On the first day of classes at Montclair State University, I always ask my predominantly freshman and sophomore General Education undergraduates about "the rest of their lives" outside of my particular course -- in other words, the 98.5% of the time that I do not see them.
I emphasize these percentages because, I tell the students, it's important to put things in perspective. Of course being in college is important, especially when you want to graduate and embark upon a respectable career; and furthermore, when you are the first person in your family to attend college, alot of people are counting upon you to succeed.
Speaking of "succeeding," all you had to do in order to tell this was midterm week was walk around campus or sit in Cafe Diem and eavesdrop on students' conversations about how hard it was to tell "what he/she [the professor] wanted," and "how noisy my roommate was so I couldn't study," and "how late I was at the library last night," and "how many questions I left blank," and "what other people got on the test..."
Yesterday was midterm day in Prof. Baldwin's class. I sat at my desk at the front of the room, pretending to read a book but actually looking out over the 40 young people scribbling away, tearing sheets out of notebooks, coughing, clearing their throats, drinking Red Bull, eating health bars, and scribbling some more, and my mind wandered back to that survey on the first day of the semester seven brief weeks ago.