What Are College Students Really Like?

In March of 1975 I went to a large convention in Chicago. Planning to receive my Ph.D. in Economics in just two months, I was anxious to start my college teaching career. The long and short of it is that I was interviewed by Winona State University in Winona, MN. They liked me and I liked them. We bought a house right across the street from the campus. That was 37 years ago.

People often ask me about college students. I can’t speak about college students on other campuses, but I can speak with some confidence about the College Students at Winona State University. The vast majority of students at my University are good kids from the upper Midwest. The rest of them are good kids from China, Nepal, Malaysia, and other countries. They have, for the most part, been raised by loving parents who say silent prayers every day when their children are away at college.

For eighteen years my students have lived at home with their families. I get to watch them grow up for the next four years. They’re not perfect. I’ve had lawn ornaments and snow shovels mysteriously disappear from the front porch. I’ve been awakened many nights by loud shouts from someone who consumed too much alcohol. I’ve successfully advised them to break up keg parties right before the cops arrived to serve under-age drinking citations. However, these incidents are rare.

The real story of this blog rests on the quality of young people we have at Winona State University. They’re good kids; REALLY GOOD KIDS! They hold fund raisers to finance charitable missions in Africa and Asia. They volunteer their time for community activities. Many of them overcome tremendous emotional obstacles, such as the death of a sibling or divorce of their parents. Some have successfully battled and beaten cancer by the time they are eighteen years old. Some students break the “poverty cycle” by becoming the first person in their family to receive a collegiate degree.

Freshman college students are inexperienced and naïve about many aspects of life, yet they are extremely kind and helpful. As I interact with them every day I don’t have to deal with old, cynical, burned-out people. Every year nature refreshes my life with a new bunch of eternally optimistic, positive 18 year-olds. Some day they will have to pay taxes, deal with that unreasonable city building inspector, worry about retirement, and undergo the financial and personal stress of raising children. But for now they want to do right by the world and right by themselves. They immerse their lives in useful, meaningful activities. They feel justifiably satisfied with their place on the planet. These are decent, caring, incredible young people!

When people ask you what college students are like, please refer them to this blog. For my part, I’m younger-thinking, more enthusiastic, and much happier because they are in my life. The next time you’re reincarnated, I’ve got a recommendation for you.  Come back as a College Professor!

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