We spend a lot of time commiserating over the entitled snowflakes, the ones who give us angry misery. But for those of us at open-admission institutions, there's another kind of snowflake, one who inspires more pity than anger. My current incarnation of this is a young lady we'll call Naive Nancy.
Nancy began her studies at another CC in our region, one which has considerably lower standards than my school. Her grades weren't stellar even at Easier CC. She transferred because we're known by our local unis for having good success with our graduates in her major. Nancy is the sweetest, most polite young person you'd ever want to meet. She attends every class and hands in every assignment. She comes to see me during office hour and takes notes when I tell her what she needs to do to improve. Unfortunately, Nancy is also as dumb as the proverbial stump. Compounding this is the fact that she has the typical CC tragic trifecta: single mom in her early 20s (with a special needs child as a bonus hardship), working 40+ hours a week at Big Box, and taking 15 credit hours.
She has dreams. Big Box has told her she can get a management position if she earns a bachelor's degree. She wants to be college educated so she can set an example for her kid. Her parents didn't make it past 8th grade. She wants them to be proud of her. She is so earnest. I can see she's doing the best she can given her enormous time constraints. But her work is so superficial and riddled with errors that I put her just on the right side of literate. I would say I don't understand how she got out of high school, but when I look at her transcript and see where she went, I realize what a ridiculous statement that is. No Child Is Left Behind at Inner City High. The behaviors I see in my class are more than enough to have gotten her through.
Each week, Nancy and I go through the motions. I suggest tutoring. She smiles and nods and then tells me they have no slots available other than when she has to be at work or in class, which is true. I tell her which errors to work on and show her how to correct them. She makes cosmetic improvements, not enough to move the grade needle more than 1-2%. She knows better than to think she'll make an A, but she truly thinks a C is viable. Mathematically it still is at this point in the term, but cognitively it's not going to happen. She wants to take another 15 hours this summer so she can graduate with her associate's degree. She thinks she's transferring to Regional State U this fall. She doesn't understand that since RSU has aspirations of becoming a premier research uni, its standards are going to weed her out instantly. Her GPA is just barely high enough now to keep her off academic probation, and she's been on probation three times since she transferred here. Unless she goes somewhere that hands out passing grades like candy on Halloween, she is doomed.
I finally told Nancy this week that she needs to visit our transfer counseling center to get some advice about what to do. I hope she gets someone with a clue there who will tell her to slow down and set her transfer goals on a more realistic school. I feel bad for her. Other than yours truly, I don't think anyone has told her that very few people have the intelligence and time management skills to keep the kind of schedule she does. She knows college is supposed to give her something important, but she doesn't really understand what that something is. So she just keeps muddling on, thinking somehow it will all work out. It won't. The system has failed all the way around.