S. Brandt

In your own words, state Zinsser's thesis.  Is his intent in this essay simply to expose a difficult situation or to effect change?  Explain.

Alex Fix
5/1/2008 07:39:05 am

In his essay “College Pressures”, William Zinsser discusses the life of an average college student in 1979. He describes the hardships of balancing work and play, the large tuition fees, and the over-academic attitude that eliminates the “spirit” of the students. Zinsser’s purpose was to inform the American population of just how defunct the college experience had become. It would seem that Zinsser not only wanted to expose this situation, but to propose that it needed to be rectified as well.
Zinsser speaks about his student’s unfortunate position with the softness of a worried father. He sees the suffering that the students’ posses and he worries about the future. Zinsser begins to believe that with such a spiral of competitive disillusionment, the integrity of the true learning process would be compromised. He believes that the students need to pursue their own goals, but to pursue them as the opportunities present themselves. Zinsser believes that there is no one to blame for this problem, but rather that everyone is a victim of an increasingly vicious cycle. While he does not explicitly state a solution, he does imply that perhaps the solution is for both colleges and students to focus on learning in a broad spectrum of subjects.

Mansford Masters
5/1/2008 09:25:02 am

As an observer and educator of young minds, William Zinsser attempts to expose the problems and vices that often entrap young, bright-eyed undergraduates starting fresh in college. However, this is not Zinsser’s overall purpose. As he states in the beginning of his essay, and as he supports towards the end of it, his purpose is to help students recognize the pressures of society so they may avoid them in their first undergraduate years. Thereby allowing them to embrace their own individuality. So while Zinsser is exposing the difficulties of college, he is mainly trying to motivate his students to take a course of action, and that is the one that they prefer for themselves.
At the beginning of his essay, he explicitly states, “What I wish for all students is some release from the clammy grip of the future.” Then for the first half of his essay he classifies the different types of pressure that are causing students to follow safe, planned paths for the future. In this first half is where he sticks to exposition, and may mislead his readers into thinking that his purpose is only to expose these difficulties. This exposition is quite necessary however, because in doing so students are seeing the problems and pressures they need to watch out for or may have already fallen into. By realizing what they are, they can more confidently and happily get around them. Zinsser believes that they will elude these pressures and follow the path that he believes to be best; a path that leads to individuality, freedom, and positive, creative developments for society.
After giving his students the recognition of common problems in American education, he strives more directly towards his purpose, which is for students to maintain their individuality. However, he makes sure that students see the benefit in sticking to the goals they want for themselves; not just some preplanned road for the future that they (and mostly their parents) believe will lead to happiness through financial security. He makes sure his students see this by giving examples of people in overcrowded clubs and professionary lines, turning them into mass cliches that no longer carry self-importance for the people in them. He finally concludes his essay by showing friends who have made it by following unexpected turns, and following their heart. Perhaps students will allow the air of possibility to engulf them, and not allow themselves to be engulfed in narrow tunnel that has blocked out random possibility.

Mike Rodriguez
5/1/2008 11:04:06 am

In Zinsser’s story, “College Pressures,” he talks about the social, political, and economic pressures of going to a major university and how it encourages uniformity and overachieving. Zinsser states numerous times when students ask for help to balance a normal life, while satisfying the needs of themselves, their peers, and their parents. While he explains all of this, it is hard to believe that he is not only exposing a difficult situation but also trying to bring change to this unfortunate situation.
Many times Zinsser explains how everyone wants to take the “right” road, which is the safe, easy choice for a more economically safe job in the future. Even if that is truly not what the students are passionate about. Instead of being a well-rounded student or person, they would rather be narrow-minded or have tunnel-vision while they can only see one route to a successful career. Many students would rather take pre-med, pre-law, pre-business, and what some people described to him as “pre-rich.” That is exactly how the generation was thinking at the time, and still even today. These students no longer have a free spirit to enjoy life. Instead of enduring obstacles to make them a better student, it creates that tunnel-vision where it reiterates that there is only one way to be a successful person in this world.
It is not only the students putting pressure on themselves, but it is also their peers, parents, and social upbringing. With so many wealthy people in today’s society it is hard to look at a content, hard-working, “average” individual as successful. They could be some of the nicest people in the world, but the only thing that matters is if they are better on paper. Even Zinsser talked about how people would only care that they looked good on paper, by over-working, and over-exerting themselves. Zinsser wants to bring change to this world by letting individualism roam free without their being a definition on “success” unless that definition is “to be happy with one’s life.” He is only looking for a more optimistic attitude from his students that seem to not grasp the entire meaning of life because the limits others have put on them.

