Isn’t necessity the mother of all inventions? Several philosophical arguments attribute the success of physical endeavors in the field of sciences to necessity, for example Newton’s Laws of Motion. The same can be said of the establishment of complex social ideologies such as democracy and the American Constitution. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the world saw necessity result in a massive global movement, the Industrial Revolution. Today, history is just about to repeat itself. The same necessity is instigating a slow but sure revolution in the field of smart technology.
Harmful substance use continues to be problematic among college campuses in the United States. Binge drinking, depression, and stimulant use are on the rise, resulting in plummeting retention rates and low classroom attendance. Alcohol and marijuana have been pinpointed as the two most frequently used substances by college students, which in turn have been linked with inadequate test performance, drunk driving, hangovers, and suicide attempts.
One intervention that has been effective in combating substance use and co-occurring disorders within a college setting is peer support, found in programs like recovery communities and other support groups on campus. Peer intervention is beneficial when membership is deep-rooted in mutual experiences and respect.
As a student in long term recovery from harmful substance use, I came to University of Indianapolis (UIndy) with an immense gratitude for the opportunity to better myself. Thinking back on my past, I was not always so driven. Childhood trauma, lack of sound coping skills, and weak boundaries led me down a dangerous path. My decisions were less than fruitful, and that reflected outwardly in my life. Thankfully, I have been given a second chance. The combination of the memories of my past and who I have become today led me to my life in recovery.
Giving back has been a vital component of my sustained sobriety. I am driven to carry the message of recovery to those who are still struggling. This idea helped me, along with another UIndy student who is also in recovery, create the Healing Hounds, a peer support group for students struggling with mental health and/or addiction. While we both love the University of Indianapolis, prior to the creation of Healing Hounds there were no services or groups on campus for people in recovery. Initially, we thought we would start a 12-step meeting at UIndy. However, it did not take us long to realize this may not appeal to students. After researching different options, we learned about the Collegiate Recovery Community model that exists on other larger campuses. It offers a safe space for students to talk about recovery. There are no rules. Members do not have to commit to anything. We thought that something similar would be helpful to the UIndy campus.
Continuing to Help Others
Our initial goal was to provide hope by sharing our stories with others like us. Being new to the UIndy campus was a bit of a barrier at first. We both reached out to students in our classes and recruited several students for our first meeting. Surprisingly, we filled our entire Healing Hounds board during our first day. Participation grew with each meeting, so much so that we needed to seek a larger room.
The mission of Healing Hounds is to provide a peer support network to students with mental health issues and/or addictions to drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, and/or sex by providing fellowship and support for students with mental health issues and/or addiction in a non-clinical setting. Healing Hounds promotes holistic wellness and encourages students with mental health issues and/or addiction to live life to the fullest, despite their struggles, in a way only peers, allies, and survivors can.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or addictions, please reach out to a similar organization or hotline. Recovery is difficult, but it can be made much easier with people by your side to encourage you. If your campus does not have an active support group, I want to encourage you to start your own! You never know how many people you can impact through it.
Oftentimes, we fail to seize the day because we are held back by worry. Worrying about what others think of us, needless worry about our appearance or social circles, others’ seeming success, our endless failures and worrying about not making it to the top. We internally create this mental maze of worry that leads to nowhere. I was always taught to think and act as an independent being – to not concern myself with social acceptance or living up to public expectations. I know that these teachings, among many others, are what enabled me to keep pushing against expectations of what others wanted me to become, helping me to find myself outside of the maze created by others. In spite of naysayers, discouragers, negativity and outright opposition, I overcame. Not only that, but I did it while maintaining my sanity and refusing to be defined by the system’s expectations and even its jaded definition of failure.
Congratulations! You got accepted to transfer to some of your favorite schools. Your hard work and dedication in high school and community college has separated you from all the other applicants and now all these remarkable universities want to welcome you into their campuses. However, now you face a new issue: how are you supposed to know where to go? You can’t attend two schools in different corners of the country, so you must choose between them. Before we dig in into this topic, let me give some quick advice: Do not select your school only for its name. Now that we are clear in what not to do, here are some elements that might help you make an informed decision.
