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Souza: Not including students in ‘real’ world is destroying self-efficacy

Collegian | Sophia Sirokman

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Spending four years in a box with minimal windows, fluorescent lighting and the inescapable smell of milk — aka the Andrew G. Clark Building — takes enough sheer power to warrant my diploma alone. Evidently, college consists of a lot more work than just going to class, and the best case result of my degree would be a prepared send-off into the world — forgive me, the “real” world. 


I felt prepared for college after high school. As a first-year at Colorado State University, I estimate I’ll feel prepared for my career by graduation. Being prepared for work is not synonymous with understanding the world, but most adults would seem to disagree. Every time I mention this preparedness or any time I mentioned it last summer, I am continually met with the same comment in slightly different reiterations: “Just you wait.”

The comments are never from peers, never from siblings and never from fellow college students. They are always from adults.

The American public school system and the College Board are far from perfect. I’ve sat through plenty of science classes, watched that same Amoeba Sisters video for the 25th time and thought to myself, “This is pointless.” Of course, small moments such as those comprise only a fraction of our education. 

School is a necessary step in not only political and cultural socialization but also in our personal development. We learn the repercussions of procrastination, hastiness and insubordination — lessons that critically and permanently shape our work ethics. We learn how to make friends and how to lose them, how to handle adversity and how to overcome it. School teaches skills that are fundamental to life inside and outside of the office.

Despite the value of K-12 schooling and higher education, America’s students still face insurmountable dogma from adults and collective society; even after graduation and onward, students are not prepared enough to initially survive the “real” world.

Young adults know the world and its stereotypes far too well: Those under the age of 25 have the lowest voter turnout. About one in three adults ages 18-25 has experienced mental, behavioral or emotional health issues in the last year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34. 

Statistics such as these prove that the weight of not being enough — whether it be socially, politically, academically or family-related — often has detrimental effects. Beneath all of them remains a common factor: diminished self-efficacy.

The belief in one’s capacity to create an impact or achieve a goal, self-efficacy is fundamentally intertwined with self-image and productivity. If someone believes they are capable of making a difference, their self-image will be stronger, and therefore, there is an increased likelihood of taking action.

That being said, self-efficacy is able to change. If everyone except an individual believes they cannot make the slightest degree of change, they might feel so naive, isolated and futile that they hesitate to make any attempts to better the world around them. Their self-efficacy might’ve been high initially, but with the impact of adults telling them otherwise, they are back to not feeling good enough.


If adults keep telling students — college and K-12 alike — they are not prepared, there will be long-term, destructive effects on their self-efficacy. We will watch them drown in the weight of not feeling prepared only because everybody convinced them that they didn’t know how to swim.

As a byproduct of a middle- to upper-class and well-funded school system that had the resources to provide students with more than enough support, I would like to think that I have seen the “real” world. But I know for certain that there are other students who have dealt with far more hardship than I have within and beyond the classroom. If anything, those students have experienced more of the “real” world than many adults have. Telling them they are unprepared for life and its challenges is simply a lie.

It is time we give students positive affirmations as they further their education instead of doubt. Although age brings increased maturity and experience, we cannot simultaneously preach that growth requires time and then stomp on freshly planted seeds.

The truth is that students have been living in the “real” world this whole time, and our collective skepticism toward America’s youth says a hell of a lot more about us than it does them.

Reach Emma Souza at or on Twitter @_emmasouza.

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