5 Infuriating Things Nobody Tells You About College
The most underrated part of college is what you learn outside of the classroom. And no, we're not talking about the stuff your parents worry about ("Mom! I learned how to make a bong out of a dildo!"). We're talking about the bitter, cruel disappointment you feel when you find out how college actually works.
When it comes to lowering your expectations of the adult world, it doesn't get much better than finding out ...
#5. Most of Your Teachers Aren't Qualified to Teach
For those of you who've been to college, your first shock was probably your teachers. Where are the scholarly gray-haired guys with elbow patches on their jackets, full of worldly wisdom? Why do all of your teachers look like they're about 23 years old and read their lessons straight off of a PowerPoint presentation?
"Didn't I do keg stands with him last night?"
Unfortunately, the notion of college professors as scholarly experts who inspire learning is as outdated as the idea of getting a job after graduating from college. Fewer than 30 percent of all professors are full-time faculty. The other 70 percent are the underpaid, unwashed masses doing most of the teaching, and, in many cases, doing it poorly.
About 32 percent of all courses are taught by grad students attempting to stave off unemployment. What makes them qualified to do a job previously performed by tenured Ph.D.s? Nothing! Only half of teaching assistants get any sort of meaningful instruction on how to teach, where "meaningful" can mean a five-hour, completely optional seminar. The rest walk in on the first day of class and reflexively stumble toward the back row before realizing, "Shit. I need to be up here now."
"OK, so here's the deal: I'm actually much better at math, so this is no longer a history class."
Armed with less training than a kindergarten teacher, almost no access to class materials and sometimes a limited command of English, the grad students bravely soldier forth to try not to fuck up the educations of impressionable freshmen. Over the coming years, a small percentage level up to tenured faculty who often still don't know how to write a syllabus or generate coherent content.
And then there are the people who wind up teaching college courses as "mid-career changes." That is a euphemism for being so specialized or so old that they have no other choice but teaching after leaving their old careers. Yes, teaching college part-time is now viewed as a sexy alternative to being unemployed. These adjunct teachers, as you've guessed, get less training than grad students and may have no aptitude for teaching whatsoever. Not that they'd have a bunch of time for extra training anyway -- about 65 percent of part-time professors have another job they have to run to once class is over.
"Would you like a dissertation on the Franco-Prussian War with that?"
A cynical person could say that this means the journalists and MBAs of tomorrow are being trained by people too incompetent to retain their dream jobs. The truth is probably somewhere between that and Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting.
#4. Colleges Are Selling Out More Than You Think
It's not an earth-shattering revelation that every business, club and institution on the planet is looking for ways to make some extra cash on the side. By the time you get to college, you're jaded enough to not be surprised by, say, overpriced sweatshirts or jacked-up parking fees on campus. But you have no idea how hard your school banks on you winding up hopelessly, disastrously in debt when you graduate.
"God, please bankrupt half the sophomore class. Amen."
For instance, some colleges essentially sell their students' information to credit card companies for a piece of the action. At the University of Michigan, an agreement with Bank of America stuffs $25.5 million into the alumni association's pants in return for the "names and addresses of students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors and holders of season tickets to athletic events" -- i.e., everyone who has set foot on the damned campus, ever.
OK, but just encouraging you to sign up for a card isn't actually encouraging you to be irresponsible with it. It's not like they get a bonus for kids racking up more debt than they can pay -- oh, wait. Michigan State University actually does receive royalties from Bank of America based on student spending and, yes, the school can make even more money if the student carries a balance. So the school profits when its students fumble toward financial insolvency. Have we mentioned that the average senior graduates with a ball-busting $4,100 in credit card debt, a figure so staggering that Congress actually passed a goddamn law to restrict credit card access for those under 21?
"Wait, I have to pay this back!?!"
Not that it's just credit card companies diving at students' wallets. At the University of North Carolina, during move-in the school lets Target bus students to a nearby store, where they shop and party with (no shit) the Target mascot, a live DJ ... and the school's vice chancellor. (Wait, Target has a mascot? How would you wear that costume without fear of getting shot at?)
Maybe you're sitting there thinking, "Yeah, schools should do it the old-fashioned way and get all of their money from donations! You know, like how rich people donate in exchange for having a building named after them!" Ah, but that money comes with filthy strings attached, too. Case in point: The BB&T Charitable Foundation donates money with the requirement that the school create a course on capitalism and teach Ayn Rand's bible on human selfishness, Atlas Shrugged. And yes, one of the requirements is that everyone read all 1,200 pages.
At least they didn't have to watch the movie.
#3. They Beg You to Apply Just So They Can Reject You
Who would you say are the most aggressive and borderline unethical marketers out there? It has to be credit card companies, right? They're the ones who employ a sophisticated targeting matrix that results in carpet-bombing "pre-approved" card offers to disinterested consumers, wildly irresponsible spenders and the occasional dog who has been dead for a decade.
In their defense, he had an 800 score.
Well, at some point, colleges looked at that marketing model and said, "You know what? This is a great idea." Colleges are now luring students via techniques usually seen in emails beginning with "REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP."
Instead of the "Pre-Approved for Low-Interest No-Fee Platinum" offers, colleges use a fast-track application, or fast app. With the fast app, colleges have eliminated annoyances like filling in your name, paying an application fee and bothering to write a college essay. Some colleges are sending out VIP applications, supposedly picking the brightest for special attention, implying "platinum" style membership with terms like "Distinctive Candidate Applications" and "Exclusive Scholar Applications." For instance, Marquette University sent out "Advantage" applications to 40,000 students who actually range from valedictorians to some guy who asked for a brochure. Marquette's entire freshman class will be fewer than 2,000 students, by the way.
