This week I finished my first semester of grad school. Now look, I know I’m not the first person to ever attend grad school but this wasn’t exactly my life plan. See I wasn’t the most traditional learner. After reading this I think you’ll realize that anyone can continue their education if they are put in the right situation.
Let me start off by saying I hated high school. Don’t get me wrong I had a great group of friends and plenty to do but I dreaded each and every class. Looking back the majority of my teachers lacked passion and only knew how to use negative forms of motivation. They only told me the negative consequences for not succeeding in an outdated education system as opposed the advantages to learning what they were trying to teach.
I was fortunate enough to have a guidance counselor join my high school the last half of my senior year who was astonished at my lack of motivation toward college. It wasn’t uncommon to just go to our local community college and figure it out from there. Between this guidance counselor and some push from my mother I was extremely fortunate to be accepted into a 4 year college on a probationary basis. Basically if I didn’t show promise after a certain period I was out.
I started commuting to Rider University as a freshman with the same mentality that I had in high school which was basically, “Why am I here learning about shit I don’t care about?” I honestly didn’t know any better. I had no idea the opportunity in front of me. I was taking bunch of prerequisite classes I couldn’t possible care less about like pre 1900 World History.
After 2 semesters of sub-par grades I was ready to call it quits and so was the University. I prepared myself to break the news to my parents that I was ready to call it quits which I knew wasn’t going to be easy and surely it wasn’t. They understood that I wasn’t adapting very well but asked me to give it one more semester. What did I have to lose right?
I returned in the fall commuting again ready to give it one last shot and man am I glad I did. After struggling through ten courses my freshman year I didn’t care about, I was finally able to enroll in a few courses that interested me. What a turning point. It was then I started to have professors who actually gave a shit about what they were teaching. This made all the difference for me. I starting take courses around topics that interested me and and weren’t solely judging me on standardized testing.
Spring semester sophomore year I met a great friend of mine named Bryan who took a personal interest in me right away. He was apart of a fraternity who prided themselves on being balanced men and he began recruiting me. My grades were so far from acceptable to join greek life but that didn’t stop him from continually helping me to get my life together. I wasn’t in a great place but I was riding an upswing and I remember telling my parents I was interested in greek life. They simply responded that if my upswing was comprised they’d never let it happen. That semester I made Dean’s list and more importantly I was getting involved in a number of different organizations on campus. Those were so vital to my success.
The moral of that story is that if you want to be successful in continuing your education, it’s so important to pursue something you’re interested in and have passionate people around you. I was astonished to have finished my undergraduate degree with acceptable grades and in a timely fashion.
At this point I was DONE with formal education or so I thought. After spending 7 years after school working a number of jobs I started a new career at The University of Pennsylvania in 2016. My mother is a director in higher education and since I had such a life changing experience at college I always thought I’d enjoy working in that environment.
After a year to adjusting to my new career I worked up the nerve to apply to graduate school at Penn. Now at this point I’ve been out of school for almost 8 years and there was no way I imagined myself attending an Ivy League school. My overall undergraduate GPA was dragged down by my awful freshman year and my application process lead me to a formal interview in front of the board to be considered.
I was stoked about this opportunity because I’ve always interviewed really well. A few weeks went by and finally it was time for my interview and bombed it. Or so I thought. I’m usually pretty good with judging how my interview went. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people at Apple so I was full of experience. Fortunately for me, I was fully admitted to the University of Penn as a graduate student. That was only half the battle.
I had seen how stressful grad school can be. Tons of my friends finished their masters and an accelerated rate. I’ve also see how the Penn in particular can be. Again, I had nothing to lose at this point.
One of the first things out of my professor’s mouth was “I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen Fan”. From that moment on I knew I’d be just fine. I LOVED my class. Organizational Dynamics of Social Media in Business. My teachers were as passionate and interested as ever and I was learning a ton. I had to read 10 books over the 16 week course which is more than I did my entire undergrad but it didn’t matter because I was truly enjoying the content.
Look I know I could’ve told this story in 3 paragraphs but I think it’s important to see the details.
I had no plan to attend a 4 year college. Once I did, I was on the verge of dropping out or getting kicked out. Once I finally graduated from Rider University I thought I was done. Here I am over a decade out of high school, a time where I didn’t think much of my future, but I’ve got momentum now. Confidence, excitement, and momentum that is going to help carry me through the next few years as I finish my graduate degree at Penn. It’s crazy sometimes how life can turn out so much different than you ever imagined.
I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes that I think almost anyone can apply to their lives.
“Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.”