Jensen: A Message to Incoming Students: College is Hard, But Not Really


Jack Gambassi

Chrony Sports Contributor, Eric Jensen, poses outside of the J. Willard Marriott Library in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 24, 2022. He chose the library as the location for his portraits and spent much of his time there while pursuing his degree at the U. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Eric Jensen, Sports Writer


College is hard, but not really. Let me repeat that: College is hard, but not really.

The hardest part of college is doing the work. My dad has a great line: you will never pay as much money to do as much work as you will in college.

He’s largely right: as any college student will tell you, college is a good way to hemorrhage money. It’s a necessary evil though: you need a degree if you ever plan on making real money at any point in your life, unless you’re hit with a stroke of genius and extreme luck like Steve Jobs or something like that.

I guess in my final farewell piece for the Chronicle, I would just like to talk about how you can succeed in college. I know that if I were a go-getter, fresh-faced high school kid, the first thing I would do, and what I did, was go look for testimonials from recent college grads. So that’s sort of what this is. Hello, fresh-faced high school senior.

About what I said earlier, college is hard, but not really. The things you will have to do in college will be challenging, and any professor that doesn’t make that abundantly clear to you straight out of the gate is not worth the money you pay them — drop the class.

Look for the professors that don’t sugarcoat things. They are often the most straightforward and easiest classes to get through. It may not seem that way, but the professor that cares enough to force you to attend class, to make you do readings by forcing responses and to create clear expectations of what will be on the tests will be the best teacher.

They will also be the teachers your friends and less driven students, especially freshmen, will complain about the most. Again though, college isn’t meant to be easy, and frankly, what would be the fun in that? If you aren’t ready to challenge yourself, you aren’t ready for college. Take a gap year. If you don’t want to be here, then things are not going to go well for you.

The number one problem with the education system is forcing 18-year-old kids to be interested in something. Most 18-year-old kids are interested in independence, partying and creating an identity for themselves. If you go into college with no idea, not even an inkling of what you want to do, you will not be as successful. You are much better off if you know what you want to do when you come in, because you’ll actually want to work for it.

If you don’t know what you want to do and you’re here anyway, pick a wide array of classes. Know that freshman classes at a big university are going to be challenging. You will be in lectures with 300-plus people and your professor probably won’t know your name. My advice: start at a community college. The class sizes are smaller, and it’s cheaper, and it’s a great place to learn what you want to do (I hope this shows you I’m not a shill for the University of Utah, fresh-faced high school senior).

Once you figure out what you want to do, dive into it. Here’s the mantra again: college is hard, but not really. Here’s the honest to God truth: if you show up for your classes, and you do the homework, you will earn a bachelor’s degree. It really is that simple.

There’s one small part that gets forgotten, though: if you don’t understand what’s going on, ask for help. You don’t pay college professors damn near $70,000 a year to ignore you. The first thing you should do after your first round of classes every semester, day one, is email your professors. Simply introduce yourself, it shows them that you care. They will appreciate it. And here’s a secret: they’ll probably cut you some slack if you care enough to reach out when things get hard.

Being a teacher’s pet is encouraged; this isn’t high school. Grow up, suck up to the only people, besides yourself, that will determine whether you are successful or not. If you’re in a class and it’s dead silent, say something. Literally anything, just start talking and most of the time, it will shock you how close you get to the right answer. Participation points save grades.

But what if I’m wrong, what if people think I am stupid, what if? The biggest enemy you have is the question “what if?” As Alex Smith said at his commencement address at this very university: “Great quarterbacks have a little bit of ‘eff it’ in them.” You need a little bit of “eff it” in you to succeed.

You need to be able to forget about what other people think, forget about looking stupid, because in the end who gives a damn what people think of you? You’re doing this for you, and guess what, you can do it. Because, in the end, college is hard, but not really.


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