Cost of education has skyrocketed during the last decades drowning many graduates into student loans for years. If you are eligible for financial aid, make sure to take a deep look into your financial package. Analyze how much money each school is offering you in grants, loans, and work study in order to compare them to their cost of attendance. Remember that if you are planning on leaving your current town, you will need to account not only for tuition and fees, but also for food, housing, and transportation. When you are doing this analysis, do not assume that your in-state school is your best option because it seems cheaper. For many of my friends and I, out-of-state institutions offered us a remarkably better package of grants than what our in-state school did.
Let’s say that you are fortunate enough that your family can afford any institution you want to transfer to or more than one school is offering you a full ride. If you are in this selective group, you might want to consider weather as part of your decision. Let’s say that you are from a northern state and you are considering moving to South Florida. Are you sure you want to live your next couple of years in a never-ending summer? Or what if it is the other way around? If you are originally from Florida and all you have experienced is summer, are you willing to transfer to a state like Michigan or Wisconsin where it can easily snow for five months? You need to be happy where you are at and the weather can play a big part in that.
Weather and money aren’t breaking the tie? Base your decision on what will make you happier. I know it can be hard to know what school will actually make you feel more welcomed and happier, but you can start by asking yourself the following questions. If you transfer to either of your choices, will you go alone or is there a friend that might go with you? Transferring with someone you know that can support you and help you in this new transition can make a huge difference. How is the student life at both schools? Make sure to do the appropriate research and see the universities’ traditions. What school resonates more with your own values? Can you visit either school and walk around town? If it is possible, try visiting both schools and pay close attention to their culture. Are they friendly and welcoming? Or do they look exhausted and mean? Being able to see these things can be a good representation of if you think you’ll be happy there and actually like going to school.
Once again congratulations, not many students have the privilege of saying that they are having trouble picking between two or more amazing institutions that accepted them. I hope these points help you make an appropriate decision. If none of these factors broke the tie, then refer to each school’s ranking. However, just remember that for any employer, their expectations and prestige will be the same for an engineering graduate from Georgia Tech, University of Texas, or University of Michigan; or a politician graduated from Stanford, Harvard, or Georgetown. If you are on the top, one or two positions on the rankings will not matter.
With time comes change. It is no secret that engineering has a challenging curriculum, especially Chemical Engineering (ChemE). For community college transfers, the transition can be blindsiding compared to expectations, which is exactly what happened for me. Like a rollercoaster, I was in line to begin a new ride of my life, along with other “top-notch” students. But little did I know, the journey ahead of me was going to be different than expected.
Claiming My New Reality
Stepping up to a four-year university was an exciting challenge for me. In the beginning, I looked forward to socializing with others who shared my STEMsation passion and occupying my downtime with extracurriculars. Once I realized what I would face, I was overwhelmed with fear and panic. My first round of tests discouraged me into second-guessing my abilities; even altering my ways of learning and studying made no change in my grades. It was like the wind kept pushing me back and I kept enduring the turbulence without time to process or recover what just happened. I went downhill fast.
Harnessing My Energy
A quarter into my first semester, I hit rock-bottom. I noticed I was not my typical self and forgot what my education meant to me. My education seemingly turned into an obligation rather than enjoyment. It took some time before I knew what to do. I realized I had to begin with my mental health. There came a period where I had to let go of my unrealistic expectations and focus on myself—my goals, thoughts, actions, and reflection. Patience and time were key components to my process. For example, the most effective part of taking action was verbally encouraging myself that I need to keep moving forward, repeatedly saying “You got this Meg!” and “You can do it!” After facing numerous loops, something in me had to also change. My ultimate hope was to glide upwards and escalate from there.
Elevating My Dedication to My Major
Despite the twists and turns, I was determined to show others that I was the embodiment of a slingshot effect, pulling myself backwards then shooting towards my target. With my dedication to my goals, I knew I was not going to fall easily. Struggling with one of my most challenging, weed-out courses led me to seek the help of a tutor. Utilizing my professors’ office hours also contributed to my desire to improve my education. Not only did I reach out for more help, but also found myself networking and studying with my peers in the program, especially, Chemical Engineering transfers. Along the ride, I eventually reunited with my grit and felt more like myself than before, ready and looking forward to class instead of dreading it.
