with you on the Professors. It's funny when they expect you to know stuff that you havent even learned yet. I mean teach it to me first for goodness sakes. That's why I am in the class in the first place. Yeesh.

Jody C Robins

Stunt Coordinator
Jun 17, 1999
Personally, I loved college. I graduated from Penn State in 98 with a degree in Petroleum Engineering (Mike, always good to find another PSU grad - probably not a coincidence that we both like college). I found college to be way more enjoyable than high school. I think the two best parts for me were my friends and the freedom. OK, you can add in alcohol there, too;) As for after college, it definitely changes, but I think more for the better than for the worse. (Then again, that might have something to do with living in New Orleans:D) It is nice to be COMPLETELY self reliant. You make your own money, and can do with it as you please. Also, except when I have a rig running, I don't usually bring home work in the afternoons and the weekends. On the con side, 8 am is no longer early (I get to work at 6:30. Ugh) and going to work is not optional. Anyway, I don't know where I'm going with this. I guess as opposed to the original poster, I had a great time in college. And to the original post, hopefully you will enjoy post-college life more. One thing to watch out for though - it sucks when all your friends start getting married.

Andrej Dolenc

Stunt Coordinator
Jul 22, 1998
Take a trip. Seriously, just get the hell out of dodge. I did that about 2 1/2 years ago when I just got fed up with work. So a buddy of mine and I piled in my car and took off for a good 10 week road trip. After about a month of travelling, we both got to the point where we didn't know what day of the week it was, and frankly neither one of us cared. And I can't tell you how liberating that feeling is.

And while it may not give you a fresh perspective on what it is you have to or want to do, it will certainly take your mind off things. And it sounds like you need that, as well as to just go out and have some fun. Life will take care of itself even if you take a time-out for some fun.


Dustin B

Senior HTF Member
Mar 10, 2001
I mirrored your experience pretty closely too. Got a few more C's than you though. High school was a cake walk. Started with the biology thing planning on med. Took until my 4th year before I realized that if medicine wasn't going to be your whole life you shouldn't be going for it. Or at least that's what I keep telling myself as my average was about 10% too low to get in at my school, but really I do think I'm right. Unless you are extremely gifted, if you are going to have other peoples lives in your hands, your mind better not be wandering.
I dug genetics and loved some of those labs. So I was thinking about grad school in molecular biology. After a summer working with some grad students and watching what they have to do. Not for me. Too much uncertainty. I've also really been into computers since a young age, and had been taking computer classes periodically to fill my electives. Decided at the end of my fourth year that two more light years of comp sci would result in a computer degree. So I started that. Bioinformatics seems to be coming into its' own right now, so I hope it was the right decision.
I finished this spring. Here's a link to a post I made the day I wrote my last exam:
I think the uncertainty of what comes next might have a fair bit to do with your feelings. Like I said in my other thread, once you find a decent job and know what comes next as opposed to only having an idea, things should start to look up. At least I sure hope they do.


Senior HTF Member
Mar 4, 2001
Catfisch Cinema
Real Name
Dome - I sorry to hear that your college graduation was sadly anti-climatic.
For me, my graduation was hugely satisfying. I'd worked my butt of for four years, and I was excited to have accomplished something, and ready to move on. But it was also bittersweet -- saying goodbye to friends and leaving a place I'd become comfortable with. And scary: starting graduate school. No big job with great salary. Many friends getting married and I was still single.
But I had friends that left with even greater anxiety: the job market was middling, and Jeff had a really hard time getting a good job. His graduation was exciting (I'm done!) and scary (what now?).
Ray, a good friend, in ROTC, decided his senior year he wanted to go JAG (and thus go to Law school next). He was denied by the Air Force, leaving him very depressed for a while.
Ray and Steve seriously considered transferring to another college Junior year, they were so sick that college.
JW, a great guy, middling grades, Math major, had a hard time finding his calling post-college.
Brent, a good friend who struggled through college, had a really hard time getting his first job. Another exciting/scary finish.
Liz, struggled with choosing a major, and never used it post-college. In some ways, college was useless to her, except for teaching her how to use a computer, and how to stay up all night working.
Steve (a different one), my best friend from high-school, graduated with a B.S. M.E., after deciding he didn't want to finish the fifth year and get his Masters. He had realized he didn't want to mechanical engineering, and cast about for a job. He was also just married. He did temp work (high school typing paid off) and managed to get some computer/tech work. he decided he wanted to go into medicine, and began exploring that. Realizing he didn't want two more years of classes to get the bio he needed, he stayed with computer work. He finally realized that he like professional computer programming. He's since had a satisfying career as a programmer, then went ot business school, and pursuing technical management at GE.
I've had a hard time in grad school during the last few years. Wondering what I'm doing, and if I really care about science any more. And if I'm cut out to work with all these incredibly smart and talented people around me.
I've got no advice (probably for the best :)). But maybe you can take heart knowing that you're not alone. Many others have struggled with similar concerns.

