Now that graduation is less than a month away, I’ve often be thinking back on my college experience and have evaluated my actual experiences to the perceptions I had in high school of college. One of the areas I have been thinking about is the academic rigor and preparedness of college. I considered myself to be pretty prepared academically for college once I graduated my college-prep Jesuit high school. Where a lot of my peers caught senioritis either once senior year began or after they got into college, I had did even better in my senior year of high school than as an underclassman. I didn’t realize how unprepared I was for college until I decided to take Calculus and Principles of Microeconomics in my first semester. The moment I got back my midterms the realization hit me that even though my high school prepared me in a lot of ways for college, I wasn’t prepared for everything. For someone who wanted to study economics going into college, I hadn’t ever taken an economics class in my high school or a calculus class given the limited resources in my young school which definitely reflected in the grades I got.
What helped me improve academically was cutting back on the clubs I was involved with and scheduling time in my day where I could devote a few hours working on whatever assignments I need to get done. Time management has always been a challenge of mine in college but what made sophomore and junior year different than freshman year was that I carved out more time during the week to study. I also dealt with the stress of academics better sophomore and junior year by balancing the time I spent studying with socializing with friends and doing self care activities. As a senior, I kind of caught a case of senioritis and have been focused on finding a full time job so I haven’t been going as hard as I could have academically this year. My grades are still fairly good, but I haven’t been working as hard to try and raise only a few points on my GPA at this point. My advice for incoming first generation students is to really focus on your academics that first year because even when you’re academically prepared for college, you’re bound to make mistakes like partying too often, joining too many clubs, or spending too much down time doing anything but studying. There’s nothing inherently bad in socializing and making friends since that’s also an important part of the college experience, but never forget that you came to college to get a degree not to be a part of fifteen student organizations. I wish there was a formula to tell you how to perfectly balance your schedule but that is something you’ll learn from trial and error. College becomes easier once you do well academically in the first year and maintain your grades over the years rather playing catch up. While the road will be difficult, never forget that you got the potential to succeed within yourself you just have to utilize the determination and work ethic that got you through high school and gained you admission into the school you enrolled at. Being a first generation student might be a challenge, but to those reading this the admissions officer at your university knew that you were up to the challenge and would make your university a better place with your talents.