Every year since I was five-years-old I would get the usual school supplies: pens, pencils, notebooks, calculator. I secretly loved school, even up to my last year in college. It was the idea of newness, a fresh start, anticipation, and all those cliques. It wasnt just the social aspect yes, new clothes made you feel like a rock star; but it was also the studiousness of it all. I felt motivated and older, more mature.
Now, I cant get that feeling any more. I suppose I could stay enrolled in school like its my job, but I couldnt afford that. I could also crash classrooms, kind of like a wedding, but weirder.
But in the end, I feel better when I can look at my diploma and think, I will never have algebra homework EVER again.
Although I am finished with school, I can offer advice to those who still have to pay attention to the back-to-school signs. Keep in mind that I am not an expert, only a post-student citizen with personal experience.
AGE & WISDOM
Lets start with the little guys the ones who are ready to move past eating glue (but still secretly do underneath their desks). Yes, Im talking to the junior high student. You probably think you know a lot, and you do. But you will never know more than the authority figures above you.
With age comes wisdom. The adults around you have made the same mistakes you have. Just do what your teachers, counselors, coaches, etc. tell you to do. Youll be happy to learn that at a university, there is more of a collaborative learning process. Professors treat you more like a peer with the understanding you have a sincere interest in education. For now, deal with being treated like a kid, because at college, the expectations are a little higher. The more mature you are now, the more communication youll have with your professors and maybe get an invite to grab a beer and discuss philosophy class with them.
Finally, pay attention to your school work. I cannot stress how important it is to know what youre learning. The day I found out my seventh grade math teacher didnt grade our homework, was the day I doomed myself to stumble in math a subject I hate the most, today.
I actually cried after one intermediate algebra test my sophomore year at Northwestern Michigan College.
To the high school student: This is not the climax of your life. Dont let it be. Youve heard the old adage: High school is the best years of your life. I have seen this firsthand, coming from a graduating class of 52. Some of my classmates never saw past the town borders -- they only saw memories.
Enjoy high school as just another stage of life. You have great friends now, but you will meet some of the most amazing and interesting people on a college campus. Dont be texting your high school friends at the back of philosophy class. Your future roommate could be sitting right next to you.
HOME OR AWAY?
If youre like I was when I graduated high school, you probably want to attend a college as far away from home as possible. Or, it may be the other extreme and you want to stay as close to home as your parents will sanely allow you. There are disadvantages to both.
Ask yourself why you want to get away or stay close. Are you seeking independence? Do you have a high school sweetheart? Are you on parole? (Kidding.) Geographic location should be one of the last reasons on your list to pick a school, unless travel time, budget, psychological/physical health play into it. Otherwise, youre only setting yourself up for trouble when you pick a school based on palm trees.
I personally wanted to get away. But, finances trumped independence and I attended Northwestern Michigan College; a 45-minute opportunity for my parents to visit me.
Plus, going to a community college allowed me to get the basic credits out of the way before committing to a degree.
Speaking of commitment, I changed my mind three times. I heard somewhere that the average college student changes his or her major three to four times, so I was right in the middle of normal. You will be too.
However, I hope to make that process a little easier by offering a few tips in that area:
1. Pay attention to what youre good at. In The Dark Knight, the Joker says something along the lines of, Dont do something youre good at for free. You can be successful if you practice and care about what youre doing. Im getting paid to write my thoughts down right now, so apparently Im good enough to get a check!
2. On the same token, pay attention to the classifieds. Our economy isnt exactly demanding writers at the moment. Had I noticed the demand in the medical field, I would probably have added another two to my 19 years of schooling in order to get a well-paying job.
3. Had I paid attention to my math homework in seventh grade, I probably would be in medical school!
4. Think about where youll be living in the next five to 10 years. If you want to live in a big city like Chicago or New York, you have boundless options. If youre like me and want to stay in the little town that grew on you, your options may be a bit limited.
My sister Katie graduated from Grand Valley State University two years before I did. She earned her Bachelors in Secondary Education and is currently working on her elementary education certification a Masters.
She is also recently married, and settled on living in Traverse City, a move that is not conducive to her degree. Like many Michigan teachers, she is unemployed.
I may not be employed but Im happy where we live. We will never move out of the area because no matter what, we will probably spend our entire life trying to find a way to come back, says Katie.
So, if you have a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and discover there really isnt much you can do with that in Northern Michigan, you may want to consider changing your major or location. By the way, what can you do with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology?
STICK WITH IT
When I started my freshman year of college, I woke up an hour early to do my hair, put on my makeup, and pick out what I was going to wear. By the end of that year, I was rolling out of bed five minutes before my first class, heading out the door in my sweats (the unofficial college student uniform).
Youll learn that sleep is more valuable than appearance. You will have long nights of cramming and moments of sacrificing a night out whatever it takes.
The important thing is that you have the determination to finish college and get your degree. There will be tears about unfair teachers and holes in the financial aid system. But guess what, college isnt the hardest thing youll have to endure.
I recently saw a bumper sticker of a young man proudly holding a diploma. Underneath the drawing it said, Congratulations on getting through the easiest part of life.
College is meant to prepare you for whatever the future holds. Its a time to grow and learn. Its the hand that guides you out the door slowly. Its your chance to explore your independence and have a little fun along the way.
Ultimately, college is the climax of your 12 + years of education. Afterwards, youll be looking at back-to-school signs that now read, So what are you going to do now?