To reach your goals, the most important elements are staying in the game and continuing to be engaged and committed. While I may have seemed on track, nothing lasts forever unless you create regularity. The only way I could secure myself from being stuck in a stand-still was recognizing that I was always going to be like a sine graph oscillating up and down periodically hitting highs and lows. So, moments when people were not around, it was up to me to utilize other forms of materials for my classes like videos, online academic sources, and textbooks. After refocusing myself to my studies and continuously taking time for my mental and physical health, by the end of the semester, I was filled with the sensation of thrill, excitement, and refreshment.
My professors always told me that it was up to me to decide my future—nobody was going to do it for me. The biggest lesson from my first semester at a university was taking initiative to get what I wanted from my education. I learned to be a positive coach for myself and that reaching out for help is normal; mentors and friends are constantly jumping on-board to support; and everything will work itself out.
If you are struggling with school and feeling out of place, know that there is a way out. As long as you are willing to work hard and work on yourself, you can make it through and achieve anything you want. I realized my potential to strive for bigger and better and not keep my hopes down because my rollercoaster is not coming to an end anytime soon. I choose to continue moving forward in my adventure, for success starts with me.
I came to the United States from a small country in South Asia called Bangladesh. Coming from a different country, my story of getting a higher education can be classified as unlike many students in college today.
After high school, I decided to take some time off to help with my family’s financial condition. When a year went by, I felt like it was time for me to continue my education. But sickness and lack of preparation prevented me from passing any of the required entrance exams. It was too expensive to take them a second time. Instead I got married in order to remove some of the burdens of my family.
I never gave up on my dream. Even with a husband, I still wanted to continue my education. Being from a Muslim background, I had to face a lot of barriers of negative reactions from my family, friends, and even my husband in the beginning. My story continued when I came to the United States at the age of 18 with hopes of going to college. My husband thought it would be impossible and that I wouldn’t fit in, but I showed that I was willing to work. I began learning English by going to the library, doing volunteer work, and just talking to people. When my husband saw this, he started to believe in me and to support me.
Two and a half years after high school I finally got into the Community College of Allegheny County as an international student. Even though I should have been rejoicing, I felt there was a sigma about community college. I was told that no one wanted to go there and it was people’s last option, but for me it was everything. I ignored the negativity. I am the first person in my family to go to college and particularly the first girl in anything STEM related. Sometimes a lack of self-confidence and language barriers can get me down, but wanting to make my family proud is what helps get me through it all.
When I first began taking classes I had no friends and I always felt alone; I was desperate to make a connection with people. Also, as an international student my tuition was higher and so money was an issue. I worked hard to earn good grades even though I worried my education might end because of my low financial condition. I even thought about dropping out, but then I got an invitation from Phi Theta Kappa. I took the first steps and joined PTK so that I could talk to people and make friends. I became involved in PTK activities, which helped me make a connection with people and also helped relieve some of my financial hardships by helping me apply for scholarships.
Even though it seemed like there was little chance for me to become a success in college, my positive attitude and patience have made it possible. I’ve learned that by cooperating and communicating with others more, I improve my ability to become both a compassionate leader and learner, and also to make connections with people. When I’ve thought of giving up, I learned to take a step back and look for a way move forward with more energy. I am proving everyone wrong who has doubted me.
Moving to college couldn’t come quick enough as I longed to live my childhood dream of being in the Mecca of Fashion: New York City. I dreamed of studying Fashion Business Management at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). Doing so could have seemed scary especially coming from Jamaica, but I loved traveling and experiencing other cultures with my family. I saw leaving Jamaica again to further my education in New York City as another great adventure. However, after arriving in New York and attending my orientation, the shock of living by myself in a new country kicked in. I realized more than ever that it was time to come out of my personal comfort zone in order to overcome fears, discover myself, and accomplish personal goals.