Dean of Admissions, Marquette University.
So why flood themselves with piles of applications they know they're going to reject anyway? Because even if the spammed prospective students don't qualify, the schools can still boast about how many applicants they attract, thanks to all of the random strangers who replied to their mass mailings. After all, the U.S. News Best College rankings factor in total applicants and rejection rates (look how exclusive they are!), and a college can artificially boost its rank by ... attracting and then rejecting a lot of unqualified people.
If this seems like it's one step above email spam, well, they have started doing that, too, with one prospective student reporting getting bombarded by emails with subject lines like "Pleased to meet you, David," "Tulane University has selected you" and "A top college wants to get to know you!"
It's a little frightening that colleges are paying for advertisement campaigns straight out of the Cracked.com comment section ... and most colleges won't offer you the chance to meet wealthy singles OR make $1,700 a week working from home.
#2. Cheating Is Everywhere
You may or may not be shocked by this, but 75 to 98 percent of all college students have cheated. The remaining 2 percent are apparently the geniuses who provide all the answers for the rest. Even more amazing, or depressing, is that about 1/3 of the faculty is also stealing data, making up facts and suppressing things that make them look bad. In other words, cheating is a friggin' epidemic that colleges are doing, uh, absolutely nothing to stem.
"Maybe I should have learned how to actually fucking do this."
Of course, practically every college has an honor code that explicitly forbids cheating, but that only goes as far as they are willing to enforce it. Dealing with filthy cheaters becomes even more tricky when students can't agree that downloading answers from your phone mid-test is wrong. Plus, going after these kids (and faculty) requires two vital components: detecting that something's wrong and deciding to give a shit. Both the ability to detect fraud and shits to give are in desperately short supply.
And the technology is always racing ahead -- there are now entire websites devoted to distributing effort-free homework solutions. Why bother to painstakingly fabricate a paper by ripping off your classmate when you can just copy-paste whatever you need from the Internet? Note: Don't be the dumbass who turned in his teacher's own writing for a homework assignment. Yes, there is technology on the other side, like plagiarism-detector software Turnitin. But any software that can be foiled by a thesaurus and the New York Times paywall is only useful for catching people too stupid to remove someone else's name from their term papers.
"Uh, Ann is just short for Anil Gupta."
One physics professor used an online system that timed students and flagged those who answered too quickly as cheaters. The student solution? Take a shot between derivatives. You don't need to be sober to copy-paste, anyway. And while professors try to create assignments that are unplagiarizable, they need to realize that making uncheatable homework is like making an unopenable chastity belt: Where there's a will, there's a way. Plus, there is no way to detect the high-class forgery of Ed Dante, a pen-for-hire who composes everything from homework assignments to entire Ph.D. theses.
But even if the plagiarism is detected, no one wants to deal with it. At one Texas university, there were only 56 reported cases of academic dishonesty in a school population of 11,000. For those who cheated their way through math, that's .005 percent of the population, which is significantly less than 98 percent. The process of thoroughly investigating and prosecuting an offender is so costly and time-consuming that many don't bother.
"On second thought, let's just cross-reference this evidence with the trash can ..."
After a lengthy inquisition into one case of theft, the American Historical Association said it would never investigate another case of plagiarism. A similar conclusion was reached by NYU professor and Harry Potter incantation Panagiotis Ipeirotis, who said that trying to catch cheaters had wasted his time and lowered his evaluation scores. Still, he didn't have it nearly as bad as the professor whose house was vandalized after he publicly denounced a bunch of plagiarists. Hell, why not just let the kids graduate into the real world and let them find out the hard way that cheaters never win? That is how it works in the real world, right?
#1. Schools Cover Up Crime in the Name of PR
Wait, if there is some horrible crime committed on campus, why would the administration have motivation to cover it up?
Because crime might make prospective students and their parents nervous, that's why. And they might take their tuition money elsewhere. So, for instance, at Eastern Michigan University, a student named Laura Dickinson was found dead, at which point the college reassured everyone that the campus was safe and that there was no foul play. This was a balls-out lie -- Laura had been found in a grisly scene that very much looked like foul play, i.e., she was the victim of a rape-murder. Yet for the next 10 weeks, both the police and the college neglected to tell the students -- and the girl's own family -- the real circumstances of her death. For almost three months, no one knew there was a murdering rapist prowling around.
When did the news finally come out? Only when the perp, a fellow student, was finally arrested.
And it's not like this is some recent trend; back in 1986, Lehigh University student Jeanne Clery was murdered, at which point the victim's parents discovered that there had been 38 violent crimes on campus that no one told the students about. The result was the Clery Act, a law that requires schools to report crime statistics on a yearly basis so students have some sense of whether or not their college is a depraved murder festival. And, more importantly, the law requires the school to let students know if there is an at-large perpetrator posing an ongoing threat.
"If they die, we still get to keep their tuition, right?"
That's right; colleges are so afraid of the bad PR for the school that they had to have a law forcing them to notify students that a murderer was in the vicinity.
Welcome to the real world, kids!
For why Cracked should just be teaching everyone, check out The 10 Most Important Things They Didn't Teach You In School and 5 Fictional Stories You Were Taught in History Class.