By Leah S. Dunaief
A recent article that I saw on the Internet claimed that nine out of 10 graduates had regrets about their college. Wow! That’s almost unanimous discontent. Most regretted the heavy debt they had incurred. Some said the college they chose wasn’t a good fit for them. Others expressed disappointment with their major. I, too, have a regret about college; although I am not one generally to harbor regrets, I will confess that regret now.
I regret that I didn’t study harder when I was lucky enough to be in college. Now, this has nothing to do with my particular college. It is a personal failing. I am sure I would have behaved much the same way wherever I had gone to school. But here is the thing about college. It’s much the same thing as is said about computers: garbage in, garbage out.
Had I applied myself a lot harder, I would have gained a lot more in the way of a splendid education from my college courses and years. After all, I went to a fine college. Instead, I was more interested, especially during the first two years, in dating.
Not to be too hard on myself, I had a lot of catching up to do on that front. The last time I was in a co-ed situation before college was in the sixth grade of my neighborhood elementary school. For junior high and high school, I attended one of the schools in New York City requiring an entrance exam, and it was for all girls.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I loved the school. Many of the teachers had PhDs. I knew I was getting a first-rate education, and I really applied myself to my studies. What else was there to do? I even thrived on the keen competition there, despite the fact that it was considered appropriate to bemoan such a barbaric value.
It was also appropriate to wish the school were co-ed, which we all did, and fervently at the time. Now it is co-ed, and as I look back, I am not so sure that was such a good idea.
But I digress.
My college was also one of what was then regarded as the prestigious Seven Sisters and technically all women, although we certainly didn’t refer to ourselves that way at the time. We were girls, and it was an all-girls college. On the other hand, right across the main avenue that ran in front of the campus was an all-boys undergraduate college.
Needless to say, I crossed the road, both to get to the other side, (as in the old joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road”?) and also to use the library at the all-male school. That library was larger, had more comfortable seats, better lighting, and besides, I rarely returned without having at least one date, sometimes two, and even occasionally three dates for the upcoming weekend. It took the first two years to come to something approaching equilibrium.
Life was good. But for my grades, not so much.
Furthermore, I thought that I didn’t really have an appropriate major. I was pre-med. That wasn’t considered a true major, but it did require many hours of science classes that came with many hours in many labs. I could have spaced out those labs — heavy courses — but thought I should get them out of the way sooner. I did have a faculty advisor those first two years, who was a lovely person, and a famous history professor. She knew little about science requirements, confessed as much, and then signed whatever assortment of subjects I put before her to approve.
“You must pick a major,” I was told. And so I picked English because it provided me with an antidote to all those heavy science classes. Reading was a merciful escape. So was writing. I was casual about that decision, though, because I was sure I was never going to use those skills.