Response to Zinsser’s “College Pressures”

In his article, Zinsser points out several factors that he believes are contributing to an over-stressed and under-optimistic generation of undergraduate college students. He identifies 4 common college pressures: economic pressure, parental pressure, peer pressure, and self-induced pressure. While reading, it seemed like the article was written a few decades ago, but even so, the basic principles of the pressures are still relevant.

Out of all the pressures, the economic aspect is definitely the biggest worry on my mind, and I’m sure most students on any given college campus would agree. Even if you are pursuing a study you love, and even if you feel like you will receive a well-paying job at the end of college, paying for the present expenses is tough. Even at a state university where the tuition is significantly lower than the “brand name” universities, the cost isn’t as manageable as one would think. It’s not just the tuition. It’s the books, the “packages” required by several science courses, the lab fees, the ridiculously priced homework passes, and the list goes on. Part of the problem is not just the money, but the value. Sure, the tuition may not be crushing, but it is worth the several thousand dollars? Are students actually equipped with skills? Do they come out of class more knowledgeable than when they entered? Does the cost of college justify the value? I think that is a more valid concern (especially on state and city colleges) that to simply demand lower tuition.

To be honest, I really have not felt parental pressure. I chose to study medicine. I chose to go to Stony Brook. They never ever tried to coerce me into any field or any universities. They just wanted me to think about my decision so I could be sure about pre-med instead of changing my mind after a semester.

Peer pressure and self-induced pressure exist for me, but not in quite the same way that Zinsser describes. Peer pressure has been a positive thing for me. During freshman year, I was a solid B+ student, and I was perfectly content with that. I understood what I was studying, but I still had time to call my old friends back home, watch movies, and even cook meals for myself. However, as I started making friends on campus, and I realized that a B+ was impressing no one but myself, I knew that in order to get into med school, I needed to work harder. I had to sacrifice. I spent more time in the library than watching movies, and I don’t regret it. There is a special type of fun that I have when I study, when I can feel my brain understand a concept inside and out, a satisfaction that I get when I answer a string of practice questions correctly, and the exhilaration and relief I feel when all of the studying paid off with a good grade in a class. Peer pressure made me realize that I needed to invest more time into studying. Similarly, once B+ grades weren’t cutting it for me, I became hard on myself. I pushed myself, only because I knew I was capable of achieving that A. So why should I settle for anything less? However, I know my limits. I still go out to eat with friends, spent a night in with good company, head home for a weekend with old classmates. I push my self, but I am very aware of the possibility of burning my self out.

I feel like I am more fortunate that most college students because I have less of a “pre-med complex.” My GPA is still very much a work in progress, but I am proud of it. I am studying a subject I love and am completely engrossed in, while many seem like they’d rather do something else. I know when it’s time to relax, even if that means that a grade will suffer. Not getting into med-school will be disappointing, and I will continue to try knowing that a rejection letter(s) will not kill me. And I think that, more than anything, is letting me live college as a true experience.

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