Kyle Jones
5/1/2008 12:00:30 pm

In the excerpt, “College Pressures”, William Zinsser’s title is self explanatory. His intent is to describe a difficult situation. He says that there is not only one kind of pressure that college students feel. This is his thesis, which carries the whole paper to the many different pressures that college students have to deal with.
As Zinsser elaborates along in the paper, he first touches down on describing the difficulty of economic pressures and how tuition is steadily rising for the college student and the redundancy of starting out from college already in debt to that college from which he graduated from. Next, Zinsser points out the trouble of parental pressure and how it leaves the student torn between following the parents’ expectations, or going to pursue their ambitions. The main problem with parental pressure is the student is taught that their status is established only by a practical career in the labor force. Then, Zinsser speaks on peer pressure and provides the example of a student thinking that her roommate's doing better than her when her fact her roommate feels the same way about her. Zinsser states that the problem with that is that fact that everyone wants to outdo everyone else which leads to the last pressure. Finally, Zinsser makes a smooth transition to the self induced pressure. He gives the example of students that type 10 page papers when they are assigned to do 5 pages, overexerting themselves in order to impress their professor who may not except a paper that long. In turn this makes the one person who actually does 5 pages look like he is not doing well by any standards.
Zinsser ends saying that he observes how students put on the front that they have known that they were going to pursue their job position that they currently hold. Zinsser leaves off saying that those particular students cannot imagine what they would have became if they had just followed their ambitions closest to their heart.

Kyle Jones
5/1/2008 12:03:53 pm

Alex presented me with the idea that I hadn't looked at before. I didn't even look at Zinsser's tone to have a soothing fathering tone. Kudos to you Alex!!

Camille Warren
5/1/2008 12:07:25 pm

In William Zinsser’s “College Pressures” he clearly states that today’s college students are becoming more and more disconnected with their passions and are being thrown into the world of practicality. College should be a place of experimentation and discovery, but instead it’s turned into a madhouse of stress and fear.
Zinsser conveys his point through the usage of many examples and descriptions. His point in this essay is to expose a difficult situation and to evoke change. There is a growing problem that Zinsser addresses, we are losing our sense of creativity and drive for ambition. The American youth is aging faster than the body allows. It is not only an issue with college students but with students in general. Students across the nation are becoming overwhelmed and stressed with the same “economic pressure, parental pressure, peer pressure and self-induced pressure” Zinsser speakes of in his essay. Zinsser feels as if we should just relax. There is no process or rulebook on success or happiness; we neglect our dreams and desires in search of financial stability and practicality. “I tell students there is no right way to get ahead-that each of them is a different person, starting from a different point and bound for a different destination.”
At this point in our lives it is easy to be afraid of all the pressure and horror that surrounds us everyday, but, we must stay true to ourselves and follow our hearts. Zinsser’s thesis is a very honest and valid statement about our youth. “They can hardly conceive of a career that was not preplanned. They can hardly imagine allowing the hand of God or chance to nudge them down some unforeseen trail.”

Ashley Roth
5/1/2008 01:08:57 pm

In Zinsser’s Collage Pressures, he expresses the need for a student to go to collage for the right reasons. Zinsser writes of the curtain pulls collage student feel, whether it be internal or eternal. According to Zinsser, in the past students went for the joy of learning but, now he says people go to get ahead in life. His purpose in writing this is to propose a change, in other words there needs to be a change in how people think about collage and there future.
By organizing his essay by pressures, Zinsser evaluates each situation and how it is handled appose to how it use to be handled. Zinsser highly supports the old ways of dealing with collage pressures because he believes it is a better way of handling the stresses. Zinsser believes that the world today leaves no room for failure as well. By pushing students to far they will never succeed and according to his argument one must fail to learn. This would be impossible without a change. Zinsser’s essay is also shocking, because when he says we are the ones who narrows the road to our futures, he is right. Without failure we will never succeed or explore. So how would one expand there horizon? The answer is simple change how you think. Instead of being bored in all your classes, then think if this area doesn’t interest me, maybe I need to try something new. If nothing else Zinsser write this to make people think about how there thinking affects there out come.

