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Small handwriting sample of Ashley's First-Year Student Journals, link to journals home page

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5 December 2005

“College is like an essay. It is the main idea, but the
fun, friends and experiences are the details that
fill in the blanks to make the paper sound good.”

Ah, the season of finals.

While everyone is walking around, moping about taking the last and final tests of the year, I’m actually excited about going into the classroom and getting every test out of the way so I can go home, reflect and have a wonderful new year. I thought finals for me were going to start a week early until something extremely uncanny occurred.

I was standing next to one of my good friends and floor mates, Tony, in a line waiting for food when fellow Freshman Web Journalist Eman comes out of the blue and says, “Hey Ashley, no class after 2 p.m.!” At first I’m like, “What? How can there be no class after 2 p.m. when I have a major exam in anthropology at 3 p.m.?”

There certainly had to be a catch. But, there really wasn’t. UT closed due to “the forecast of inclement weather.” The city of Austin was greeted by freezing weather, which blanketed the streets and roads with ice making it dangerous to travel. So, class was canceled and I got out of taking a test at 3 p.m.

I found that to be the strangest thing and skepticism grabbed hold of me all through the afternoon until I received confirmation from the university in an e-mail message. The next day it happened again: classes canceled.

Now, I know some people were happy and overjoyed, but I was more than ready to take exams, get everything out of the way and head straight home a little early. Not only that, but the majority of the eating places were closed and if you really wanted food you had to order out. The bad thing about this was that everyone was ordering out, and it took more than two hours for food to be delivered. How crazy is that?

Overall, I got over wanting to take exams early. Maybe it was supposed to be a couple of stress-free days to relax before a strenuous week of finals.

This semester has truly been an interesting one and I must say that college has been somewhat of a surprise. I thought I really knew about all of the things that were going to be in store for me before I came here, but my perception slowly began to change when I actually experienced it for myself.

I’m telling you, everyone has a story and nothing here is generic. I suppose that nothing is generic at other schools but something is always happening and constantly changing at UT. In my first entry I introduced the “Freshman Focus,” which was my personal discipline guide to having a successful year in school. Now that the semester is coming to a close and I am beginning to see what school is really all about, I think I need to make a few adjustments.

  1. Continue to see and converse with professors and teaching assistants. I know that I have said that I need to meet all of them, which is something I did, but I didn’t continuously go to them with the problems I had with work. I tried to figure it out on my own, which is something I would not advise.
  2. Form study groups as soon as possible! I don’t think I put this on my list to begin with because I never knew how important it would be. Having a warm environment with people who may know something that you may not know or will have no problem quizzing you is extremely helpful.
  3. Read early! I don’t care what your major is, reading will be required. My reading load was crazy and sometimes I had to read five to 10 chapters a week with 40 pages per chapter! It’s no joke. I started out doing really well, but I missed one day of reading and got all off track. Keeping up with things like that makes work go a little bit smoother.

One thing that I hear freshmen say a lot, and upperclassmen who have told me about their first years, is “I could have done better.” This becomes a popular phrase among first-year students because it’s very easy to get swept up into the fun atmosphere and abandon academics.

However, the thing that has kept me doing fairly well is knowing what I’m doing here at school in the first place, and that is to get an education, mature and obtain a degree. College is like an essay. It is the main idea, but the fun, friends and experiences are the details that
fill in the blanks to make the paper sound good.

Before I close I will say this though: Any promises that I make for next year are the ones that I’m going to keep. If it is to make a certain grade-point average then I’m going to do it. If it is to apply for certain scholarships then I’m going to do it. I’m not going to lag behind anymore because now I know what to expect.

It’s time to bring in the new year the right way!

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