I had to manage taking care of myself more independently and sharing my living space with people I didn’t know. Then, I realized I had to adjust to more diverse standards especially when it came to gender inclusivity and accepting cultural differences as this deepened my understanding of my identity. It was also a time for me to speak up more for myself as I had no one who fully understood my story, like my family did, to speak on my behalf or to back me up. As a shy person, especially when it came to public speaking, I had to develop how to vocalize my thoughts clearly. I wanted to overcome all these anxious moments outside of my comfort zone so that I could feel a sense of comfort again.
I remembered what somebody once told me before I moved to college, “If you go through college in a personally safe and controlled zone and leave with the same mindset and perspective of the world, you have not learned anything, even if you excelled academically.” This person’s words fueled my self-motivation to act courageous to stand for something and internalize personal responsibility and accountability, and also to be a visionary. From this I was driven to have a significant college experience; I was ready to accept change and push myself to do things I would be nervous to do normally, recognize and tackle my fears, and welcome curiosity for growth to take its course. Here are the tools that have helped me thus far in college to succeed outside of my comfort zone.
The major skill that FIT has taught me is to be unconventional, meaning I had to approach my academics without boundaries and program my mind to be unstoppable. Especially as an international student, I understood that mediocrity would not allow me to accomplish my goals of earning a scholarship and getting hired for an internship or job as I navigated my studies. I had to also keep an open mind in order to be inspired to complete assignments. Additionally, I pushed myself to believe that I could and would get through the requirements of each course successfully. I appreciated my background differences and others’ as an advantage for a more unique story.
Once you keep yourself busy, you will have less time to worry about homesickness. I recommend that you get active on your college campus and further involve yourself in the outside community. After feeling settled during my freshman year I joined a club and a sports team on campus, as well as did voluntary work in the community. This allowed me to start the process of establishing new connections, enabled me to be more well-rounded, competitive, and also opened doors for me to gain more experiences.
Deal with Challenges
Try your best to not procrastinate or shy away from uncomfortable situations that pose no harm. Push yourself to overcome obstacles, use your college support services for help and just do your best and leave the rest to faith. I recognized that I tend to shy away from public speaking but I knew I had to overcome my shyness and strengthen this important skill for presentations. I made a point to participate more in class and put myself forth to publicly speak when the opportunity arose in order to gain practice and confidence. I also approached challenges as a fun game that I wanted to win, for example, to feel comfortable in winning challenges of handling interviews and developing confidence in knowing myself. When campus job or internship interview opportunities arose, I would consider the interviews a chance to practice and gain experience. It is better to look at challenges as an opportunity to become stronger.
My mother told me that your college years can be an exciting time of your life and I agree; you learn more about yourself throughout the journey, are exposed to more truths of the world, and others’ perspectives to understand it. Changes in your life can be scary because you are leaving your comfort zone, like attending college, but it is an adventure that is worth the experience because the good news is that it opens you up to newness and growth!
Imagine thundering footsteps as you race to the horizon of the African savanna and you come upon what you believe will be your next challenge, an elephant. Massive ivory tusks, a trunk so heavy that it outweighs you, feet the size of tires. You look around and there is no one else there but you. Now imagine that elephant being your college degree and it’s your organic chemistry course staring you down. The beast is massive and you are not sure how to conquer it all or how you are going to graduate. As a freshman in college I faced the same task. Knowing my ultimate goal is to pursue a medical degree, I had to meet the challenge of learning to take on a colossal elephant.
There is a saying, ‘there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time’, meaning huge goals can be accomplished by taking on a little at a time. When learning to conquer my elephant, I spent most nights studying and countless hours at coffee shops solving math problems. I pride myself in working hard and being ambitious. It is what fuels me to build a better future for myself. Because of this I often fear the aspect of failure; I believed that one failure would prevent me from achieving my goals. This was not the way to think or conquer the task before me. Instead, I am learning that I have to congratulate myself for the things I have accomplished and appreciate the times I have failed. What I am doing with my failures is seeing what I can learn from them. If going that way or using that particular tactic did not work, I try another way. Ultimately, there is no wrong way to defeat your elephant as long as you take it in strides.