Afaribea Dodi
5/2/2008 11:16:30 am

Today, many young adults entering college feel pressure from society, their parents, and even their peers to take rigorous courses. Unfortunately these young adults do not know how to balance school work, and a social life. In William Zinsser’s short essay College Pressures, he explains how the students he has encountered often feel that they have to go above what is necessary, and do extra work. They often feel as if they have to please their parents and others around them, forgetting about THEIR goals. Zinsser’s thesis is simply implying that college students should worry too much about trying to the best at everything. He just wants these young adults to stop and smell the roses.
Zinsser’s intent is to effect change. He wants college students to get the most out of their experiences. Life is full of surprises. Instead of trying to make things happen, one should just let them happen. Zinsser feels as if college is becoming a place where no one really wants to be, but they are their because of outside pressures. Students feel the only way to be successful is to become lawyers, doctors, and scientist. Any other job like an artist or pianist seems obscure, because these are not “eminent” professions. It is not about excelling in everything; it is the love and fulfillment one gets from their experiences that really matters. If college students would use their own maps to guide them trough life, instead of their parent’s maps they would not feel so lost. They have to be proactive, and decide who they want to become.
College is a place of opportunities. Sadly, it is slowly deteriorating into a place where students feel as if the only way to succeed is to overachieve. This is a fallacy that Zinsser wants to change. As Confucius once said “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Alyssa Gerstner
5/3/2008 02:15:20 am

The pressures that college students face today are not that much different then the pressures in the past. William Zinsser wrote his essay “College Pressures” in 1979 about the pressure to keep afloat college life and balance academics and life. Zinsser is trying ot expose a challenging situation as well as trying ot effect a change.
Zinsser begins by categorizing the different pressure that are felt by the students he came into contact with. Peer pressure, economic pressure, parental pressure, self-induce pressure, all of these push the students to their breaking points. Zinsser uses several examples to show how difficult the college experience is. He has experience with the students, and knows how hard school is. The students work themselves to the bone in an effort not to learn, but to succumb to the pressures that are forced upon them. Instead of following passions, they follow their parent’s dreams of “pre-rich” degrees. Instead of following the assignments, they overachieve. Zinsser is trying to show what the students have to face, what drives them. By exposing the difficulties of the college life, Zinsser is hoping to change the situation. By revealing it, he hopes that things might change. He wants the students to live their lives without all of the pressures, and to experience all that college has to offer. He wants to see the American system of higher education change. By exposing the problem, change can be brought about. He isn’t chastising the students, parents, colleges, but the whole process.

Bryan Kennedy
5/3/2008 02:54:40 am

In “College Pressures” William Zinsser talks about the stress that college students have to go through. There is the choice between their parent’s wishes for their kids to be rich and stable when they grow up or if they will follow their own dreams and try to make it their way. They also have to worry about the pressure of money in their future and while they are in college because of the ever growing price for education.
“College Pressures” is written to tell the difficulties that college students have on their lives. They must pick their major, even if it isn’t the one that they want to choose. They must find ways to work for the money they need to pay for college and hopefully not be in debt when they get out. The students, with all these pressures, must also find time for their own personal lives and activities that they like to do. Zinsser’s essay is about the hardships of the life of Yale students in 1979 but all these problems still exist today. The problems are most likely worse because of the rising cost of living in more modern times. The money problem and the problem about the future that the students go through are the main problems that the students have. Zinsser talks of a young lady who “is obviously an artist” has to deal with her father and how he believes that being and artist is “dumb”. This changes the young lady’s future because she can’t do what she wants to do all because her father doesn’t believe that it will be a good job for her when she gets older.
The essay “College Pressures” is written to explain to everyone the hardship of being a college student. It talks about all the different struggles that the students must face- money, parents and the future.

