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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Giving The Old College Try The Old College Try...Again!

Before I embark on today’s Thursday Confession, I just want to remind everybody that the Pop Culture Addict’s Guide To Life 1st Anniversary Contest is still going on, but only for a limited time.  You have until June 30th to enter the scavenger hunt that is located on my blog entry dated May 24.  Remember what the prize is...the chance to control my blog for one whole week.  You get to pick the topics, as well as have the opportunity to write your own piece in the Thursday Confession block.  I wish I could do more, but alas, I can’t afford it.  As you’ll see as you read my confession for today, you’ll understand why I need to pinch as many pennies as possible.

I just want to state something right off the bat.  I have been at my current place of employment for seven and a half years.  Although there have been some instances that I’d rather forget about, I’ve more or less enjoyed my time inside the store.  The people I work with are like family, and as far as the work itself goes, I can handle the workload.

But, I have been doing a lot of thinking about my life and my career goals, and the more I think about it, the more I’m beginning to realize that I want to do more.  And, this past week, I’ve come to the realization that the possibility to do more won’t necessarily happen.  I’m not saying that it’s going to be impossible, but at this stage in the game, it’s not likely to happen.

So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and the only way that I feel that I can do more with my career goals and my life goals is to find a way to go back to school and get a degree.

And this is where my confession begins.

THURSDAY CONFESSION #24:  The idea of going back to school at the age of 31 scares me to death, not because of the fact that it has been a while since I have been in a classroom, but because I worry that I won’t have the discipline to follow through with it.

It sounds incredibly insane for me to think that way, doesn’t it?  To be perfectly honest, I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that this is the truth.

Because when I first entered post-secondary education, I only managed to stay a grand total of two years before deciding that I hated it, and dropped out without a degree.

I guess I should explain the reason why.

I attended a university campus in Ottawa, Ontario between September 2000 and April 2002.  And, you know, I’ll readily admit that my first year went fantastic.  Granted, the whole Resin scandal of 2001 left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth, but other than that, I really did enjoy my first year.  But something happened between first and second year that made me enjoy school less and less, and by the end, I made the decision to leave school forever to go work in retail.

For years, I always saw leaving my post-secondary career in the dust as my biggest regret in life.  When I left that school, I felt like the biggest failure in the whole world.  It didn’t matter to me that I had known people who didn’t survive college the first time around as I had.  I felt as though I had wasted my time, and all that I had to show for my college career was a fourteen thousand dollar debt.

(Luckily, I have paid back about 80% of that loan since then, but I’ll tell you all one thing...if you can, keep your grades up and get a scholarship.)

So, how did it all go wrong?

Well, I’ll be honest with you.  I didn’t exactly do a whole lot of planning when it came to choosing schools.  I didn’t do any research, I didn’t bother checking tuition fees, and I certainly didn’t meet with any high school guidance counselors because I simply didn’t believe that they had my best interests at heart (which I won’t go into here, as I feel that it could very well be a Thursday Confession in itself).  I just knew that at that particular time in my life, I was interested in journalism and reporting, and I applied to any schools that had that program.  But, I completely ignored all colleges.  At my high school, everyone was going to large universities because they all felt that they would get more out of it, so I made the decision that I would do the same.  It didn’t matter to me that there were several technical colleges in the area that could teach people journalism.  I didn’t think that they would give me as much of a quality education as a university could.

Looking back upon retrospect, I think that was a huge mistake on my part.  But, we’ll get to that a little bit later.

Long story short, there were only two schools in Ontario that offered journalism.  Coming from a family that never had a lot of money, I knew that I could not afford to go to a school outside of Ontario, so I took my chances.  To my surprise, I did get accepted to one of my schools, but not in the journalism program.  I was a little below the cutoff average to make it in, and I was told early on that it would be next to impossible to get into the program due to the competitive nature of it.  Instead, I had to settle for taking mass communications, which was fine with me.  After all, it was a media course, and at the time, I believed that I wanted a career in the media, so I went with it.

That first year of university, I really did enjoy all of my classes.  In addition to mass communications, I also took film studies (which I also loved), an English writing course (in which I was one of two students to get an A on the midterm), a sociology class (which was okay), and a French seminar (which I probably had no business taking in the first place).  In addition, I really enjoyed the business and excitement of on-campus living.  For the first time in my whole life, I was surrounded by people my age who liked me for who I was.  Nobody judged me or made fun of was absolutely awesome.

But that whole first year, I was heavily involved in the Resin which ended on a sour note, and I was busy hanging out with my new friends when I really probably should have been studying or working on papers.  But, I was doing well in my classes, and I didn’t think that having a few social outings would harm my grades.

But in a way, they did.  And, when it came time to get my final grades, I was actually quite happy with my 79.9% average.  Granted, I didn’t make the Dean’s List or anything, but that wasn’t what my goal was.  My goal was to stay in mass communications for the next three years, get a degree in the course, and go on to become the next Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, or Max Keeping.

It’s just a shame that I didn’t read the fine print in regards to what the cutoff average was to stay in the program.  Had I bothered to read it, I would have worked a little bit harder.

