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How To Save $5000 in College / My Hatred of Reading & Love for Writing.

December 5, 2009 12 comments

It’s a marvel that I’ve even gotten myself into writing. 

I truly enjoy creating stories in the written format, especially in blogs.  Writing whatever I want, without having to adhere to providing “research”, or “structure” in addition to other guidelines imposed by a professor is a phenomenal feeling.  After all these years, I can finally use all the slang, jargon, fragments, run-on sentences, and general Format Guide rule-breaking I want.  Peer proof-readers can go fly a kite; I edit my own stuff now.  No more shall my writing have its content value be equal to its formatting correctness, and have my grade be brought down because I couldn’t follow simple directions outlined in a readily available and accessible guide a professor had their T.A. mark my paper, and look for formatting errors above substance.  No more shall my writing have red pen ink rivalling the amount of black printer ink on my papers (mostly due to the fact that you can’t shouldn’t be writing on a screen.  If one of my old prof’s gets cheeky and prints a copy of this, marks it up with red pen, and sends it to me, remember, I likely know where you live, if you’re still teaching at the same school).

I only ever had one teacher ever think I was anything above average at writing.  My 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Thompson, at Mount Boucherie Secondary School, gave me the only English award and English “A” that I ever received in my entire secondary and post-secondary career.  So in the unlikely event that she’s reading this, thanks for believing in me, Mrs. Thompson.  I have always, really, appreciated that.

So, all that to say, me in writing is amazing, mostly because I hate hate HATE writing’s necessary and evil equivalent: reading.  Oh, how I loathe thee, reading.   

A writer requires other people to read what he’s written, so it’s an interesting paradox that my labour beckons the very enemy I’ve fought to resist; only now it comes from a mass audience (more than 2 people could be called a mass, right?).  It’s not that I’m no good at reading; my cognitive system is capable of decoding symbols for the intention of deriving and/or constructing meaning just fine.  Silent or aloud reading; no problem.  I just don’t find it fun.  I have no idea how a people can pick up fictitious stories, involve themselves on an emotional level over a lengthy amount of time, and then repeat the process upon completion.  Isn’t that exactly what you do when you watch a TV show or movie, only in a fraction of the time?  Oooo, I had to create the images in my mind instead of seeing them with my eyes on a screen…big deal.  I can watch TV faster than you can read books, any day.  In the age of convenience and info-on-demand, getting the exact same information quickly (TV) rather than slowly (books), is a no-brainer.   If I want to stimulate my imagination, I’ll draw a picture.  Isn’t your imagination’s engagement from books only limited to the author’s vague and open-ended descriptions anyways?  I really feel there’s better ways to get that part of your brain going, if that’s that side of  the argument is for.   If I’m going to read anything, it’s going to be something not made-up (non-fiction).  A good autobiography by someone I like usually works (see: Bret Hart, Mick Foley, Wayne Gretzky, etc), or else something tangible like astronomy, history, or current events will arouse my interest. 

School never helped either.  When you don’t enjoy reading to begin with, being forced to read with the threat of assignment failure if you don’t, is probably the worst thing a non-reader could encounter.  Reading became work, and work isn’t fun.   Once you’ve had to develop the ability to “skim”, you know you’re too far gone.  If you have to skim a book for information, that automatically means the 95% of the book you did not draw information from belongs straight in the trash, does it not?   Obnoxiously large textbooks, research, citing sources, and extended visits to the libra…..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The other problem with forced, educational reading is the absurd prices they make you pay to obtain the books that you are required to derive information from.  My first encounter with this screw-job was at Okanagan University College in Kelowna, BC, while enrolled in the Fine Arts program.  I had to take a course called “Visual Forum”, that required me to purchase a 2-inch thick, $200 textbook (that’s $100 per inch, for you math students).  “Well, they said I need it, right?” said the naive freshman that I was, after freshly receiving my parents’ hard-saved college tuition money that was supporting my first year.  A semester later, I swear to you, I passed the class without doing anymore than removing the plastic covering from that book.  I went to return the squandered capital to the bookstore, who denied me and sent me to the used bookstore, who then told me they would consign the book at around a ¼ of my original purchase price.  Upon haggling with the same story I just told you, I found there was no way I was getting that $200 back.  I put that book up for consignment, and to this day, have not seen the money for it.  Reading was dead to me.  I told myself, “Never again.”

The continuance of my post-secondary education was dependant on student loans.  Though some people like to believe their loans being deposited in their bank account is somehow the equivalent of winning the lottery, I was well aware that I would have to repay every dime eventually (National Student Loans likes to remind me of this every month now).  So my college years carved some financial responsibility out of me.  As you’re now aware of my personal vendetta against costly required/unnecessary reading material, textbooks were first on my chopping block.  I vowed never to let the man put the screws to me again, and in 4 years of college, I never spent another dime on a textbook.  Seriously.

 Many people amass a bookshelf’s worth of textbooks after their college days.  Such a display usually at least creates the illusion that you had or currently have some level of intelligence.  My bookshelf is nearly bare; beyond the elementary school book-fair books that my parents bought for me that are still as unread as they were 20 years ago.  Make your own jokes, but read the rest of this post, and then tell me who’s smarter out of 2 people with the same degree;  the one with or without a pile of books collecting dust on a shelf that he’ll never read or use ever again? So if you share some of the same sentiments that I do, you may want to pay attention to the next few things.  Here’s how I did it:

1)      Some people aren’t that great in social interactions, which is fine.  But if you have the necessary social skills that are required to make friends with other humanoids, then you’ll likely be able to do so with some fellow students who have already taken the classes you are enrolled in, and be able to borrow their old textbooks, as they’ve probably found them to be quite useless outside of the class.  Just don’t be-friend people only on this basis, most people find this to be “shallow”.

2)      This is by far the payload of advice on this topic, so if you pay attention to only one thing in this whole post, let this be it.  To thwart your enemy, sometimes you have to march right through the gates of hell, and enter the dwelling place of the beast itself.  That’s right, you’re going to have to go to the library.  As soon as you get your Course Outline, find your required texts, and take that list to your school’s book repository.  You’re likely going to find every single one of those books on file.  As long as you have a library card, and don’t have outstanding fines, simply sign out every book you need for the term.  If something’s not available, reserve it, and hold out until it comes back in (now that I’ve made this information public, you may want to hurry, as others may have caught on before you).  Once you get the books, keep renewing them all semester.  You’re home-free.  It’s a proven, effective, corner-cutting method.  You’re welcome.  “Genius” comments are welcome at the bottom of this post. 

So there you have it, a tale of woe that comes full circle and presents you with invaluable information.  Learn from my mistakes.  Use this information to stick the screws right back to the people holding the drill.  Take away some lessons from your college experience that have nothing to do with the classroom, besides where you can buy the cheapest ramen noodles.

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