Karen Riley
5/3/2008 05:30:34 am

The thesis of William Zinsser’s essay is very simple; that you should enjoy college, rather than dread every second of it. He develops this thesis as he is talking about the many experience in college life. He makes his point clear through many points of view of students, and he also discusses topics that put a lot of students under pressure when in college in 1979 such as managing time for work and play, and tuition. His main focus also is about how students aren’t following their dreams, but simply following an easy path out. By stating all these examples of negative things about college, he is helping future students to avoid these issues if they choose to pursue a college education.
Many students enter college in fear of what may come for them in the future. Zinsser explains this very clearly in his essay. He talks about how students then were taking the “safe” route, or the easy path, that would guarantee them to a safe stable economic future. Many students were deciding to take a major in classes that were unsatisfying to them, rather than pursuing their dream career. They would decide to take pre-med, pre-law, or as Zinsser put it “pre-rich”. His essay helps students discover that deciding to be “pre-rich” isn’t the only way to make money when out of college. It also helps to let students know its okay to follow their dream even if it is not what is expected of them by either their friends of their parents. He does this in his example of a girl student who decides to major in art, when her parents would rather her major in something of higher income. Even through this pressure she remains with her major and continues through school without issues. Without students like these, college life would seem almost “robotic” and without any desire to have fun.
For most students college will be a very scary experience. However by Zinsser’s examples of negative aspects of college pressures, he shows us it is possible for college to be a positive experience.

5/3/2008 11:59:42 am

As someone who constantly interacts with college students, on a regular basis, William Zinsser is definitely an individual who is qualified to not only make observations about them, but also to suggest changes that could be made to make their lives less stressful and far more enjoyable. Zinsser is not content with the way college students are living; he feels as thought they are spending too much time focusing on the future and not enough time on the present. He is upset that the generation he is in contact with is dangerously driven, yet he feels as though these students that fill their schedules with the most difficult classes and the most time consuming extracurricular activities are some of the nicest, most caring people he has ever met. The crushing pressure to "succeed" is something that truly worries Zinsser.
Although Zinsser is exposing an essentially dangerous situation, he is also trying to encourage students to changes their behavior. He does not come out and say it, but his message is clear. He wants each and every student to be themselves and not let society motivate them. He wants them to study what they want to, not what their parents want them to study. Zinsser will not be satisfied with merely getting his message out; he wants to effect an entire generation with change.

Lakeshia White
5/3/2008 12:11:53 pm

Every graduating high school seniors looks forward to finally leave their parents nets and embark on a journey to find themselves by going to college. Although going off to college is an exciting part in any student’s education career, it may turn out to be a very stressful time. In William Zinsser’s essay “College Pressure” shines light on the constant pressures that every university student faces.
Throughout “College Pressure” Zinsser infers that in a time that is so critical in the lives of many student, risk should be taken and that the student should not be pressured economically, parental, peer, and self-induced. With this thesis, Zinsser intends to address the various pressures that college students face from the nation, their parents, and to the students themselves. Zinsser goes into greater detail about the different pressures by first addressing the nation. In his essay, Zinsser states, “One of the few rights that America does not proclaim is the right to fail.” The message that the nation is broadcasting out to these students is that failing is not an option. That success is held at a pedestal and is the only thing that matters, even if it means neglecting the things that you want and need.
Then Zinsser addresses the parents as a key role in the anxiety that the students faced. Zinsser acknowledges that the parent have good intention for their child but also noticed that the student was unhappy. The parents are looking into their child’s future for financial stability. That’s why parents push for their children to be lawyers and doctors. And because of this many majors like classical and philosophy go undiscovered, therefore are enabling the students to develop many different option.
From other students pressure is applied to other college students. In a world where the workplace is so competitive, students try to out due their fellow students. By competing for the top spot, students compete by taking vigorous classes and studying until the wee hours of the night.
With so much pressure on a college student, they become blind-sided by what they want to see in the future. They tend forget what is in front of them and that is take risk. The risks the college students may take can be very beneficial to themselves and their future.