You see, the cutoff to stay in the program was having a total average of 80% or higher.  And, I was the one with a 79.9% average.

I missed the cutoff by a tenth of a percentage point.  As a result, I was booted from the program.

I was completely pissed.  I was angry, and I didn’t understand what went wrong.  As I turned 20, I was at a complete loss as to what I was going to do.  I set up a meeting with a counselor at the school to see what I could do to remain in the program.  I was willing to take summer classes, or redo a test paper, or perform an interpretive dance if I thought it would make any difference.  But, despite my pleas, there was only one way for me to get back into the program.

Redo my entire first year.

Those words still ring in my ear on occasion.  To have to go and redo the whole year over again so I could get an average of eighty per cent was absolutely ridiculous to me.  But that’s how that school operated.  They wanted the highest standards possible, and they didn’t bend the rules for anyone.  I got that.  But, I only missed the cutoff by so little.  Couldn’t they just have rounded up to the next digit so I could have had a shot of continuing on with the program? 

I made the decision to stick with the school for a second year.  Instead of staying in my beloved mass communications program, I opted to switch to a general arts program, which I knew would end up not getting me very far.  But at that time, my options were limited, and that one seemed like the best fit.

But after sticking with that program for the rest of the year, I decided that I really didn’t like it at all.  The classes were pointless, and I didn’t feel as though I was learning any skills necessary for life after university at all.  By that spring, I had made the decision that I would end up regretting for the better part of a decade.

It was time to cut my losses, and move on.

My initial plan was to try and transfer to a different school, and I almost had my foot in the door of one the following year...but when they demanded that I give them a cash payment for tuition up front that I didn’t have at the time, I lost my spot there.  The year after that, I worked a bunch of temporary jobs before landing the job that I currently have now.

And, that’s where the story ends, as well as my short lived career as a university student.

For the longest time, I really beat myself up over not being able to have the drive or the motivation to get a degree.  As I said before, it was one of the biggest regrets that I had.  But, you know, it took me this long to realize why it was that I failed in university.

I was too immature to really take university seriously.

Think about that for a second.  When I graduated high school, my main motivation behind going to university was not to better was to get as far away from the town that brought me so much pain through the teasing and bullying I endured throughout my whole school career.  And besides, my home life was sort of screwed up at the time as well, as my family was forced to vacate their home to find another one that summer and tensions were at an all-time high.  The further away I was from that mess, the better it was as far as I was concerned.

If I had to do it over again, I probably would not have been in such a rush to go to school.  I think I would have waited a couple of years and saved some money in a savings account so I could really sit down and plan out my education goals.  Instead, I adopted a rather impulsive attitude, and it really ended up being my downfall. 

I think that would have really looked at those college brochures a lot closer, and realized that getting a degree from a college doesn’t make it less valued than that from a prestigious university.  True, university graduates on average make more money than college graduates, but I’ve never really lived extravagantly, so it wouldn’t have been a big deal anyway.  In fact, if I had to go back in time, I probably would have done the college thing instead of the university thing, because the only thing I realized by going to university was that I hated it.  I’m the type of person who really needed small class sizes and more one-on-one instruction, and you certainly never get that at a university.  Unfortunately for me, I learned that lesson the hard way.

Finally, I probably should have taken university more seriously once I was there, but I was so caught up in the idea of having a social life that the schoolwork took a back seat.  You have to understand that in high school, I was never invited to parties, or went to dances, or even visited friends at their houses.  I was making up for lost memories, I suppose.  But, you know what’s funny?  Although my social life probably didn’t help improve my average any, I wouldn’t trade those moments for the world.  So, in a way, I suppose that I did get something out of it.

And you know something else?  Now that I have this out in the open, I feel a lot better about it.  Do I still regret not getting that degree?  In a way, I do, only because I would have liked to have gotten a degree of some sort.  At the same time, I guess I can be thankful that I realized that university life was not for me before I got too far into debt.  There are lots of people out there who DO get degrees in a subject and realize too late that the venture was a total waste of time.  If there are any positives to take from this, it’s that.

Still, I know that my leaving university prematurely has closed a lot of doors for me, and I think that it’s time for me to break open those doors again.  Granted, I am 31, and the opportunities may not be as plentiful as they were when I was 21.  But, I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ll never be America’s Next Top Model, and I’m sure that I’ll make peace with the idea that there are some careers that I’m too old to get started in.

But I’ll never know until I try.  And, I’ll admit it.  At 31, I’m scared to death over completely changing my whole life around to go back to college.  There’s a huge risk that comes out of it, but at least the second time around, I can take the time to really research schools and decide what the best option I have is.  And this time, I won’t ignore the guidance counselors.  I need all the help I can get, especially when it comes to funding my education.

This deciding to go back to school idea that I have is one that makes me incredibly nervous and apprehensive.  But I have to take that chance.  Because while I know that I have made meaningful contributions to society, going back to school will give me the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to myself.

And, dammit, I’m worth it!

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