College Professors Share Their Funniest 'I Don't Know How You Made It Out Of High School' Experiences

College Professors Share Their Funniest 'I Don't Know How You Made It Out Of High School' Experiences
Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

Now that college has become a standard requirement for so many jobs and careers, there is a massive push by high schools to get their graduating students accepted and enrolled at an undergraduate college.

On the whole, that's undoubtedly a great thing. A more educated workforce will be prepared to solve the most complex issues facing human beings in the next several decades.

But there are some pitfalls to the great college push. I barely need to mention the student loan debt crisis.

However, there's another concerning dynamic. Students are herded through the high school-to-college track so automatically that actually educating can take a backseat to logistical considerations.

So when that young adult lands in a college classroom, they're liable to be hopelessly unprepared for the education they're paying for.

Some Redditors shared examples.

redmambo_no6 asked, "College professors of Reddit, what's your 'I'm surprised you made it out of high school' story?"

Many people simply never learned how to effectively convey their thoughts through writing.

Research methods and essay writing are apparently common areas where college students show some serious gaps in knowledge and preparedness.

Dates on Dates on Dates 

"As a college freshman, I took Advanced English with a student who didn't know how to write a research paper or even possibly read (I don't know). When I realized she didn't know how to research, I gave her my sources and showed her how to navigate them."

"The next class when we were supposed to edit each other's rough drafts. I handed her my paper to edit, she gave it back to me after 10 seconds without reading it and said it was good."

"She then handed me her 'paper' and it was just a list of random dates."

-- JustEnoughDarkToSee

The Wrong Paper to Butcher

"In grad school we had to do weekly presentations on individual scientific studies within the focus of our thesis and this one girl was completely bombing on a study about biomechanics."

"The professor gently tried to guide her to a different conclusion and she began to argue with him."

"That's when the professor asked her to read out loud the authors of the study and, of course, he was the lead author. She unknowingly chose to butcher a study that her own professor authored..."

-- cjdking

The Be All End All 

"Not a college professor, but I worked in my university's writing center for a while."

"I had a girl come in with a research paper bibliography that listed 'my mom' as a source several times."

"When I pressed, she told me her mom looked up everything and sent it to her and she just...put it in the paper. She told me she had always done it that way."

-- SalemScout

Sloppy Writing, Everywhere You Look 

"I worked at my university writing center and saw a lot of really terrible writing. SO MANY poorly written essays. I really don't know how you can graduate from high school without at least being able to perform simple tasks like 'Point to your thesis statement.' "

"The whole point of a writing center was to teach students to correct their own work, but there was a direct correlation between how awful a paper was and how likely the student was to throw it at you and say 'I'm going to go have lunch. Will you have it fixed in an hour?' then try to leave."

"The tutors all got really good at an authoritative, 'Stop right there! Sit down. Now let's talk about how YOU are going to improve YOUR paper.' "

"The most frustrating papers were the science majors. I could never tell if the paper was terrible or I just wasn't following the details of their experiment on chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons or whatever."

"The absolute worst was the ENGLISH MASTERS DEGREE STUDENT who came in several times with absolute gibberish. To be fair, English was his second language but... are you absolutely sure you do not want to consider a career change, my good sir?"

-- hananobira

Other students showed a complete lack of historical knowledge.

Of course, not everyone is a history buff. Not everyone will know about the finer details of an obscure era, region, or event.

But goodness, some of the obvious ones should be clear to most.

Gorillas at War 

"Not me, but a friend who taught in the politics department received a paper about 'gorilla' warfare in South America."

"It was so poorly written she couldn't tell if it was a typo, or if they genuinely thought Colombia had been overrun by a Planet of the Apes style revolution."

-- ZoeAWashburne

A Very Old Country 

"My graduate school classmate wrote 'America is a country that has been around for thousands of years.' "

"It was a group paper on social policy."

-- psnugbootybug

Wrong Guy 

"I once got an exam essay that mentioned how much Mandela hated the Jews. After scratching my head for a bit and wondering if I'd missed some obvious signs of his anti-Semitism I realized she meant Mengele."

