As I got ready for my second semester as a college student, I was blissfully unaware that my mental energy tank was half empty. I was equally unaware that my emotional energy tank was showing serious signs of depletion and disintegration. I had survived my first semester with a far higher GPA than I could have anticipated so I felt prepared. I figured the worst was behind me. I could do this college-student thing after all.
The month-long winter break had, of course, been spent with family and friends but I had also spent hours leafing through the required textbooks as well as checking and double-checking my Penn State Angel account to see whether information for the three online courses had been posted. When the academic advisor registered me for the spring semester, she had been able to find two evening courses and three online courses. She told me then that some instructors posted their syllabi early and that others got them posted just before the deadline.
I couldn’t wait to get started so I read textbooks and checked Angel.
As the first day of classes approached, I readied my backpack and girded up my loins. After all, I had not only conquered Angel, set up my own blog, and survived computerized tests at the Pollock Testing Center but I had also learned that I could enlarge the font on my computer screen by holding Ctrl and pushing the + key. It was a neat, simple trick that solved the problem of squinting to read tiny words. How many more new things could be thrown at me?
I was definitely ready for two of the online courses. The Principles of Nutrition textbook had come in notebook form, its glossy colored pages appealing to my thirst for color. The package of pages had been nearly two inches thick but I had painstakingly fitted them into a fat 3-ring binder, reading excerpts along the way. “I won’t even need my magnifying glass to read these pages,” I’d thought as I smoothed each one into place. Plus, nutrition was on my list of favorite things to learn.
A second online course was a 100-level Human Development and Family Studies and because I had survived a 200-level course the first semester, I assumed this one would be easy.
The third online course was going to be a stickler. I knew I’d need tutors to get even a passing grade but I had two at the ready. The course description of STATS 100: Statistical Concepts and Reasoning, had led me to believe that it would be mostly about the concepts of surveys and reasoning behind them. I was good at concepts and reasoning. Or so I thought. I would need six math credits to meet Penn State’s general education requirements and this course qualified for three of those. I gritted me teeth and registered.
Unfortunately, there was no textbook for that course so I had no warning about the college-level mathematical formulas that would stare out of the screen at my uncomprehending eyes. No course designer or math instructor could possibly have conceived my level of mathematical ignorance. Because I was an adult learner there were no entrance tests and no foreboding of the disaster waiting to happen.
I was especially excited about the two on-campus classes. On Tuesday evenings I had Philosophy 001: Basic Problems of Philosophy and although I was not sure exactly what philosophy was, it was a once-a-week evening class and that was the important thing. My husband agreed to drive me to and from State College, drop me at the correct building, and then work on odd jobs in town while I attended classes.
The same thing applied to Wednesday evenings and the Creative Writing course. I felt a slight apprehension at the thought of poetry but because it involved words rather than numbers, I assumed I could handle even poetry.
All in all, I felt ready for round two.