I’m going to share something very painful for me. It is something I have lied about, told half truths over and have fudged the truth about as I never wanted to discuss the details. I will say I learned a great deal, I’m just not happy about why I had to learn it.
I failed my freshman year of college. I failed so badly that if I hadn’t left school for all of my reasons outlined below I would have been suspended. As it was I ended up on academic probation in my second semester.
Why? A lot of reasons, so I shall start at the beginning.
1. I picked my college poorly.
I had very little guidance in which school to pick. My grandmother went to college much later than normal (she went back in her 40s), my mother attended community college and most others had military training and little to no college. To top it off I am the eldest of my siblings. There was no one in my life saying “look, here are the important parts and why you need to pick this or that”.
My entire goal was to get decent financial aid and get the hell out of Nebraska and away from the tiny farm town where I attended high school. I had lived in Colorado until I was 14 years old and I am not a small town girl. Living in Nebraska depressed me completely. I just wanted to get away. I applied everywhere I could that had the program I was interested in (Biology with an emphasis in Medical Technology).
The one I landed at I never visited but it gave me the best financial aid package I could muster. Would I have done better applying to any of the University of Nebraska locations? Probably. But I just wanted out of Nebraska and never even applied.
2. I was a big fish in a little pond in high school, quite the opposite in college.
I scored a 32 on my ACTs and I had a 3.76 graduating GPA in a school with a max of 4.0. I was 6th overall and the top 3 were Valedictorians. I rarely studied as I didn’t need to. Everything came easily to me. I never really developed bad study habits, thankfully, I just didn’t do much of it. I was in the Gifted and Advanced Learners program all through school and usually took the more advanced classes with others my level. Even then I excelled.
At college everyone was like me. Sadly for me I picked a school that at the time was a very good school, one of the highest ranked local universities in the country.
I didn’t know what to do with myself my first semester. I just assumed I would get through it just as I always had. I kept assuming even when I was much beyond that point and couldn’t find my way back. I had a very rocky end skidding into Winter Break.
I did manage to start both fresh and strong my second semester. I went to every class, I buckled down studying. I did it all. And I had excellent grades until Spring Break. But by then other factors (see below) came into play and I gave up. I stopped going to class and didn’t turn in anything. I failed every class as a result.
3. I didn’t research my professors and/or have a college mentor/advisor.
Thank god for Rate My Professor now! It wasn’t around then and I was not a good fit with a couple of professors. I just didn’t know that until it was too late. I had picked classes based on the time and subject matter. Big mistake on my part. I flat out failed biology (the intro class for my major!) due to an incompetent professor. I never could figure out what she wanted for answers on her quizzes. It certainly wasn’t the lectures nor was it the book.
And I had no idea what to do for myself in college. I had no one to guide me. You can certainly say I had an advisor. I did, but I had no idea I should have spoken up about being 1st generation. I was embarrassed about that so my school never even knew. I never said a word. That means I bumbled my way through. Poorly I might add. My college boyfriend was in the same boat. At least now I am not afraid to speak up and I have my husband if I have to!
4. I was poor. Very poor.
I was so poor I had to do quite a bit of outside work just to pay tuition even with a full financial aid package with lots of grants and scholarships. Never mind any living expenses and books. My first semester an aunt purchased my books for me, a gift I have always been grateful for. But by my second semester I was so broke I just photocopied sections from a friend and checked out the remainder from the library. And I still needed more resources. I never went anywhere or did anything as I had no money. I had no decorations in my dorm room, save what could be printed from a printer. I had no food even though on the dining plan I was expected to provide 1 dinner for myself a week. I ate 1 package of Ramen as I couldn’t afford anything else. Ultimately, this point is why I dropped out and what I tell everyone. I didn’t have enough money to keep going. Not even to fake it.
Much worse than that was some family issues which resulted in my mother not filling out the FAFSA form. The Pell Grant is the only reason I could attend college. Without it? Not a chance. Spring Break was when I realized it was never going to happen.
Which leads me to my last…
5. I was screwed up emotionally.
I was homesick. Very homesick. And it wasn’t for Nebraska. It was for places I knew, people I knew, family, etc. I have anxiety and it peaked at this time due to these, and many other, factors.
I was super lonely too. I made a few friends but only a few. I felt out of place as I had two separate snotty, rich, roommates neither of which liked me. I lived alone my second semester.
I didn’t think I had anything to offer anyone. As a result I stayed in my dorm room most of the time. The second semester was worse. Especially after Spring Break. So I turned tail and headed home where I got a real job.
Why didn’t I go to college before now?
A number of reasons. Mostly it was not knowing what I wanted a degree in, my working hours interfered with being able to go to class (thank you for online classes!) and I had a shit ex-husband. He took advantage of me, screwed up my credit, cleaned out all savings and in general put me on a path that took years to recover from. I was just about square when the economy bottomed out and I couldn’t afford it on my own. Ultimately, I decided about 2 years ago to go back but didn’t do anything about it until this summer. That’s my anxiety talking I guess.
But now I am going to do my best. I have no other reason not to.