My Unconventional College Career Taught Me It's OK To Do Things Differently

My Unconventional College Career Taught Me It's OK To Do Things Differently

To all of the anxious students out there -- this is for you.

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College is tough. It's intimidating, it's overwhelming, and most kids go into college not knowing what to expect. Everyone has this construct in their head of what college should be, and how it should be done: graduate high school, ship out in August, live in a college dorm, graduate in four years, only come home for the breaks. There's a real stigma around the "college experience" as most people think of it. To many, it's partying every weekend, struggling in your classes, alienating yourself from your family, and leaving your old life -- and your hometown -- behind.

I'm here to tell you what college has been for me, and why it's okay not to follow the same path that everyone else does.

I did what most high schoolers are expected to do. I applied in the fall of my senior year. I got my acceptances, and I chose Towson University (this seems obvious, but it's important to the timeline). My best friend chose Towson, too, and we requested to room with each other. My family and I spent all summer shopping for my dorm, and I said goodbye to my friends. In August of 2016, I said goodbye to my hometown of Rising Sun.

It turns out my goodbyes were short-lived. My freshman semester was terrible. I made one new friend all semester, and while she was wonderful, she was far more social and outgoing than I was. I went home every weekend to see my family and my boyfriend, because I didn't have anything keeping me here. I didn't join any clubs, I didn't go to any games, and I spent all of my time getting my homework done early so I wouldn't have to do it during the weekend when I went home.

I realized I didn't like my major and I didn't know what I would do with it in the job field. I spent every week counting down until Friday and I dreaded coming back on Monday. My overall misery, and my depression about not making friends, drove me to my ultimate decision of moving back home for the spring semester and enrolling in community college.

Backwards, right? Aren't you supposed to start out at community college and then transfer to a four-year institution? No. You can do things in whatever order suits your needs, and for me, I needed to be home. I spent the three subsequent semesters taking classes part-time at my community college and working at my old high school job. I was only part-time because I still had no idea what I wanted to do.

Fast forward to fall semester of 2017. Even though I despised Towson while I was a freshman here, I felt myself drawn to it again. I did really love the campus, and the faculty I worked with my first semester were wonderful (shoutout to Professor Baetjer of the Economics department -- I almost changed my major to Economics because of him). I started taking math classes at my community college and decided I wanted to be a mathematics major, specifically an actuary; Towson happens to be one of only three universities in Maryland that is accredited for its actuarial science track.

I ended up right back where I started, here at Towson. While I was so desperate to run away from here the first time around, I can honestly say I'm so happy to be back and I love everything this school has to offer. I changed my major again, like most college students tend to, and I settled on accounting. I joined the Odyssey to create, to get my story out, and to tell everyone that however your college journey goes, it's okay. For me, college was never about going to parties or getting away from home. It ended up being about returning to my roots, finding myself, and then giving it another try. My college journey, while extremely unusual, is no less valid than anyone else's.

So for all of the kids out there who are terrified of college and are unsure of what you'll do: don't worry. Not everyone is built to handle college the same. If you need a year off? Go for it. If you aren't ready to leave home and want to attend community college? Do it. I probably should have started off at community college because I just wasn't ready to leave home yet. If you find yourself feeling stuck and unhappy at your university, there is no shame in transferring home. Really, college is for YOU, and YOUR personal development. As long as you make it in the end, it doesn't really matter how you got there.

What I learned from my backwards college career was not only to appreciate where you come from, but be grateful for where you're going. I'm incredibly lucky to have had supportive parents, and I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to attend Towson not once, but twice. The education I've gained from both colleges I've attended is a blessing that many people don't have access to, and it shouldn't be taken for granted. Everyone thinks college is an opportunity to "start fresh" and leave everything behind. But why leave behind everyone, and everything, that has shaped you into who you are? I'm grateful for the extra year and a half I spent at home. I had some amazing professors at my community college who ultimately inspired me to choose my current major and made for great connections. Going home, and then returning to Towson, has only made me that much more ambitious and eager to join the real world.

