It’s the beginning of the end for this semester’s graduates

It’s that time again. The new year has begun and with it another adventurous semester begins. For some students, this marks the beginning of their familiarity with Blackboard, the library hours or the perils of being a pedestrian on campus. For others, this week marks the final beginning of a collegiate semester.

Indeed, although my undergraduate experience leans closer to the latter than that of the new student with the upside down map, longing to graduate is tempered with reflection of the process to get here.

Transferring to this school is hardly my own unique experience. In fact, the University Web site states that according to U.S. News and World Report, “USF is the nation’s top location for students transferring (from another college).”

While graduation will not culminate with four years at this school for me, I like to think I brought life lessons from the military and schools in California and Texas to add to the diversity on campus. Likewise, my learning was enhanced by those from other countries, other careers and high school dual enrollees who were in my classes.

Another valuable lesson from this campus is that there is always someone that can help answer a question whether it is academic or otherwise. Certainly, these answers were not always to my liking or my agreement, but both faculty and staff have been overwhelmingly accessible. This may become increasingly challenging when higher education funding becomes tighter and student populations rise, but hopefully it will not change.

The surprise to me is that – especially in terms of academics – I find few students who seek help from professors or graduate assistants when signs of a problem arise. Tutoring labs, office hours, e-mail and phone numbers are provided to students, but at times, some of us wait until the end of the semester to decide to seek help.

In my case, there was someone in a chemistry lecture class of mine who asked if I could teach them chemistry in the second-to-last week of the semester. I misunderstood, thinking this person had a problem with one of the assigned problems, only to learn that by talking to them, they really meant the whole semester’s worth of material.

Certainly I am not exempt from coursework blunders; I have ignored resources available to me in a course and received the grade I deserved. The problem surfaced when studying for a final; very little review was mixed with a whole lot of new learning.

Interestingly, one of the best lessons learned from my experience at this campus was over the winter break. My new part-time job kept me busy around the holidays, and thankfully it had nothing to do with retail. Data, spreadsheets, software and metrics left no room for any discussion of supply and demand, gross domestic product or the unemployment rate.

Why does any of this matter? For many of us, the choice of major follows our interests and strengths, but completion of college is perhaps more useful as a screening tool for employers. While we probably won’t have to recite Avogadro’s number to seven decimal places or recite the last ten presidents to get a job, completion of college represents the indispensable traits of discipline, persistence and many others that transfer to the business world.

The college experience is what we make of it. If non-stop parties, proficiency in instant messaging and endless Starbucks coffee is what you came to campus for, you will not be let down. But know that eventually your collegiate experience will draw to an end and hopefully you can reflect on some irreplaceable lessons. I am still trying to learn mine here, and hopefully this university will be able to provide them for many years beyond its historic 50th anniversary.

Aaron Hill is a senior majoring in economics.