Being driven is a blessing and a curse. I know I can put my head down and work hard, but if I am not careful I can become too focused on the end goal, causing me to lose all direction of where I am. It makes me think, ‘how can I take on this elephant at all’? I’ve realized now that this is not how to approach the beast. I’ve had to learn to break things down. A term paper is no longer a semester-long project, but smaller assignments I make for myself each week. It is not an entire degree I have to finish, but semester by semester. The tasks I needed to accomplish can even change from week to week. I’ve learned to step back and see my goal in smaller increments instead of a 13,000 pound challenge.
While changing my way of thinking may seem small, it completely changed the way I approach challenges. I can still become overwhelmed amid the savanna, but I have learned a skill set to keep me on track. The elephant can be defeated, but it takes determination to accomplish. I believe anyone willing is capable. As long as you take it step-by-step the elephant will get smaller. Where you start is entirely up to you, but the most important part of any plan is to start somewhere. No task is ever impossible to complete, but it is impossible to do so all at once.
College is an exciting time in your life no matter where you come from. It’s a new environment that promises unique experiences, friends, and amazing opportunities. However, for those with a chronic illness, it also comes with a slight sense of unease. You know that you may not have as much energy as some else. Maybe you are going to miss classes for medical reasons several times, or may even have to go into classes with accommodations ready that no one else knows about. Living with a chronic illness sometimes makes it hard to just survive the day, but don’t let that discourage you. I promise that you’ll have the experience you want if you enter college prepared and aware of your health by following these four tips:
Talk To Your Professors Early
Now this is usually no fun to talk about when meeting a new person, but it’s a priority for starting college. Emails can always be sent explaining why you have measures in place, but nothing beats face-to-face interaction. I’ve found many times that professors are more accommodating when you come to discuss with them in person your conditions and difficulties rather than sending a faceless email. Starting the conversation early will help you in the long run when something may happen later on in the semester.
Don’t Continuously Push Through
Everyone with a chronic illness in college comes to a time when symptoms start to present and you have to face that critical decision. Do you try and push through and ignore the symptoms or take time to recover and return to normal before continuing? I can attest that pushing through can work. Maybe you have a test, project, or a paper due the following day. Being able to push through symptoms can be valuable for these situations, but just know you won’t be able to do this forever. It’s a useful skill in small bursts, but is not a good long term option because you need to get the rest your body deserves.
Listen To Your Body
This is probably the most important lesson you can learn. Medical conditions have a way of inconveniently interrupting your study plans and other activities demanded by a busy college schedule. You may think you can keep going, your friend may think so, your professor may think so, but your body will either tell you yes or no. Push too far with anything and you will end up paying the price by missing classes or even worse your grades could suffer. You have to be able to recognize what you’re feeling and be able to pull away from all of your activities if you need to in order to stay on track. Remember, a slight delay with a day of resting is much better than missing a week and trying to play catch up the rest of the semester.
Consider Your Courses
Of course you most likely want to be a full-time student if possible, but class loads can certainly vary. Taking four classes in sciences with labs and mathematics is much different and more taxing than having a mix of art, language, and history. Try to balance out the more time-consuming, harder classes with classes with a lighter workload so you can survive your schedule. Understand this when making your schedule, so you aren’t forced to drop something in the middle of your semester because you are too overwhelmed.
A college student with a chronic illness may have more to think about than the typical student, but don’t get discouraged! Explore, find friends, activities you enjoy, and live the life you want. Just remember to take care of yourself and listen to your body while maintaining balance. You’re going to have a great year!
Thumbnail Photo: Two members of Solar Car holding a windshield above the newly constructed solar car. From left to right: Rachel Eckert, Composites Manager & Materials Engineer; Samuel Winter, Aerospace Engineer.
A new university, a new horizon. Since last spring, I have graduated from Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) and transferred to Iowa State University (ISU) to pursue my bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering. The overall transition from a two-year college to a four-year university was thankfully uneventful; however, I would soon realize the difference in how I should manage my time and work.
