Real advice from a CCNY professor by Krystal Rivera
The semester kicked off, and if you’re a freshman, transfer or otherwise new to CCNY, you may be feeling a mix of excitement, dread, and anxiety. Navigating a large four-year college can be challenging. “I wish people had helped me understand the harsh realities of college,” sighs Samantha Gomez, an English Literature major at City College. “It’s like you just get thrown in there with the sharks.” Gomez is just one of the many students who have encountered obstacles in college.
Although Gomez is shy of her diploma, that’s not always the case for others.
More than 40 percent of American students who start at four year colleges take six years to earn their degrees, according to a New York Times article. When community college students are added in the mix, the dropout rate is more than half. The City Facts data banks shows that city college’s graduation rate was 42% in 2006, the statistics claim to have gone up in 2011 however, the numbers are missing between the years of 2012 until now.
How can the path be smoother for new students – while raising retention rates at the same time? Lewis Zuchman, a professor of psychology at CCNY and executive director of SCAN, (Supportive Children Advocacy Network, a non-profit organization that provides services for high risk youth and families,) is already on the job. “Those numbers won’t change unless we address the systemic issues,” says Zuchman, also one of the original Freedom Riders. “I’m willing to do that.” Below he offers tips every student should know to survive the college years — particularly freshmen.
Prepare yourself because high school may not have.
Most students arrive at college unprepared, which can be overwhelming. Expect more reading and writing than in high school – and at higher levels. “[Too many students are] victims of a system that has failed them, mainly those coming from inner city public high schools,” explains Zuchman.
“And a lot of people coming from these schools are learning with English as their second language. You walk right into college already feeling overwhelmed, and beaten and it’s not your fault.” He recommends reading and writing as much as you can.
Don’t let a discouraging professor or your first not great grade determine your ending.
At some point you are going to think, “how can this happen? I studied so hard or why am i doing this,” and it’s reinforced by professors saying “maybe college is not for you.” Zuchman emphasizes the importance of not allowing this to discourage you. More importantly, instead of withdrawing put in the extra effort. “Seek help from tutors and advisors.”
Your major is Undecided, and it’s okay.
“It’s perfectly alright not knowing. In fact, I think it would be abnormal,” Zuchman explains. “Who knows what they want at 18-20 years old?” Zuchman encourages taking up liberal arts during that time to explore the variety of options offered.
Choose a major for you, not your parents.
Too often students want to take up what their parents think they should do but that may not be best. “You must think about the reasons why you’re choosing a particular job,” Zuchman exclaims. Consider a key question: “Is it for money, or because you love it? You may be working in that area for 15-20 years.” It saddens him to see students doing something unenjoyable for the rest of your life.
Manage your workload.
More than 12 credits and a full time job may not mix. Unfortunately, this becomes tricky for those in need of financial aid — which is just about everyone at CCNY. “It’s difficult but not impossible,” Zuchman believes. “ It just means you have to work a little harder than the next person.”
You may have to drop out.
The professor does not encourage this; however, life can sneak up in a way that may cause such a situation. “This does not mean you allow yourself to be taken down,” he argues. Family obligations, or financial obstacles are a part of life. “This does not make you a failure.”
You can find Zuchman in NAC 7/320.