"As in Josef Mengele, the Nazi 'Angel of Death.' Hard to think of a worse person she could've confused him for."

-- WhiskyTangoNovember

Time Scales 

"Not a professor but in undergrad I was taking an American history course. Our professor was from Maryland and was probably in her early forties."

"This kid asked her if she was one of the pearl harbor survivors. He couldn't grasp the fact that she was very much not alive at that time and that Pearl Harbor was not a harbor in Maryland."

-- Whowhatwherewhenwhy6

And last, some college professors were simply shocked by a complete lack of fundamental logical thinking. They couldn't believe people made it so far.

After all, one does need to put two and two together just to navigate basic daily life, right?

Measuring is for Nerds 

"For a couple years I taught first-year college students in an ENGINEERING program, the majority of whom didn't know how to do unit conversions."

"Not even, like, inches-to-centimeters. To repeat ... college ... ENGINEERING ..."

-- JSanzi

That's the Whole Thing 

"I once spent an hour explaining to college junior that an even number is divisible by 2." -- KingofSheepX

"wh-, what? how? literally the definition of an even number is a number that's evenly divisible by 2. what?" -- TheDonutPug

"Not as big of a deal, but in freshman year, I was the only one out of me and a few friends (including a math major) who knew 0 was even" -- StaleTheBread

Convenient Reasoning 

"My first year teaching I had a student who had failed the previous year due to missing too many cooking labs to pass and not handing in half the assignments."

"I had rewritten the curriculum and assignments."

"I noticed that this student hadn't been handing certain things in and had been skipping my lectures, so I decided to have a chat with them."

"They thought their marks for that semester were cumulative with their previous year's mark (with a different curriculum, different assignments, and a different professor) so they just had to make up enough marks to get a passing grade."

"This is a post-grad program. They had a BSc in dietetics."



"Not a professor, but I used to TA for undergrad organic chem lab courses. Had a... challenging student once who was not great at reading directions or thinking critically. We were setting up an experiment that required GENTLE heating of a volatile solvent.""I explicitly told the class, multiple times, 'only turn your hot plates up to 2 when heating, these things get very hot." Maybe 30 minutes later I'm making my rounds through the lab and I pass said guy's fume hood and notice his reaction is smoking.""I look closer and see that all of the liquid in his flask is gone and its just a charred, black smoking mess (which is still heating). I ask, "Student! What's going on with your reaction??? What's the temperature set at?!" "The guy goes, oh, I wasn't sure how hot to heat it, so I just turned the plate all the way up to 10. Is my reaction going to be ok?' No, no man, it's not going to be ok... he literally boiled the thing dry 🙄"

-- jpiethescienceguy


"From a friend who is an economics professor: a week after a midterm, a student came up to my friend and said she took longer on the midterm than expected, didn't have enough money in the meter to cover the additional time, and got a parking ticket as a result."

"She asked my friend who in the department should she submit the ticket to for reimbursement"

-- tremendothegreat

All Over the Place 

"I had a student who didn't know what the stapler was or how to use it. I accepted his assignment as separate pages."

"Unsurprisingly, his writing was similarly disjointed."

-- Hollywood_Dog

Please DO NOT Eat the DNA

"I was a TA for two years. One of my students (outside of class) explained that she and her whole family truly believes that microwaves mutate the DNA of your food (they don't) and mutated DNA is dangerous to eat (it wouldn't be)."

"I couldn't help myself for calling her out. It was such a strange thing that it didn't even occur to me to be sensitive. I just said she clearly needed to take my biology class again."

-- king063

Keeping It Casual

"I had a student include numerous emojis in a term paper."

"A different student came to my office a week after the final, and asked me why she had failed the course. She hadn't turned in a single assignment, or written the final."

-- Art--Vandelay--

So, yes, it is very possible to find yourself encountering someone with a puzzling lack of knowledge or intelligence throughout daily, adult life.

This list should hammer home just how common that will be.

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