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College students share their knowledge

By CHRISTINA M. CURRIE

Daily Press writer

Sure college means newfound freedoms and additional responsibilities, but former Moffat County High School graduates say having a positive experience hinges on one thing: the roommate.



Andrew Bockelman has run the gamut of roommates, including the ones who told their friends their room was party central.

Bockelman was one of four Moffat County High School graduates who spoke to college hopefuls Thursday in an attempt to prepare them for the realities of life after high school.



“It’s kind of different coming from someone closer to their own age,” said Jenna Stiefel, who will be a sophomore at Colorado State University.

They spoke at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, where Director Jonathan Godes said audience members could benefit from their 20/20 hindsight vision.

“I hope you can go more prepared and with a better idea of what to expect,” he told the audience of seven college hopefuls who attended the College 101 presentation.

Share and share alike

Stiefel recommended that new students contact their roommates-to-be as soon as they know who they are.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to get to know your roommate,” she said. “It’s easier if you talk to them first.”

University of Northern Colo–rado student Andrew Bockelman had several roommates throughout his first year and said each posed a different challenge.

“When you live with someone you’re different from, you can make it work for a while,

then … ,” he said.

Students were encouraged to be honest, and they were.

“Freshman year in the dorms really kind of blows if you want me to be very honest,” CSU graduate Tory VanTassel said. “You have to learn to deal with different people and treat each one as an individual.”

Stiefel joined the CSU Young Democrats her freshman year. She said joining a club is a great way to meet new people with similar interests.

“I learned a lot about campus politics and the campus itself,” she said.

CSU student Chris James, too, found a home in a club.

“Some people called me a band geek,” he laughed, “but there were 150 other band geeks there,” he said.

Joining a club also means that you don’t have to depend on your roommate to be your only — or even first — friend, VanTassel said.

It’s a different world

Although it’s difficult to get used to living with a stranger, the culture shock is what other panel members said struck them in their first year.

“Living on a campus with 23,000 to 27,000 students is hard to take when the biggest town you’ve ever lived in is Craig,” VanTassel said.

James had an eye-opening experience when he met, for the first time, a black person.

“You don’t realize how sheltered your life is in Craig,” he said.

The diversity comes as a shock to some. On his way to class, VanTassel would pass members of groups that advocate for homosexuals, pro-choice groups, anti-abortion groups and religions fanatics.

“Some of that’s hard to get used to,” he said.

Temptations

Bockelman said he was shocked to see how many people he saw smoking openly on campus.

“I guess it’s easy to latch onto some sort of rebellion because your mom and dad aren’t around or you’re trying to fit in,” he said. “It can be real easy in college to get involved in that environment, and I’m really glad I didn’t.”

All the panelists said alcohol is easily obtained on a college campus and that marijuana is prevalent.

That’s not the only temptation.

Bockelman said he lost control when he realized no one was monitoring his spending habits. He ate out, bought clothes and books and went to movies.

And when his debit card stopped going through, he switched to a credit card.

“I’ve got a lot of credit debt because of it,” he said.

VanTassel said he’s “in debt up to his eyebrows.” He got his first credit card at CSU and had no problem using it.

“Another big shock is how right your parents can be,” he said. “You become poor rather quickly in college.”

Getting prepared

Some time was spent criticizing the Moffat County school system. The members of the panel said that they weren’t well-prepared for college.

Stiefel said her grades and attendance were good enough that she didn’t have to take the final examination in most of her classes at Moffat County High School. When she did take tests, she was able to use note cards.

“This high school does not prepare you for college testing,” she said. “I think finals should be mandatory.”

Other panel members said they didn’t have the study skills or the time-management skills that college demands.

James was placed on academic probation before he was able to better manage his time.

Stiefel said college is a waste of time and money if a student doesn’t have study skills.

“Study skills at Moffat County High School is an oxymoron,” James said. “They didn’t exist.”

Change is good

Stiefel said the transition is hard. You live on your own, which means doing your own laundry, and you make your own decisions.

She said she ate constantly when she first arrived at college because a large variety of food was always so available. She also exercised less because there was no one who encouraged her to do so.

VanTassel recommended making friends with the resident assistant (R.A.) in your dorm.

“They will always have your back 10 out of 10 times,” he said.

James disagreed.

“RAs are watching your back, but only so they can catch you in a fault,” he said.

Stiefel recommends taking a light load of classes as a freshman so that new students can adjust to the time commitments required, the new environment and the new freedoms.

VanTassel said college students need to make time for school as well as a social life.

“One of the more important parts of college, aside from book learning, is learning to deal with life,” he said. “You need to find balance because you need a social life or you’ll end up hating college.”


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