How many people can say they were a high school dropout and are now receiving their master’s degree?
I didn’t finish high school and never got my GED. I went to community college for a few years and earned my associate degree but didn’t have enough units and the right classes to transfer to a university. I took some time away from school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career. I basically earned my Associate’s because I had taken enough of an assortment of classes to get a degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. It wasn’t based on a strong desire toward a specific major. After working a few jobs (mostly clerical) for a few years, I decided that I wanted to go back to school because I wanted a job that was rewarding and had a good perspective in terms of job opportunities and salary. I had to go back to my community college to finish classes to transfer, and at 28 years old, I was accepted to a university.
I had some general class requirements that I needed to take before I could take any classes in my major. Among them were English, math, and statistics. Because these were general classes, many of the students were freshman and sophomores. In other words, I was the oldest student in a lot of my classes. This age difference was most apparent to me in terms of study habits. I returned to school for a purpose – to earn my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I felt that a lot of the younger students had come right out of high school and were still finding what majors were right for them. Some of them didn’t take the classes seriously and it didn’t matter to them if they got a C on a test. I always strived to get the best grades possible, and I often wasn’t satisfied unless I got a high A (only 95-100% was acceptable to me).
I remember being in a statistics class and worrying that I wasn’t going to do well because math is not my strongest subject. I heard other students say that the professor was hard and if you asked him for help, he would refer you to the book. In fact, the professor said that many students do not pass the class and need to take it again, which terrified me because I didn’t have the time to do that. The students complained about the homework, the quizzes, and the exams. For not being a math person, I found myself somehow earning the highest grade in the class. I realized it was because of simple tasks like paying attention in class, doing the homework, and reviewing my quizzes prior to each exam (many of the homework and quiz questions were on the tests!). Things that anyone can do and probably should do in any class. Now, I’m certainly not knocking these students down. They are young and still have time. It’s OK if they retake a class or decide to switch majors. In my eyes, I had limited time, so I had to do well.
This determined attitude carried me through of all of the classes in my major. My ultimate goal was to obtain my master’s degree and for that, I needed high grades because it is very competitive. Once I was taking classes for my major, the students were just as dedicated as I was. I wasn’t the oldest student anymore. I was somewhere in between, which meant that there were people with more experience and I had to work even harder. After almost three years, I earned my bachelor’s degree and graduated with honors. It was my biggest accomplishment to date, and it especially meaningful because of my long academic journey. I was accepted into my first choice graduate program and later this year (in seven months, to be exact), I will have my master’s degree. No matter what your past is, you can always change your future. It’s never too late!