HUGE problems with college-- warning, LONG

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teflon_woman
Yellow-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Woodpecker

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Joined: 8 Apr 2008
Age: 46
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22 Jul 2008, 8:43 pm

I had exactly the same problem in university. After four years I still hadn't graduated (too many incomplete courses), so I took a year and a half off. When I went back I enrolled in the Engineering program (I had been in Arts). I found the math/science courses a lot easier because there were little assignments every week (and a room with older students in it where you could do your homework), and I am (not surprisingly) exceptionally good at memorization, so I always aced my exams. The material was no easier or more interesting than the Arts material had been... it was just that I am almost pathologically incapable of writing a term paper. I freeze up completely. For the last term paper of my degree I actually paid a friend of mine to sit on the couch for two days while I wrote so that I couldn't avoid it...

Ten years later I still have a lot of the same problems. But I try to find work with small, well-defined tasks and short deadlines. I find that errands etc. are easier if I take a lot of time in the morning to think everything out completely first (I have this luxury because I am self-employed), and keep it simple: not too many things in one day. It takes me much longer to do everything, but if I make sure to reassess the mess in my head (using a system of lists and spreadsheets, notes and a Palm and a journal...) every morning, at least I know that the most important things are getting done in a timely enough way, which is a major source of anxiety for me. I still feel kind of retarded, but hey: There are a lot of things I'm very good at; this isn't one of them. When you are older and have a high-paying job, you can hire an assistant to do these things for you.

Recently I've been thinking a lot about my problems in university, and here are my preliminary ideas: performance anxiety, meeting expectations, lack of structure. By which I think I mean that, for me, structure makes expectations feel clear and manageable. I haven't gotten any further than that.

As for writing, I have learned that what they say is true: JUST START WRITING! Don't wait until you've finished your research. Don't even wait until you've started your research. Don't wait until you have an outline. Just start writing. You will not know what you actually want to say and what you actually need to research until you start putting words on paper. Free associate. Keep a "Brainstorming" file on your computer. Write a little "mini-paper" every day. Don't worry about perfect wording, spelling, punctuation, facts... I don't know about you, but I would get so caught up in the research that I found it very hard to stop and actually start writing...

Good luck and bon courage!



teflon_woman
Yellow-bellied Woodpecker
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Joined: 8 Apr 2008
Age: 46
Gender: Female
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23 Jul 2008, 9:35 am

Me again. I've been thinking about it more and here are a couple ideas:

Take fewer courses. After my first year at university I never took a full course load. Everyone I knew who was taking a full course load got by by only doing some of the readings etc. (learning which readings actually needed to be done is a special skill). I figured what was I paying for if I wasn't actually learning the material?

My second idea I never actually tried, so I can't vouch for it, but many of my friends developed one or two areas of specialization, so that they could write most of their term papers on pretty much the same topic. For instance, my friends in PoliSci often focused on a particular country throughout their years at university. You could also choose a particular thinker or concept. In theory, this way each new term paper would be less intimidating, because you would already have a lot of the background knowledge needed, and all you would need to figure out was the particular, narrow topic of the paper (another important rule: NARROW YOUR TOPIC. Then narrow it some more. Got it good and narrow? Narrow it again. Really). You will end up with a less broad but deeper knowledge of your material.

I did an joint honours between two interdisciplinary programs, and I really feel that if I had found one or two themes to focus on it would have lent some coherence to the otherwise completely disparate ideas I was trying to put into my head. But who knows?

Good luck!