When I was released from active duty in the Army, I attempted to go back to school because I thought it was what everyone was supposed to do after high school. I was 24 with the livelihood of a high school senior. It was a mess that I never saw coming. I took too many classes, I never showed up for some of them, and I honestly didn’t care about a future at that point in my life. For five years I watched all of my friends and two members of my family not only be successful in their schooling, but still be able to carry on a normal life, while I went from job to job paying for my time to have fun. My Brother just received his associates and is currently working in Utah helping fight forest fires, and his wife has an associate’s degree, and enough credits for two more. When these two decide on a school to go to for their bachelor’s degree, I am certain that they will be successful! When I finally decided to go back to school again, I went with an open mind, took all the advice I could get, and I’ve worked around all these points to help keep me successful in college. It’s never too late to start school again, especially when you start smart using these points I’ve learned from college life itself:
It’s Your Choice– Start small, you have somewhere around 60 credits to earn towards an associate’s degree. Don’t try to take all required classes in your first semester! Even though you might be excited about the college experience, it will be better in the long run to spread the work load out. Learning can be interesting when you can open your mind to new ideas; however, stressing yourself out in the first semester can be devastating to your future schooling. Take some interesting electives, something that can be informative but not overly stressful. Take a class that you might know a little about, and learn more about it, even if it is something as easy as literature and film. A class with no book necessary means that there will be more discussion, where the answers aren’t wrong, and you get a chance to see stranger’s perspectives towards something that you have drawn your own opinion on. Always remember to have fun, it’s your future so live what you love and love what you do!
Stay Prepared- I have my back pack stocked all the time. I’m fortunate enough to be able to buy some extra things that I would normally keep at home. Charging cables, a removable hard drive, thumb drive, computer cleaners and even a mini surge protector (it’s awesome, if you’re at school and something happens to your computer the school can’t take responsibility for it). Other than that I keep a set of pens and pencils, replacement lead, erasers, a calculator, post-it note pads (oh don’t forget the post its) highlighters, sharpies, a small notebook for homework info, and of course plenty of extra paper (both loose leaf and an extra notebook. This is all aside from the stuff I keep at home, so I can utilize the schools resources while having the comfort of home.
Oh and don’t forget to carry some change for snacks, and I usually make sure there is a few energy bars in my bag just in case.
Listen to Everything, and Ask Questions- Professors are just people, and they make mistakes too. That never makes a bad teacher, unless they don’t listen to the feedback and questions from students. It is your schooling, your time that you’re putting into your future! You not only want everything that you can get out of a college, but you want it clear and correct! By paying attention, participating in class discussions and just staying involved in lectures you’ve already made a conscious choice to do well.
Create a Workable Social Environment– I can’t tell you how much parties, camping trips, and all out fun I’ve missed because friends want to do all this stuff last minute and I have homework. It made me mad sometimes to think about the things I’ve missed out on and I get down on myself. Sometimes it’s OK to put stuff off! Go, have fun, life is all about the experiences! In the back of your head though, remember that you still have homework to do. Even though some of your friends work 40-50 hours a week, part of your work week is homework and making sure it is done well and on time. If you start missing classes and assignments, it will snowball right in front of your eyes, and you’ll be failing the class before you know it. Make some new friends in class, some people that you can not only study with, but look for people that are in your same situation. You can’t fully rely on someone else for a class you are taking, but having someone in a similar situation that can remind you about school is extremely helpful! Help yourself by helping someone else pass the class, because if you have to make a choice about going camping or writing that term paper, maybe your new friend can be a voice of reason.
Take Assignments in Stride- In the first couple of weeks in my ENG101 and 102 classes; I see the class dwindle from thirty students to about twenty. The main reason, turning in an average essay. It is OK to fail once, and not do so well on some assignments! You’re here to learn, not show the professor that you already know it all. A bad grade only means that you need to readjust. Students take a class expecting the best from themselves instantly from day one. Since then, I see it in every class. This just simply isn’t true. DO NOT, under any circumstance get down on yourself because of a poor grade! There are sixteen weeks in an average college class, one poor test grade and a few bad essays only puts you a little behind! Study again for that test when you get to the midterm or final, ask more questions, insist on clarity, and try it again. If you start an ENG101 class with an F and finish with a B, that in itself shows your commitment to do better.
I’ve only been back in school for a year and a summer semester, and since then I’ve held a 3.5 GPA. Everything I’ve written about I’ve learned from watching my brother and his wife, discussing personal class and study habits with friends and acquaintances, and listening to strangers stories in classes I’ve taken. If you stopped going to school because it took up too much of your work and play time, it’s never too late to go back. A second attempt is the best chance you’ll ever have, because where you once failed you can change and make the best of this situation. Always remember that it is your schooling, so make the best of it at all times and you’ll be a success.