Life as a direct entry student
Skipping a year of school sounds fantastic until that lost time comes crashing down on you.
I’m a direct entry student, meaning I went straight into the second year of the journalism program here at Algonquin after graduating from Carleton University. I thought diving into the third semester of the program would make my life easier.
I was wrong.
In my first month of class, I felt like a fish out of water. All the other students were gathering story ideas, leaving class for events, and speaking in journalistic lingo to one another. It took me a bit of time to understand what a “slug” is and I was really disappointed to learn that it has nothing to do with mollusks.
Everyone was on a different plane than my fellow direct entry victims and I.
The students that were in the program last year were experienced with the geography of the college, newspaper writing styles, chasing down leads, making the newspaper and the hundreds of granular Oxford-comma-hating rules the Canadian Press Style Guide demands.
Of course, I had several classes designed to help me catch up on everything I missed, but there’s a palpable absence for me when it comes to the craft of journalism.
I’m still missing all the natural experience granted by learning everything at a slower pace and every lesson that would’ve been adopted from making (more) mistakes.
Learning everything at an accelerated rate, attending classes, doing assignments, working on the Algonquin Times, going to work part-time and dealing with the relentless realities and expectations of adult life, can really crush your soul.
College is a completely different beast than university.
I could go a month without an evaluation at Carleton. But at Algonquin, there are assignments peppered throughout each week. I used to know how to manage time — studying for a couple of weeks for an exam worth 40 per cent of my final mark. In the journalism program, at the very least, there’s nothing like that. I’m pretty sure there’s an assignment I should be handing in as I write this.
You have to redefine the quality of time, which is something I still haven’t got a handle of yet. For some asinine reason I feel proud having earned straight A’s for current events quizzes. The joke here is they’re only worth two per cent of my final mark.
Instead of a few heavy evaluations per course, I deal with dozens of small gradings that slowly chip away at my psyche.
There was a point in late September that I got home from school and laid down on the floor of my room, just staring at the ceiling. I don’t remember how long I was there for. I just remember that I felt like I was a part of the floor, and a thousand stones were holding down my body.
That’s probably the best way I can sum up the direct entry experience: suffocation. Too much information in too little time. It’s really not for everyone.
But in the end, I’m satisfied with my decision to enroll as a direct entry. I feel like I’ve adapted well to this new program with the worst of it confined to a 90-degree learning-curve at the start of the semester. Now, I somewhat understand how to play the journalism game. I just had to relearn how to take a punch and keep walking.
Ultimately, my only regret is not meeting my great new friends and supportive professors a year sooner.