krystal rodriguez
5/4/2008 10:38:06 am

Zinsser's essay describes what college students go through in a daily basis. He describes their pressures, expectations, and obligations to their course and how it changes their own person. His thesis is reinforces how college students are having a massive amount of weight on their shoulders and how the weight is being put on by both society's expectations and themselves.
Zinsser intentions on writing this essay are simply to inform the world of how our culture is driving students live a succesfull live, but to so so one must spend endless hours writing papers and "overexerting" to impress the professers. Zinsser explains that the reason students become so "goal-obsessed at such a young age" is because they are trying to gain all of the success that the American culture describes as "right", instead of following wha they truly desire to do. Zinsser has one of two purposes: to inform the public of the crisis that the nation's new generation is battling, and to create motivation to change the way students' stresfull path of success and change it for the better.

Byron Wigfall
5/4/2008 11:42:57 am

Zinsser’s thesis is that of not trying to fit into a “slot” society has created for people, but to inhabit oneself as an individual, and to find where one comfortably fits in and where the spirit can most thrive. In today’s society we are constantly grabbing at what is next and new by societal definition rather than stopping and saying, “You know what? I’m perfectly happy with what I have.”
Zinsser’s purpose is to effect change, because the way he presents the situation in the negative light, the reader is forced to feel that a change needs to occur to stop the things Zinsser describes is happening from happening. Although Zinsser’s purpose is to effect change, the change is not outlined by one goal, or one solution, but the change is a a change in mindset. Zinsser is trying to push the importance of young people not living by others’ standards, but realizing what they want to do and be ok doing that. Zinsser explains how society tells us that striving to be an actor is a “dumb” and “unpractical” goal, but who is society to tell someone that they are not going to be happiest person they can be, being an actor?
“College Pressures” by Zinsser is once again clearly trying to effect change, because the same story could easily be written in a positive light, showing how students are pushed to work harder through the influence of other peers, parents, self etc. Zinsser’s essay is clearly not objective, but contains an edge on it that shows his want for change. In paragraph 30, Zinsser talks about an artist on campus that is clearly good at what she does, but how her parents disapprove of her dream. At the end Zinsser says, “…and she deserves to follow her muse”.
This clearly shows that Zinsser has an opinion on the matter and he feels a change in mindset needs to occur in order for society not to drive itself into the ground. The more society reaches for higher and higher the more worried us as people become. The stress of trying to fit into a “slot” society has created for us and at the same time stand out is not something that can possibly ruin us, when all we have to do is step back and find ourselves as individuals and accept ourselves for the standards we are most comfortable with.

Ashley Holley
5/5/2008 02:19:39 am

Todays generation is suffering, that is according to William Zinsser, the master of Bradford College. In his essay “College Pressures” he explains the various troubles that college student undergo. Zinsser discusses the stress that is placed upon students today. There are “four kinds of pressure working on college students today: economic pressure, parental pressure, peer pressure, and self-induced pressure.” With this students are straining themselves to stay and/or get ahead. Their constant strive and need for success brings consistent tension to their lives.
With this essay, Zinsser’s purpose is not only to expose the “college pressures” but also to possibly bring change. He implies that with the continuance of the students striving for perfection, the success that all these students stress themselves over will be almost impossible to achieve.

1/26/2013 09:18:08 am

This nigga William, Talking bout young niggas with no inspiration to chase their own dreams because tremendous pressure appointed by peers and society have placed on them. These hoodrats mindlessly follow the dreams others have placed into their futures for a secure idea of financial success.

2017 Noob
5/1/2017 07:10:27 pm

Damn I wanna be part of this piece of history. A day more than 9 years old. Damn.


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    S. Brandt

    This is my first attempt at blogging, so please be patient with me.  Incorporating a blog into the AP curriculum will help facilitate discussion that can be rewarding for everyone.  Here you will be able to post your responses online and to see what the rest of your classmates are analyzing as well.  Enjoy the experience and let me know what you think.


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