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Culture shock

To find out what undergraduate life is like today, a professor at Northern Arizona University enrolled as a freshman and moved into a dorm for a year.

Part of the trick to college life, she learned from good students, was being able to quickly decipher what work needed to be done and what could be skipped. Those management skills helped students balance classes, part-time work and involvement in volunteer or professional groups, Small said.

She found some of the coursework tough and had to seek tutoring for a class far outside her field of study. “It was a hectic life,” she said.

Small also said she found current undergraduates faced more pressure to pick a major that readily translated into a job that could pay off student loans.

Travis Shumake, student body president and a senior at NAU’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, said he sees that all the time — students choosing his program because it provides the “fastest results at the highest income.”

Small said her generation wasn’t as career-oriented in college.

“It was an era of anti-materialism. It was kind of nerdy then to talk about careers,” she said. “Now, different things are nerdy.”

I have to wonder if that last bit has something to do with increased college enrollment. In years past, the majority of college students were people with high incomes who didn’t necessarily have to worry much about what would happen after college. Nowadays we’ve got people racking up loan debt left and right.