Getting Involved (Again)
After transferring, I was unable to continue my previous club activities – as most clubs at DMACC didn’t exist at ISU. I began a quest to find new clubs and hobbies. I ran into an old colleague who mentioned a club they were in, Solar Car. I attended the following Solar Car team meeting and joined as an electrical member. My primary task was to learn how to read circuit board schematics and aid an older member with designing a battery protection system to monitor the car’s Lithium-Ion batteries.
In addition to being involved with Solar Car, I was interviewed and accepted for a part-time IT Technician position on-campus within the Psychology Department. As a technician, I responded to faculty requests regarding problems with their electronic equipment. On top of both positions, I continued full-time school at ISU and began to delve into my coursework, but I failed to realize the predicament I placed myself in. Not only would I have to choose what I enjoyed most, but I would also learn valuable lessons in time management.
By midterms, I began to notice my work piling up unproportionally across all three tasks. As the semester progressed, each task became more demanding with varying expectations. The increasing expectations and workload resulted in several consequences. The two most notable and foremost consequences were my declining homework quality and diminishing amount of sleep. In an attempt to correct my time management errors, I spent more time working late at night to catch up on homework. This not only resulted in a poorer quality of work, but it also reduced my number of hours of sleep. To top it all off, the more time I committed to work, the less time I was able to spend with my family, even during holiday breaks.
Despite my attempts to manage all three tasks, I still deviated from my intended goals and needed to cut my losses during the last few weeks of the semester. I reduced my work on Solar Car, cut back my hours at work, and submitted the homework I could produce within the hours I allotted. This admission helped me regain some sleep and focus for final examinations.
Keep Moving Forward
Taking on a job while balancing coursework and car manufacturing was a worthwhile endeavor. This circumstance brought to light how much I have yet to comprehend regarding time management, but I also learned a great deal about different engineering majors, computer management, and a wide range of topics from my classes. With the deviation from my goals and a poor management of time and work, I learned a few valuable lessons:
One, when scheduling courses and extracurricular activities, ensure that the time scheduled is rarely deviated.
Two, schedule everything as early as permittable.
Finally, while work comes first, ensure there is plenty of time for rest and relaxation.
I will undoubtedly incorporate these ideas into my schedule next semester and beyond. As the future brings a spectrum of challenges, I will continue Solar Car as an Electrical Systems Manager and remain confident no matter what the future may hold. There will always be something to look forward to as the sun rises.
Study abroad is on the rise in colleges and universities. Everywhere I seem to look I see multiple opportunities to go overseas, which is great. When I began my higher education in a two-year college, I was determined to go study abroad. However, I discovered something even better, a program where you take a class throughout the semester at your home institution and then go on the adventure of traveling abroad for that class over a span of 10 days. I did this in my Spring 2019 semester by studying British literature and traveling to the United Kingdom. This travel option won me over immediately and it also worked well with my work schedule and other prior commitments.
I wanted to share the insight I got, so let’s explore the three reasons why I choose to travel abroad instead of studying abroad and how it might benefit some students better, especially the ones that work part-time or full-time in the workforce.
The biggest turn away for studying abroad is the cost that is associated with the program. Most students are either not able to afford the venture or not eager to let go of such a chunk of money for only a semester of study. I found that traveling abroad for a short time decreases the amount you pay and provides scholarship opportunities from the institution, unlike study abroad scholarships that are usually offered through an abroad company nationwide. Choosing to travel abroad directly through my community college meant I only had to pay half of the amount required because of the scholarship opportunities that I sought. Know you don’t have to pay a lot to go abroad if you just keep your eyes peeled for opportunities.
The Time Commitment
The length of study abroad programs does vary based on the location and the semester, but it still requires a full commitment for that length of time. Some students might have the freedom to live in a different country for a whole semester, but most students might find it hard to ask off that long from their part-time or full-time jobs or other commitments. Traveling abroad is usually a shorter span, which is a lesser time to disconnect from your life at home. Going to Scotland and England for ten days was a flexible time frame for me because it allowed me to see a lot in a shorter period and it didn’t hinder my work schedule.
