My Least Favorite Class at Menlo

By Logan McDirmit-

As an incoming freshman, I never realized how important it might be to have a class dedicated to learning the “ins and outs” of college. I neglected this until I saw the “Transition to College” class on my schedule. To say the least, I was eager to learn success tips and information on how to excel in the college atmosphere. However, this short lived eagerness died two weeks (only two classes) into the semester.

Reviewing the portfolio assignments and partaking in the discussions allowed me to realize that the class would merely be a book review and require written responses to “success articles,” and a poor one at that. Half of the students taking the class hadn’t read the book or even received their copies of it; immediately the assignments were pushed back to fit the needs of the less fortunate…or more fortunate depending on your point of view. These so called “success articles” are nice for high school kids looking to plan their futures. However, they are rudimentary and even my junior high brother wouldn’t find them challenging (no, he’s not a child prodigy). Also, can we discuss the title of the assignments? Why are they even called portfolio assignments? I wouldn’t add one of those assignments to my portfolio even if I was paid to do so. If the class pushed for more of a proven method to teaching actual research principles and success tips (yes the library research tutorial was good, but I didn’t need to go to five of them to get the message), I would be interested in its objectives. I also know there is a lack of a strictly followed curriculum in the class due to the fact my roommate who takes the class (with a different professor) has 10x more homework than I do. Each Monday he rushes into the library to print out a portfolio assignment due the next day, while I leisurely relax and watch the next episode of West Wing. My roommate said, “I have realized that I have a patience deficiency for things that waste my time. Once a week I am forced to sit in a 50 minute class that is a complete waste of time, and I walk out of the class with countless assignments that are remedial to the point of hilarity.”

I understand that the class is hard to teach. Each professor tries to do what they feel necessary to get the students to not only pay attention, but also do the work. After speaking with Erik Bakke, the Director of the Writing Center, I gained some insight into one of the main challenges Transition to College professors face. He explained, “A challenging aspect of teaching this one-unit course is only getting to spend 50 minutes a week with the students.” That limits the professors to cover a lot of material in a short amount of time.

Not everything sucks about the class; it does serve as a nice opportunity for me to get to know my professor a little better. Since there are a total of eight students in my class, it’s very easy to talk and have discussions about anything that’s on our open agenda. I also really appreciate the fact that the professor I have for the class doubles as my English professor because it serves as a great opportunity to clarify any nebulous topics we discussed earlier that day!

Interestingly enough, when I think of the class I can only seem to remember watching a research video of a seal showing its ability to hold a rhythm (a nice real world example of classical conditioning – which helped me out for my psych test) or vaguely addressing what it means to “drink someone else’s tea.” The other day the class allowed me a great opportunity to find out which learning style fit me best. I put numbers 1-4 on different colored shapes and was surprised to find out there wasn’t a coloring activity to follow. All jokes aside, the assessment could have been very helpful; however, it was not. We simply had a superficial talk on what the different learning styles were rather than an in depth discussion on what those learning styles imply, or how to adapt to a different style.

In summation, “Transition to College” is not the class I thought it would be. The assignments are rather rudimentary and uninspiring. I don’t wake up every Monday filled with joy because I get to attend a thought provoking class. Rather, I have to write myself a note on a green sticky note every Sunday night, and put it somewhere obvious just to remember that I have the class. Every time I open my laptop the note looks back at me, and taunts me with the words “TRANSITION TO COLLEGE.” I think the class needs to be revised and taken more seriously if it continues to be a requirement for freshman. Refine the objectives and turn the class into one that will push its students toward actual success, not just the idea of success.