Do I look smart to you? Do I seem intelligent? Is there a certain level of sophistication that I affiliate myself with? If your answer is no, then chances are I’d agree with you. I graduated from high school in 2008 and it’s quite clear that I’ve been in college for quite some time now. The only problem? I’m dangerously behind.
Earlier this semester, I dropped Mechanical Physics because the material was too difficult for me and I was not prepared for it. Most of my time went into this class, yet the worst results came out of it. It was time to let go. By doing so, I’ve added another item to my ever-growing list of college career setbacks.
How behind am I? Lets put this into perspective. If I never had any academic setbacks in my life, if never had to attend middle school for a fourth year, if I went straight to a university after graduating high school, and if I committed to being a full-time student instead of a full-time employee, then I would most likely be graduating this year. Simple as that. But no, I am behind by at least two years. I know so many people who are graduating this year and I am proud of each and every one of them. These are people I had class with dating all the way back to Pre-Kindergarten. Unfortunately, it also brings out the guilt in me, knowing that I could have been one of them too. I’m growing older every day and the last thing I want to do is continuously rely on my family to take care of me. It’s getting to the point that I need to show responsibility and take care of them, but I can’t do it if I keep hammering nails into my college career coffin like this.
But why is all of this taking longer than it should? Most of it is clearly my fault, but some of the fault comes in not knowing which classes I needed to take during my time at community college. I didn’t have a solid degree plan in my hand to guide me until after I transferred, so there was really no practical way of knowing specifically which classes I needed to take, or if community college even had the classes I needed at all. Credits for three of my classes didn’t transfer either, so over an entire semester of work at community college went to complete waste.
So I may not be smart, but let’s not jump to the conclusion that I’m completely ignorant too. I’ve thought about the state of my college career for the past few weeks and have taken appropriate action since dropping Mechanical Physics. This really isn’t something that people should be posting, but what you see attached here is my degree plan. It might be a little wonky to read, but basically anything that isn’t green has not been completed. I’m ending yet another school year of college and this is all that I have to show for it. It’s horrible, but it’s also helpful to have this. Texas A&M has opened my eyes and demonstrated that eligibility and preparedness are two completely different attributes. Gone are the days of high school and community college, where lack of effort was enough to get good grades.
I spoke with advisors from different departments for advice. By making it one of the biggest priorities in my degree plan, I have decided to tackle one of my biggest academic weaknesses: Mathematics. I’ve decided to minor in Math because I’ve grown sick and tired of running away from it. For years, I have been ignoring it and coming up with workaround solutions to barely squeeze past it. I paid the price for all of that when I dropped Mechanical Physics this semester, as well as Precalculus last semester. All of that ends here. As a Computer Science major, Math is extremely crucial and important. It will get to the point where I cannot continue if I don’t understand it. It’s a very powerful tool that I can have under my belt as long as I can fully embrace it. Minoring in Math may tack on about another semester of work, but I feel that it will be much more worth it in the long run, especially in the real world.
Another solution to help speed up the progress of my college career is to increase workload and maintain practical work/schoolwork balance. Every spring and fall semester I take from now on will have a minimum of 15 credit hours and summer will be a minimum of 9. What this means is that I will not be working full-time when I return home for the summer. I will have to cut my availability down to 2-3 days a week and shift my focus to what is more important. I will also have to decide if taking classes during the winter mini-semester is practical, meaning that I can’t work at all during Christmas Break. My job is extremely important to me and it has benefited me greatly. There’s so much sentimental value in it, but if I cannot commit the time for it, then I may need to sacrifice it for the sake of my academic career. If all goes as planned, then I will have knocked out nearly another 1/4 of my degree plan by the end of 2011. Summer classes for 2012 will need to be taken in College Station. By then, my resignation from work should be eminent.
It will also be extremely wise to stop trying to take difficult classes that I don’t need and/or I’m not prepared for. Fun Fact: Did you know that Physics isn’t even a requirement for my degree plan? I know, right? Why did I even take it then? It was just foolishness, probably. But regardless, when my Math abilities become up to par and I’m fully prepared, I will retake it. I need to stop trying to pick difficult classes now because later they’ll become harder on their own. Communications and Cryptography? Analysis of Algorithms? Yeah, we’ll let them come to me from now on. No rush.
There probably will be more problems and issues that I will need to address. From now until the end, I know that the road will be a long one. It’s time to stop travelling light and seal this huge education gap that I’ve created before it’s too late. I want to graduate with a Bachelors in Computer Science and a Minor in Mathematics. I want to work so that I can help provide the next big idea or solutions to tomorrows problems through the use of computers and technology. That has always been my dream. But most importantly, I want to give back. I want to get my mother into a new house, provide for her retirement, and have her enjoy the rest of her life for singlehandedly raising my sister and I all by herself. The most upsetting part is that I should be graduating and doing this now. It will be okay though.
What’s that corny line that you hear a lot of girls say? Keep calm and carry on. Yeah, I’ll leave it at that.