This one will differ from student to student regarding studying abroad and traveling abroad because they provide different opportunities and perspectives. Some students prefer to venture off and embrace life abroad for a longer time, however, not everybody will be the same. I found within myself that I could not leave for that extended time because of the reasons above and that I was not ready yet to plunge into that prolonged experience. Moreover, traveling abroad offers that overseas experience without the long commitment from studying abroad and I found that beneficial in my undergraduate life.
Every student has a different path to their degree, which means that they can choose whether to study abroad or travel abroad. Personally, I loved traveling abroad because of those three reasons, and I am looking forward to traveling abroad again, this time to Moscow and St. Petersburg in May 2020. As I mentioned, I will be taking the class portion at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and then I will travel to Russia afterward. I hope you found this article helpful in deciding on whether to venture off on a big adventure with study abroad or get a taste of the travel without the big-time commitment. Regardless, I wish you all safe travels!
At the age of five, most children embark on their educational journey in hopes to one day obtain a career within a field they enjoy and love. If you would have told me thirteen years ago that I would be attending a junior college while excelling in and outside of the classroom, I would more than likely think you were joking. In reality, as a junior and senior in high school, I was devout and determined to attend Mississippi State University to continue my academic career in the field of communications.
Considering all options
However, after numerous calculations, tuition rates at this senior university over the next four years projected a future of student loans and debt. As a child in a family of four kids, my main goal when pursuing my degree has always been to graduate with the least amount of debt as possible. Therefore, though I still continued to ring my cowbell loud and proud, I began looking into other options and scholarships that would help make my degree more accessible.
One of the opportunities I embarked upon was the Distinguished Young Women’s program for East Jackson County. This scholarship program offers young junior girls the opportunity to earn cash scholarships while competing in the area of scholastics, interview, talent, self-expression, and physical fitness. To my surprise, after weeks of hard work and preparation, I was titled the Distinguished Young Woman of East Jackson County for the class of 2018. Most importantly, I was awarded $3,100 in cash scholarships, and I also was able to receive $500 at the state program where I finished as a top 10 finalist out of 31 amazing young women. Through this program, I learned that I not only earned cash scholarships, but I also earned waived tuition at my local junior college, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, for holding the local Distinguished Young Woman title.
Realizing the clear choice
Therefore, after endless hours of stressful worrying over the future cost of my education, I now received half of my education paid for debt-free. Though putting my cowbell on the shelf for the next two years was difficult, I knew I still had the opportunity to transfer to Mississippi State University with a lot less debt. My choice became a no-brainer. While all my friends began packing their rooms and hauling off to their respected universities, I remained at home and prepared to attend Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
Growing up, I was always quiet and reserved, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, I lacked the self-confidence that is essential for success. As a first semester college student, I didn’t make it a point to be seen or heard. I sat in the back of the classroom and would rarely ever speak out. Because of my lack of self-confidence, I was not active in my education. I slowly began to realize that while I was doing the work and making the grades, I was not growing because I would not allow myself to move outside of my small comfort zone.
I soon realized that in order to gain the confidence that I needed to go to the school of my dreams or to reach my full potential as a student and as a contributing member of society, I would have to allow myself to settle in discomfort. With the encouragement of my professors, I began small by talking more in class. By engaging in class discussion, I began to become a little more open to being heard and I realized that I had something to offer both inside and outside of the classroom.
I gained just a tiny bit of confidence, but that was enough and I continued to push myself to become more engaged. After breaking past the initial discomfort, I began to seek out opportunities to grow and become involved on my campus. I started working with the Phi Theta Kappa chapter on campus, initially volunteering to staff a sex trafficking awareness event for Alpha Iota Chi’s Honors in Action Project. I witnessed the impact that their involvement had not only on campus, but also throughout the community. I immediately knew that Phi Theta Kappa would serve an incredibly important role in my development as a scholar and a leader.
