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COLLEGE PRESSURES William Zinsser Dear Carlos: I desperately need a dean’s excuse for my chem midterm which will begin in about 1 hour. All I can say is that I totally blew it this week. I’ve fallen incredibly, inconceivably behind. Carlos: Help! I’m anxious to hear from you. I’ll be in my room and won’t leave it until I hear from you. Tomorrow is the last day for. .. Carlos: I left town because I started bugging out again. I stayed up all night to finish a take-home make- up exam & am typing it to hand in on the 10th. It was due on the 5th. P.S. I’m going to the dentist. Pain is pretty bad. Carlos: Probably by Friday I’ll be able to get back to my studies. Right now I’m going to take a long walk. This whole thing has taken a lot out of me. Carlos: I’m really up the proverbial creek. The problem is I really bombed the history final. Since I need that course for my major I. .. Carlos: Here follows a tale of woe. I went home this weekend, had to help my Mom, & caught a fever so didn’t have much time to study. My professor. .. Carlos: Aargh! Trouble. Nothing original but everything’s piling up at once. To be brief, my job interview. .. Hey Carlos, good news! I’ve got mononucleosis. Who are these wretched supplicants, scribbling notes so laden with anxiety, seeking such miracles of postponement and balm? They arc men and women who belong to Branford College, one of the twelve residential colleges at Yale University, and the messages are just a few of the hundreds that they left for their dean, Carlos Hortas—often slipped under his door at 4 A.M.—last year. But students like the ones who wrote those notes can also be found on campuses from coast to coast— especially in New England and at many other private colleges across the country that have high academic standards and highly motivated students. Nobody could doubt that the notes are real. In their urgency and their gallows humor they are authentic voices of a generation that is panicky to succeed. My own connection with the message writers is that I am master of Branford College. I live in its Gothic quadrangle and know the students well. (We have 485 of them.) I am privy to their hopes and fears— and also to their stereo music and their piercing cries in the dead of night (“Does anybody ca-a-are?”). If they went to Carlos to ask how to get through tomorrow, they come to me to ask how to get through the rest of their lives. Mainly I try to remind them that the road ahead is a long one and that it will have more unexpected turns than they think. There will be plenty of time to change jobs, change careers, change whole attitudes and approaches. They don’t want to hear such liberating news. They want a map—right now—that they can follow unswervingly to career security, financial security, Social Security and, presumably, a prepaid grave. What I wish for all students is some release from the clammy grip of the future. I wish them a chance to
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This note was uploaded on 09/23/2011 for the course PSYC 2313 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '11 term at Oklahoma State.

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