Matt Stryker

Oct 12, 2000
Land of the rolling tide
Real Name
At Georgia Tech, here was my grade breakdown:
1st Quarter: 2.6 (2Bs, 1C)
2nd Quarter: 2.2
3rd Quarter: 0.7
4th Quarter: 2.6
5th Quarter: 0.9
Avg of 6th quarter-graduation: 3.8
Guess where I got married and stopped partying?:D
Dome, my roommate did poorly on his MCATs and wound up not getting in, BUT in the mean time he began going to school as a an anesthisist (sp) until he could retake the MCAT. Guess what? He found a career he liked even better than Medical School could provide with similar pay. So never give up and never count anything out until you try it. Right now I'm a business major who is a network engineer, so you never know.

Joseph S

Senior HTF Member
Dec 23, 1999
The first thing I learned about Medical school admissions is that once you screw up the first time, there is no second chance.
That's not true. I took the MCAT before I was ready and bombed big time. So after the school year, I spent my free time studying to get a 30+ with 10+ on all sections. We'll the hard work paid off eventually. My scores came in late October, the entire process of submitting applications took nearly to December 31st, but eventually the interviews came, and I got in with around a 3.5. It is definitely harder to apply later in the schedule, and the wait can be into July for acceptances, but it can be done.
Oh yeah, only 2% think they didn't bomb the test.
You have stated that your grades are mostly B's with some A's. I had a sprinkling of C's(Orgo I, Bio I) early on. They know that not everyone is perfect and you can explain these grades in your interviews and prove to them that your lower grades were an anomaly by either achieving higher grades in more advanced courses or an overall consistent performance. A good interview can make up for a lot, unless you're from California and then it's nationwide shopping time.
Look to apply to in-state schools, private, and those few out-of-state public schools that accept many non-residents.

Mike Lenthol

Second Unit
Jul 28, 2000
Anybody else notice that low level classes professors are just glorified high school teachers?

I observed that upper 300 and 400 level professors understood that their real job is to teach, and not concentrate on placing everybody on the 0-100 scale exactly where they belonged.

Mike Voigt

Supporting Actor
Sep 30, 1997
College can be a PITB, that is for sure. However, you ran into what most people least expect: people who go to college tend to be the ones who went through high school with some ease, or worked really hard at it. As a result, those who were in the top percentiles will suddenly find themselves in the top two quartiles. It is a huge shock for most people, and in particular for those who had a really easy time in high school, like you, others in this thread, and myself.

But it does get better. College opens doors - the fact that you went through college indicates, to a certain degree, your capacity for problem-solving, perhaps teamwork, and self-starting. These are essential traits that many employers look for, and the piece of paper (or parchment) says that.

So hang in there. I am proud of you for completing your degree, and I think you'll do fine. I am sorry you did not enjoy your graduation; it helps to have friends and family there for that. But it, too, is a fleeting moment in time. And that is all right that way; Groundhog Day anyone?

Have fun. Enjoy the time off before MedSchool, GradSchool, or whatever. GradSchool is a wee bit tougher to get through; keep your sense of balance and gather some friends around with whom to have fun, or have some serious discussions.

Good luck!



Senior HTF Member
Aug 20, 2000
Last thing I need to hear is that things get worse.


Unfortunately............they do.

Bhagi Katbamna

Supporting Actor
Jun 1, 2000
Dome, I would like to encourage you if I can. As has been mentioned before, there is always a second and third chance at medical school. Medical schools are now looking for someone who can bring a fresh perspective to their college and want someone who can be a caring and empathetic physician rather than someone who knows facts and diseases. I went to one of those 3 yr. college, 4 yr med school programs and this is what I learned in college and med school:

1. It seems like a long time but it will pass. Make the most of it(and not by partying either).

2. College is expensive, don't waste your parents(or your own(via loan)) money.

3. Have a goal in mind and work towards that goal. Don't just go from major to major.

4. Take some easy classes to bring up your GPA.

5. Take some easy classes to bring up your GPA.

6. Don't get discouraged by someone who doesn't study and yet gets A's on tests. They may have a photographic memory and you don't so study more.

7. Make sure you volunteer at a hospital so medical school interviewers know that you know what being a physician is about.

8. Don't get discouraged by a poor grade or two.

Just remember,99% of the people who get into medical school(in the USA) graduate. And the person who is last in the class is still called doctor.

Dome Vongvises

Senior HTF Member
May 13, 2001
I want to thank everybody for their encouraging support for me. I would like to take the time to personally respond to some of the things said here.
Brandon_S said
As has been mentioned before, there is always a second and third chance at medical school.
That's probably the most encouraging thing I've heard all day. I wish I heard that from other people as well though.
Again, I want to thank EVERYBODY for responding to this thread. Goes to show that the HTF cares. :D
Well, I'll leave on a light note.
Another thing I learned in college: Beware, most college parties are sausage fest/sword fights. :laugh:

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