College slackers get by — and some get A's

College students can ‘get away with’ poor preparation, reports USA Today, based on the National Survey of Student Engagement.

Nearly one in five college seniors and 25% of freshmen say they frequently come to class without completing readings or assignments, a national survey shows. And many of those students say they mostly still get A’s.

According to the cutline:

Chris Smith, in 2007 a sophomore at Ohio Dominican University . . . has been unafraid to hide his preference for playing baseball over going to class or criticizing professors for assigning too much homework.

Ohio Dominican estimates tuition, room and board and other expenses cost nearly $34,000 a year. I wonder who’s paying for Chris Smith’s “education.” And why.

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Comments

  1. Why are you so shocked? There’s no question that college is much easier than high school for the vast majority of students, save those that went to horrible urban schools and got As for eighth grade math.

  2. > many of those students say they mostly still get A’s.

    I was one of those students. This was many years ago, though.

    Back then, I could get As simply because I was smart enough to pick things up on the fly. I used the time other people would spend preparing to work on the student newspaper and to work as a 7-11 clerk to pay tuition. I’d catch up on the reading and assignments in the first 5 minuets of class, while people were settling in.

    I don’t see anything wrong with that. I look back, I think, it wasn’t because my education was poor. Far from it. It was because I was smart. Not everybody needs to ‘be prepared’ for class. One would assume that the top 20 percent of students would be in this category. There’s no way to change this without needlessly harming the 80 percent who do need to be prepared, who are working to the limit of their capacities.

  3. Stephen,

    What was your degree?

    -Mark Roulo

  4. There’s no question that college is much easier than high school for the vast majority of students, save those that went to horrible urban schools and got As for eighth grade math.

    Sorry, but most college students would say, rightly, that you’re full of crap.

  5. “There’s no way to change this without needlessly harming the 80 percent who do need to be prepared, who are working to the limit of their capacities.”

    Oh jeez. That sentence contains a whole slew of arrogant and limiting assumptions that have obviously been left unexamined for a very long time.

  6. Mike said, “Sorry, but most college students would say, rightly, that you’re full of crap.”

    Yes, most college students would indeed say that. But, most college students would be wrong. In all but a few majors at all but a few places, college is not very hard.

  7. Actually, most college students would agree with me. Certainly those who graduated in the top 15-20% of their class in a decent suburband high school.

  8. Guilty.

    As a current student I rarely prepare, and pretty much get straight A’s.

    I suspect that if you have to prepare, you are probably out of your league already.

  9. Guilty as charged…

    I never prepared for class until I was in grad school. Didn ‘t study all that much either.

    I suspect that the first time in school that people has to work is the last or second to last degree they take.

    I remember in grad school, one of my colleagues remarked that he would actually go through the graduation ceremonies for his Ph.D because that was the first time there was ever a chance that he would not graduate. He had never needed put much effort in school before he went for his Ph.D.

  10. Like Mark Roulo, I would like to know the college major of all these slackers getting As. I would bet that students pursuing chemical engineering degrees are spending considerably more prep time than those working on education or marketing degrees.

  11. I lived in an honors dorm, so most of my dorm-mates graduated in the top 10 (definitely 20) percent of their classes. We were mostly science and engineering students, and really, except for those majoring in elementary education, we all studied. Biology classes had complicated terminology and complex pathways to understand, while my engineering and physics friends spent a lot of time working problems and architecture students did projects. I’ll admit that most of us didn’t have to put in a lot of time to pass our English or social science classes, but organic chemistry, quantum physics, and other science classes took up plenty of our time and didn’t come with guaranteed As.

    I did find that college was less ‘who you know’ and ‘how much do the teachers like you’ than high school was, so in that sense it was easier – you earned your grades by your work rather than your family’s status in the community, but the content certainly wasn’t easier.

  12. I would bet that students pursuing chemical engineering degrees are spending considerably more prep time than those working on education or marketing degrees.

    I agree with you. And do tell me, what percentage of college graduates pursue science degrees?

    Hence my point. I tend to speak casually, so let me be clear:

    1) The top 10-15% of kids in suburban high schools work extremely hard. They are taking several AP courses every year, with a high stakes test at the end of it. They are learning college level math. They are taking extensive survey courses in US and European history. They are doing it all while in school 8 hours a day, with at least two hours of homework a night.

    2) No matter what their major in college, the first two years will be a permanent summer vacation to these kids. Full stop. From 8 hours a day to a couple hours a day. From 6-7 classes to 3 or 4. From homework every night to homework sometimes. It’s not possible for college not to be less work than high school.

    3) Without guidance (and most of them don’t get it), many of them will slack off. This is probably particularly true at the “mixed” universities (those with excellent and average students, like the middle tier UC schools, UNC, U of M).

    4) At the same time, colleges broadly discourage students from taking challenging courses in math or physics. For the first time, these students who have worked hard may also have trouble understanding something (which didn’t often happen in high school). Instead of giving them a chance at it, or supporting them, or even giving them the chance to take the course multiple times, colleges pride themselves on the high failure rate of their science and math courses.

    5) The obvious happens. Kids who busted their butts in high school can see a much easier A through business, history, or literature. They know that GPA is the single most important determinant of their post-college life. So they take that route. The minute they decide not to degree in a math or science major, the work required for their degree is far, FAR easier than anything they did in high school.

    6) The only kids who go into the maths or sciences, which do require more work, are the kids for whom these courses are hard work but know the only doubt is whether they will get an A or a B.

    7) The kids who take math and science degrees that require a lot of work are about 10-20%, maybe? I’m not sure. It’s not a big number, though.

    So 10-15% of 10-15%. A pretty small number. The rest of the students will work less hard than they did in high school. Not because they are lazy, but because the colleges push them in that direction through their grading system and the math and science’s departments peculiar pride in flunking students quickly.

    The rest of kids in a suburban high school won’t work hard in college, either. But then, they didn’t have to work all that hard in high school.

  13. superdestroyer says:

    I found out a long time ago that those claiming to have all A’s without trying are lying. At least in the older days, the grades were posted in hardcopy form and one could see that out of 150 geology 101 students that only seven received an A. The same was true for biology and even English.

    Considering that less than 50% of entering Freshman ever graduate, than less than 35% of entering freshman finish within four years, and consdiering that most college students change their major at least once, it is hard to believe all of those college students who claim to be making all A-s without studying.

    Has grade inflation really gotten that bad?

  14. Mrs. Lopez says:

    My daughter goes to a small private university, so maybe it’s not typical, but she and her classmates work very hard for good grades. Every class, including Intro to Art, requires 5 page papers.

    My daughter’s roommate tried writing an English paper the morning it was due. She proudly turned it in… but failed it.

    Yes, some colleges, and some majors, are harder than others.

  15. CharterMom says:

    First — the article didn’t discuss whether the college students worked hard but whether they went to class unprepared. There is a difference.

    If I think of myself in college many moons ago — I was a procrastinator. I often didn’t do reading assignments although I generally completed assignments if I knew they would count toward my grade. Other classes I cut often. So if you had asked me if I often went to class unprepared, I probably would have answered yes. However I almost always caught up on readings prior to tests and exams and worked hard on papers and projects. So yes, I got mostly A’s. And yes, my level of class preparation often depended on the teacher — I know I never went to Business Law unprepared because that instructor regularly put us on the spot.

    And no I wasn’t a science or math major — accounting, finance and quantitative methods was my triple major.