The summer students at Tech are comprised of two very different groups of students.
The majority of them are returning students, enrolled in summer classes due to the impossibility of graduating in a mere 8 semesters.
The summer is, for most of us, a desperate bid to get out of Tech before our high school classmates have finished with their graduate degrees.
In a few short days though, these seasoned veterans of Tech education will be joined by a new group, the summer-start freshman class of 2014 (or 2015, or 2016).
These are students who were so excited about the chance of attending Tech, that they sacrificed their last truly free summer in order to attend intensive classes.
They chose to enroll early at this school, the same school that fills the Slivers section with curses every week, the same school that drives us all to multiple all-nighters in the same week, the same school that we all want out of so badly.
The discrepancy of viewpoints here cannot be over-stated. These incoming freshmen are enduring extra time on campus as a prerequisite to attending in the fall.
They are choosing summer on a half-dead campus over a summer with their friends and fall at any number of other schools. They want to be here.
And yet, within the course of one short year, most of them will transform into the same jaded, graduation-obsessed upperclassmen who will begrudgingly share the campus with them this summer.
Why the shift? What is it about Tech that makes people so excited to come here, and why isn’t the attraction permanent?
My theory is that the Tech-is-an-obligation attitude is inherited. I think that each incoming class does not independently develop negative feelings about Tech.
I think that older students, TAs and even professors convince them that Tech is a thing to resent rather than enjoy.
I am not talking about small, subtle things like extra homework or ridiculous exams. Tech is an academically rigorous school, but it is not the hardest in the world, and students at many other prestigious schools report much higher levels of happiness with their college experience.
When I speak of anti-Tech attitude I mean science professors who tell you on the first day that two of the three people sitting near you will not make it to graduation, knowing full well that those statistics are wrong, or upperclassmen who talk of nothing but getting out, all the while preparing their graduate school applications for extended education. I mean teaching assistants who intentionally scare students out of classes.
Even good students who find friends quickly have a hard time surrounded by an environment that so prides itself on being inhospitable. So I propose a campus-wide experiment.
This summer and fall, when you meet a new freshman, instead of getting into a proverbial pissing contest about how difficult Tech was for you, and how ridiculous it will be for them, try acting like you enjoyed the four, five or seven years that you chose to spend here.
Try mentioning good things about going to one of the best, most affordable schools in the nation. If all else fails, mention how great it is to have a good football season to look forward to.
Maybe I will be wrong. Maybe even the best efforts of every member of campus at positive reinforcement still won’t save the freshman class from hating their time here.
Maybe the majority of them will spend their time cursing the major that they refuse to switch out of, or the schedule that they arranged for themselves.
I hope not though.
Our school would benefit from a class, ideally a campus, full of students who actively enjoy their time here, who feel they are part of a community that they have chosen to join.
Tech has already mastered the art of turning out well-trained professionals, but in order to compete with other top-tier schools we must improve our reputation for overall campus experience.
Tech attendance shouldn’t just be an academic goal or some sort of merit badge for a trial well endured.
The diploma that the class of 2014 receives (whenever they do it) should be a sign of four years well spent, something that they remember fondly, rather than look back on with relief.