First Semester Reflections

Written by Katarzyna Ignatik

When I arrived on campus as a freshman three months ago, Hillsdale fit me like a new glove—a little unusual, but made to fit perfectly. Despite warnings from numerous family members and friends that the first two weeks would be extremely hard, the transition was natural, and I enjoyed myself from the first day.

Of course, it took me a while to learn the ropes around campus. As the days passed, I watched students fangirl over professors, certain groups claim certain tables in the cafeteria, and boys’ dorms defend intense rivalries (I won’t mention the recent raid on Niedfeldt).

I wasn’t discovering just fun little quirks, however. One revelation that really shocked me was the grading system. Supposedly we are all outstanding students, the cream of the crop, but even the brightest students struggle to maintain As. Many Hillsdale professors are tough graders, which can be surprising to freshmen who are used to being at the top of their high-school classes.

I remember the day I heard rumors of certain professors who give out, on average, C-minus paper grades. After listening to the upperclassmen chat about this, I panicked. How would I tell my parents if I ever got a C or a D? I’d heard that college would be hard, but nobody told me just how hard until I was thrown into the thick of it!

But as the weeks went by, I discovered that everything was completely doable. I was not suffocating under a workload of terrible proportions, nor was I feeling completely helpless and lost in class. I slowly learned to focus on the material rather than the letter grade.

Plus, students like me can change their outlook on life and realize that things aren’t as bad as they thought. That one paper that’s been pushed off all semester because it’s dreadful even to think about? Think of it as a challenge, not an obstacle. That one completely bombed quiz? Spend some more time with the concept, and realize that hard work and dedication might merit a good grade after all. That scary professor whose best companion is his red pen? Turns out, he’s not so scary. In fact, chances are he’s very sweet, and spending time in his office will result in a much deeper understanding of the material—and maybe even a new mentor and friend.

So there’s no reason to fret. Panic stems largely from a fear of other people’s harmless judgment, and it’s freeing to be exempt from that.

I would almost describe my Hillsdale experience as “liberating.” Gone are the days of high school, when my grades were more important than my learning experience. Gone also are the days when I was afraid to take risks, to speak in front of people, to take on a job that I’d never done before. There’s no need to panic. Here at Hillsdale, those who invest in the material they’re given will come out stronger for it.

Katarzyna IgnatikKatarzyna Ignatik is an English major in the class of 2020. She spends her time doing homework (of course), binge-reading, binge-writing, singing, and laughing at everything and anything. Talk to her about Tolkien, the 50s, or abstract philosophical concepts, and she’ll be perfectly happy.