From the first time I heard of the word “college”, I was always curious about it. I always had the intention of attending college (as I love to learn new things), but there was never a “plan” developed as a family for me to attend. My plan was to go to college at home one year, and then transfer to another school the next. I knew that I wanted to be a teacher, and that was all I knew. At times, I felt cheated when I found out the knowledge that my peers had that I did not know. In fact, I often learned the hard way, but I learned from mistakes quickly, and vowed to help other students like me one day.
I had no idea when I began college in the Fall of 1997 (and transferred schools the next year) that I’d eventually end up earning three degrees, and work my way into a college Assistant Professor role. It never crossed my mind that I would meet such high and prestigious honors. I’m the first in my immediate family to attend college. The encouragement and family support was there, but it was not an easy position to be in to have people who could not understand my struggles. There was not a college fund put aside for me. I had to learn a new culture and way of life. However, I cherished every experience, and vowed to help others who struggle with the issues that I eventually worked my way through. You can read more details of my educational journey in a prior post.
Hints, Tips & Advice
I was recently asked to briefly share advice that I would give to students who want to attend college. Listed below (in no particular order), are just a few words of wisdom from my perspective:
- Exposure— The earlier the exposure, the better. Everyone is allowed on college campuses. Don’t feel as if you are not a student, you are not allowed on campus. If you have a college campus close to you, use it as a resource for information, as well as grounds to gain exposure to college culture and expectations. Also, talk to students who attend (or have attended) college. Ask teachers and counselors about college. Lastly, find mentors or programs geared toward college preparation.
- Grades— Grades are IMPORTANT. High school grades matter. Of course, as a student you must bring more to the table along with academics, but grades show perspective colleges your habits as a student, and your commitment to your goals. If you are looking to get a scholarship, your grades are like a credit report when trying to obtain a loan. Can schools trust you to bring honor to their school by donating you money/resources to attend? Your grades must reflect so. Another note: There are always exceptions–grades don’t necessarily say that you are “smarter”, but it shows your commitment to success.
- Plan— Have a detailed plan. The earlier you begin, the better. Start small, and then work on details. DON’T go to college, just to say you went to college.
- Study Skills— Learn what study skills are, and how to study. College is an independent process, and teachers will not always tell you what to study. Whatever studying you are doing in high school, you will probably need to study 3-4 times that amount in college. You often attend courses in college that give you a week’s worth of assignments in one class session. You often have major tests and assignments due on the same day. Start learning in high school ways to improve your study skills and time management.
- Technology and Writing— Many college assignments are written assignments (essays in many cases). This is not a common form of assessment in grades K-12. Many students are surprised that they have to do so much writing in college. They are also surprised that their professor does not always collect assignments at the end of class. They must turn in their assignments electronically. This requires an understanding of technology for educational purposes. It also requires responsibility from a student to obtain computer access, or find a way to use the required technology for the course.
- Questions– ASK QUESTIONS!!!!! It is alright to ask questions– during the process of applying, when going through the enrollment process, after accepted, and throughout the college experience. Sitting back and watching when you have a question could cause a lot of unnecessary stress.
With time just ticking away, I waited until the mid-point of my senior year of high school to make a decision about my future. I had a very small plan, and I did not have a conversation with my parents about college until I was already accepted. Not that I am ungrateful, but things could have been better. I could have less student loan debt right now, had I been confident and asked more questions. I could have had better grades in high school, if I didn’t slack off my first two years. I could have went on more college visits, etc. Should have, could have, would have…enough.
Long story short– I turned out alright. Thankfully, things worked in my favor. I can’t change what happened, but I will do my best to help others that are walking behind me.
-Dr. K. Childs