A Freshman Year Postmortem

During my first semester at Kennesaw State University, I enrolled in Programming and Problem Solving I, a C# and Unity based programming class. Over the course of just four weeks, half of the 100 person lecture hall had dropped the class and/or changed majors. I knew a few of them, and when I asked about their decision, they told me that “Game Design is harder than I thought” and “I didn’t expect to have to write so much code”. It’s a similar story for the Fundamentals of Game Design course that filled my Tuesday nights. The majority of students in that room were just looking for an easy class, or didn’t take it seriously. People thought that Computer Game Design and Development would be an easy major, and I watched from the sidelines as people my own age started to reconsider their choices. It was a sobering experience.

I finished out the fall 2015 semester feeling confident. I had all A’s and B’s, made a great and intelligent group of friends, and participated in the school’s game jam. I felt very good about passing 4 classes, so I signed up for 5 in the spring. My next load would include 2 programming and Unity based classes, along with my first college-level mathematics and writing. I felt like I could take on the world. However, I soon discovered that my old work habits weren’t up to snuff for the kind of rigor expected out of me.

My spring semester was eye-opening, to say the least. I was spending more time doing homework assignments I enjoyed (such as game projects), and not enough time in other subjects. I only completed that week’s assignments, and did little to no prep for class sessions or started early on projects. I was never taught these practices, and had to learn them  through an intense hellfire of  the hard way. No one warned me of how fast assignments caught up on one another, and seeming all at once everything snowballed down on top of me. I began having to cut corners to get other corners even submitted on time, and my grades dropped.
When I had my realization of the very real danger I (and my GPA) was in, it was almost too late. I could count the remaining weeks of school on my hand. I realized what all those students were going though. It was here, during what had been the most difficult and stressful time of my life’s education, that I figured out what it meant to “hit the books”.

And I hit them hard.

From that point out, I spent every weeknight in the library until it closed at 10:00pm (at midnight during finals week), and avoided friends, family, and other social areas of life just to work a few more math problems. My weekends were allotted to lighter study just to keep me from going insane, but what I managed to pull out of the ashes was much more than I expected from myself. I figured out how to use real books as informational sources. I figured out how to discipline myself to write long essays in efficient amounts of time. I even figured out how to be “good at math”, as they say.
After near straight A’s my first semester, I went down to a B and C average in just a few months.

But you know what?

My friends and I were awarded an internship. I have a confidence in mathematics that I haven’t felt since middle school. I learned 2D game development from scratch. I’ve poked around with procedural landscape generation. I wrote my first resume. I’ve lived on my own and made my own schedules. I learned how to budget with zero income, and can make $40 last 4 weeks. I learned how to find and get useful information from dusty old books, and I’ve built effective study habits that I’ll arm myself with years the come.

While my GPA won’t be impressive next fall, you can bet that it won’t stay there for long. I feel that this experience has been a sort of warning; a trial and error run for students fresh out of High School. I’m ready to take on whatever sophomore year has to throw at me with a new face, and new confidence.

2 thoughts on “A Freshman Year Postmortem”

  1. This made me feel 1000x better. I know that “you’re never the only one going through it” but when people don’t actually talk about how difficult freshman year is, there is a sense of loneliness. I felt like I did pretty good, just like you, first semester. And even second semester I thought I was doing okay and I was trying. However, it wasn’t enough for calculus. I told myself before going to college that I would not fail a class. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I learned that if I feel I can’t handle a class, I need to take care of it before things get too late. I was an Environmental Engineering Major, but, after serious contemplation, I changed it to the complete other end of the spectrum- Nursing. It won’t be easy either but I finally found what I’m supposed to do. Just had to go through a lot of trials and tribulations. Great post! I will be back for more 🙂

    1. I’m glad that you’ve found a major that you’re passionate about! I’ve heard many people change theirs two or three times before they find what sings to them. That’s really cool.
      Sorry to hear about calculus. It’s amazing how fast it is to fall short… but we’ll get through this together- now armed with what we’ve learned!

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