One of the reasons why they are so prevalent in our society is because they are focused on topics that play key roles in our lives. There are urban legends that are filled with horror, anxiety, sadness, humor, etc.. but most of all they prove to teach valuable lessons. These lessons are known to come across so clearly, simply due to the manner in which they are presented.
Legends are always supposed to be told in a convincing manner no mater how suspect their actual plot seems to be. One of the most common as well as appealing types of legends is the college legend. In college legends there are several reoccurring themes that are shared. Several of these themes are related to exams and trying to pass by any means necessary. There are numbers of different legends that involve students trying to out smart their professors. Sometimes they win and sometimes they don’t, which is what creates the entertainment value of these stories.
There are many reasons for these legends, one being that going away to school is a huge step in one’s maturation and strive towards independence which can be portrayed accurately through college legends. This creates a great deal of anxiety and doubt that may overcome students attending school away from home. Which is why these legends are so important and why they have been around for so long. Most of all it’s the college freshman who gets hit hardest with these apprehensions and uncertainties.
While researching college legends I came across a legend by the name of “flunk me if you can”. This legend tells a tale of a college student taking his final exam. He, like many other students, is having trouble finishing within the allotted time. He had so much trouble in fact that he continued to write for at least five minutes after the professor announced “pencils down”. The teacher, tired of waiting begins to collect his things along with the other student’s papers and begins to leave to room.
The student realizes this and rushes over to the teacher to hand his paper in. The teacher in turn refuses to accept the paper due to the fact that the student has violated the academic code by continuing to write after time was called. The student then asked the teacher whether or not he knew his name. The teacher replied no, but that he would after he recorded the student’s failing grade. The student then proceeded to knock the other completed tests out of the teacher’s hands and mixed his exam in with the rest.
Immediately after he ran out of the room. So as the story goes, the student ended up getting a B+. This legend plays upon some very important anxieties that almost all college students face, one being the importance of passing final exams, which I believe to be a universal aspect of any student’s life. Another aspect of college that this legend plays on is the factor of time. Time plays a huge role in college, typically it is a matter of balancing your studying and social life, quickly finding out especially as a freshman that no one is going to do it for you. This is why many freshmen have difficulty adjusting to college because they are now entitled with an enormous amount of freedom.
Anonymity is another aspect of college that legends play against. The fact is that if you are in a crowded lecture hall of 100 students or more, the odds are that the teacher doesn’t know who you are. This is very unlike the way that most high school settings are. In high school you have the ability to have a personal understanding with your teachers. This is another reason why I found this legend to be so appealing to college freshman.
Also for most freshman or for that matter any student there is a great sense of powerlessness when faced with academic regulations and unyielding professors. There are several other legends that I came across over the Internet that deal with exams and students struggle with budgeting time. One legend involved a student taking his final exam and it turns out that he only knew the answer to one of the two questions that he had to respond to. So, after some quick thinking he decided to pretend that his first exam booklet was lost by the professor. He accomplished this by writing several closing sentences on the top of his second booklet pretending to conclude the first question that he never answered. He then proceeded to fully answer the second question, the one that he originally knew.
After responding to the second question he only handed in that book. Later he receives the exam back with his single book, attached is his grade “A” and an apology note from the professor for loosing his first book. In this legend the student wins but there are also other legends that devious students trying to cheat there way out of exams loose to an all too wise professor. A legend where the professor catches the students for trying to deceive him involves two students who overslept their Monday morning exam.
They then went to the teacher and told him that they went away for the weekend and on Sunday night while driving home they got a flat tire and became stranded for the rest of the night, therefore they missed the exam. The teacher gave them the benefit of the doubt and let them take a make up exam. The students were placed in different rooms with the same test. The teacher suspected that the students might have been misleading him and therefore on the exam asked only two questions. The first question was relatively easily but was only worth five points, the second stated “which tire?” this question was worth the remaining ninety-five points.
So there are legends where in the student over comes through craftiness but there are also cases where the all too wise professor prevails. Both of these legends shared common themes. The two main themes were time and the fear of failing final exams. In the first tale the student is forced to take a risk in attempting to trick his professor, in fear that he will fail his final exam which may prove to ruin his academic standing and potential success in the future.
Time is also an issue in this legend, it isn’t mentioned but I speculate that the reason for the student not knowing the other answer. The student most likely didn’t spend enough time studying and balancing the rest of his commitments. In the second legend the students problem was that they overslept and missed the exam, which represents a scarcity of time. Time management is one of the biggest downfalls of freshmen college students.
In the article entitled “Freshman Year” this idea is one of the center aspects. This problem was not only recognized by the author, but in almost all of the students interviews this same issues arose. As depicted on a chart of 237 surveyed freshmen thirty percent admitted that adjustment was the most pertinent problem that they faced. In my experience so far I find this percentage to be low if anything, I’ve been here for about three weeks and I’m still not by any means completely settled. This article is filled with factual information and statistics as well as personal accounts from students that cover the same themes that the majority of college legends entail. Urban legends are great tools to uncover certain characteristics of a society, and the culture in which they exist.
College legends even though they are a more specific class of legends they still encompass several aspects of college life, at it’s worst and best. Legends that deal with particular topics for instance exams almost always have the same type of message. This message is a fairly accurate picture of some of the anxieties that occur in students. One of the most powerful fixed resources that exists is time, and if you ask any college student they will definitely agree with you. This is why so many legends play on this factor in order to create more entertaining legends. Even in the article “Freshman Year” one of the main focuses is time management, simply because it is such a large issue.
All three of the legends that I wrote about are all centered around time and the anxieties of exams and the correlation between the two. College legends are one of the keys to interpreting and understanding anxieties that surround freshmen.