Classic Signals: December 1987 Failing out senior year

By Kimberly Ilkowski
Features Editor

Just when you thought you beat the Sophomore Slump, Senior Spring is waiting for you right around the corner. It seems impossible to get any work done with the promise of graduation and summer on the horizon. In the December 1, 1987, edition of The Signal, Patty O’Connor wrote of how the path to graduation isn’t always as easy as everyone makes it seem.

Senior Spring can get the best of students pining for graduation.  (Kimberly Ilkowski / Features Editor)
Senior Spring can get the best of students pining for graduation. (Kimberly Ilkowski / Features Editor)

First, you graduate from high school. Next you attend the college of your choice, and pick a major that will lead to a fabulous and exciting career. Four wonderful years go by. The next thing you know, you are walking across Quimby’s Prairie and are handed a diploma that will surely be your one-way ticket to success.

For many Trenton State students, it’s not easy. All the things they’ve hoped for count for nothing when they find themselves on the verge of failing out.

Lisa, a senior business major, may be one of those students. (Lisa and her roommate Kathy are both fictitious names.) “When you first start college, all you can think about are the great things you’re going to accomplish,” Lisa said. “I thought it would be easy. I guess I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it was going to be.”

Lisa came to Trenton State College in the fall of 1984. She had graduated 11th in a class of 194, and earned an A-B average all through high school. She was a member of the honor society, and lettered in varsity track. She chose Trenton State because of all the good things she’d heard about the division of business here.

“I picked my major on the basis of one business course I took in twelfth grade — I thought it was interesting,” she said. “An uncle of mine is an accountant, and he really encouraged me to pursue a career in the field of business. So, I jumped right in.”

In her freshman year, Lisa took a few introductory business courses, as well as the usual liberal arts courses. Her first-semester grade-point average was a 3.2. In the spring semester of that year, she pledged a sorority.

“That was a big mistake,” she said. “I was so busy with all the pledge activities, I didn’t have time to study. My GPA went down to 2.8, and I’ve never been able to bring it back up again.”

Her average continued to drop through her sophomore year. “A close friend of mine died that September, and it really upset me. I couldn’t concentrate on work at all,” Lisa said.

And, by then, I was taking more and more business courses and getting in deeper and deeper. But I still thought I could buckle down and do well.”

By her junior year, Lisa was on academic probation. her GPA was 2.0. In November, right as she was starting to study for finals, she broke her hand, making it very difficult to study. “The pain was ridiculous, and the pressure of finals made it worse,” she said. As a result, she failed a course that was a requirement for her major.

Lisa began her senior year with a GPA of 1.96 and the School of Business requires a 2.5 for graduation. She is on academic probation again, and is taking 15 credits. In order to graduate next spring, Lisa will have to take a full load of 18 credits — but only if her advisor will allow her.

“I have to pass the class I failed last year,” she said. “So far, I’m not doing too great. If I don’t get a C or better, my advisor will only let me take 12 credits, and that won’t be enough to let me walk in May.”

As she talked, Lisa lit a cigarette and picked up her varsity track letter, which hangs on her wall. She stared at it for a moment, then frowned.

“It’s so easy to rattle off excuses for myself,” she said. “I really should have seen this coming, but I didn’t. I kept thinking, hey, I’ve got another year to turn it around. But I can’t say that anymore.”

Lisa remains optimistic. She can see a light at the end of the tunnel, she says, and it’s getting closer every day. “That’s my prime motivation,” she said. “Graduation will be here soon, whether I’m part of it or not.”

Lisa’s advice to underclassmen comes from experience. “Even though it seems like graduating seems far away, it gets here sooner than you think,” she said. “Doing well now when it seems like it’s for nothing will make being a senior that much easier and enjoyable when you get there.”