Don't be afraid of college. Wherever you end up, whatever you end up doing, college is what you make it. Even if you don't do things "the right way," college is just as much about the journey as it is the destination.

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I Don't Care How Hard Your Major Is, There Is No Excuse Not To Have A Job While In College

If the name on your credit card does not match the name on your birth certificate, then you really need to re-evaluate your priorities.

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We seem to live in a generation where everyone wants to go to college.

It is nice to see that people want to invest in their education, but at what expense? It's easy to commit to a school, and it is even easier to get yourself and your parents into thousands of dollars of debt because you're "living your best life."

To me, it's pathetic if you're over the age of eighteen and you don't have some sort of income or responsibilities outside of homework and attendance. The old excuse, "I want to focus on school," is no longer valid. You can get all A's while having a job, and that has nothing to do with intelligence, but rather your will to succeed. "I don't have time for a job/internship," translates to, "I'm really lazy,".

You don't need to overextend yourself and work forty hours a week, but you should at least work summers or weekends. Any job is a good job. Whether you babysit, walk dogs, work retail, serve tables or have an internship. You need to do something.

"My major is too hard," is not an excuse either. If you can go out on the weekends, you can work.

The rigor of your major should not determine whether or not you decide to contribute to your education. If the name on your credit card does not match the name on your birth certificate, then you really need to re-evaluate your priorities.

Working hard in school does not compensate for having any sense of responsibility.

I understand that not everyone has the same level of time management skills, but if you truly can't work during the school year, you need to be working over the summer and during your breaks. The money you make should not exclusively be for spending; you should be putting it towards books, loans, or housing.

Internships are important too, paid or not.

In my opinion, if you chose not to work for income, you should be working for experience. Your resume includes your degree, but your degree does not include your resume. Experience is important, and internships provide experience. A person working an unpaid internship deserves the same credit as a student working full/part-time.

Though they are not bringing in income for their education, they are gaining experience, and opening up potential opportunities for themselves.

If you go to college just to go to class and do nothing else, then you don't deserve to be there. College is so much more than just turning in assignments, it is a place for mental and academic growth. You need to contribute to your education, whether it is through working for income or working for knowledge or experience.

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A Friendly Reminder About The Science Of Happiness As Your Final Grades Come In

You may be about your grades, but try to keep things in perspective.

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So, it's that time of year again for college students when the semester has just ended and final grades are rolling in. Whether you've gotten your grades or are waiting on a few, here's something that we should all keep in mind.

Often times, there's a lot of stress placed upon grades being the route to happiness. We might think that a certain GPA and certain grades are the be-all, end-all of our futures. Frankly, it really does seem like that given our surroundings. To work out our feelings with this, we often hear that we just need a little change, maybe get out and shift our perspective a little. While advice like this holds merit, sometimes it takes something a little more concrete and a little less philosophical to really believe.

Here is that little reminder:

There was actually a study conducted for over 70 years on the nuances of happiness, and what they found might be of use to you and me. From 1938 to 2013, Harvard conducted a 75 year-long study on happiness led by renowned psychiatrist Dr. Robert Waldinger, and there are three conclusions that can be drawn from the entire experiment:

1. Happiness is achieved through close relationships.

2. Happiness is achieved through quality relationships.

3. Happiness is achieved through supportive, stable relationships.

Wow. Hm. I don't really see anything about grades in there, do you? Thank God there isn't, honestly. Based on the study, happiness is based largely upon the relationships that we foster with the people in our lives, and, while we're at it, with ourselves. It makes sense if you think about it: most of what we'll look back fondly upon is the time we spent doing things that make us happy (aka valuing the relationship with ourselves) and spending time with the people we love. When we have a support system there to help us through, then things become a little less of a chore to handle our self-believe goes up a notch.

So, this is an open invitation to kick back, relax, let your hair fly in the wind, and give yourself a break.

You did what you could with what you had, and you already know that there's always room for improvement. Try to not be down on yourself, really.

If you made someone happier, if you took care of others or yourself, if you made yourself healthier, then you had a worthwhile year, and there are no two ways about it.

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