Full speed ahead
The following semester, I successfully ran and was appointed as the secretary and treasurer for the Alpha Iota Chi chapter, as well as Vice President East of the Tennessee Region. I was beginning to grow not only as a student, but as a person. Outside of Phi Theta Kappa, I became heavily involved in the Northeast State Honors Program and presented at Northeast State’s Undergraduate Honors Research Conference. I also was organizing honors program recruitment efforts within local high schools and was chosen to serve as an Honors Ambassador on the Honors Advisory Board. During the fall of 2019 semester, two of my peers and I presented a research paper at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference.
With the encouragement of faculty, I became engaged and active in my education, and this has made all the difference in my success as a student and a leader. I went from being a student who almost never spoke to a presenter and I transformed from a passive student into a student leader. I now feel prepared to continue my education, and I have all the confidence that I’ll ever need to succeed. Let go of your insecurities, break down your personal barriers, and allow yourself to grow.
“How did you go from a small high school in a developing country to a booming public university in the United States?” “How did you travel to Austria and Japan in the middle of the academic year and still manage to keep a 3.96 GPA?” “How do you balance your time when you take 17 credits, work, and participate in extracurricular activities at the same time?” I hear these questions from friends, family, and peers often as they look back on all I have done in the last couple of years. I explain that I constantly look out for content on how to be more productive, successful, and happy.
Tons of hours invested on TED talks, books, and seminars have given me mountains of advice. Some examples include waking up at 5 am when everyone else sleeps and no one will distract you, but when I do that, I run out of energy by 2 pm. I have also heard to attend office hours and ask questions, but my professors’ office hours often conflict with work or other classes. Focusing on your passion means I love engineering, but trust me differential equations are no pleasure. Even though all this advice has been somewhat helpful, it is often too specific and not flexible enough. I had to take in the advice and then tailor it to my own need and situation. After looking back and analyzing the last couple of years, I realized that the secret for my success comes down to these three simple rules I want to share with you.
Rule One: Don’t procrastinate
Regardless of what your goals might be, there will always be a list of tasks we all need to complete to reach them. Have you ever woken up one Sunday to realize you have a paper to write, a presentation to prepare, and a midterm to study for, all by the next day? If you ever experienced this, you probably procrastinated on these tasks. Wouldn’t it feel better if you had written that paper a week in advance, prepared the presentation two days ago, and all you had to worry about was reviewing the hard concepts for your exam? The emphasis is on reviewing, as you had hopefully already studied one hour per day during the last week and feel confident for the upcoming test. The idea of getting things done in advance does require a high level of discipline, but such discipline will not only help you in your academic life, it will also make a great impact in your professional and personal life.
Rule Two: Sleep
Coming from an immigrant household that had to work remarkably hard to pursue a better future, I grew up with a dad that had a mentality that sleeping is a waste of time. When talking about sleeping, my dad pointed out that by sleeping eight hours per day as recommended, I waste 33 percent of my life in bed. However, it did not take me much time to realize that in the 16 hours I am up, I get a lot more done than fighting between getting things done and trying not to fall asleep. Additionally, sleeping has a great influence on your body, and proper sleep helps you enjoy your life more and makes you happier. It is important not to use this rule to oversleep and argue that it will make you even more efficient. Sleeping too much can be as bad as not sleeping enough. If you have the discipline to regularly sleep six, seven, or eight hours per night depending on your own body needs, you will be a lot more productive than those that sleep less and work more, or those that party until late and suffer the next day.
Rule 3: Learn how to manage stress
It is common knowledge that university students experience high stress levels during the academic year. Students perform better when they manage their stress levels. Getting things done in advance and good regular sleep will surely help drop stress levels. However, no matter how well you follow the first two rules, if all you do from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed is work and study, I promise you will burn out by the end of midterms with half of the semester left to go. It is crucial to learn what helps you de-stress. It could be working out, going to the movies once a week with friends, or maybe just watching an episode of your favorite show. Whatever it is, make sure you find the time on your schedule to treat yourself.
I hope these quick general rules will help in your goals. I know it takes a lot of discipline and time to include them in your lifestyle, but it will be rewarding and will take you closer to your goals. If you are looking for other strategies on how to be productive, I recommend the books “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins. Best wishes in your goals and good luck!