I interrupted my junior and senior years of high school with a heavy schedule of courses offered by my town’s local community college. Basically, it’s a locally funded program offered to hardworking students who can maintain a high GPA and pass a lengthy standardized test. If you could manage to complete those two tasks successfully, you were granted the exemption from your high school courses, replacing them with classes offered by the community college for actual college credit — completely free of charge.
Sounds great, right? In all seriousness, it was exactly that — great. I received the grand opportunity to gain a glimpse into the world of students fueled by the freedom to choose their own paths within the realm of education, and I was only sixteen when I started. To say I was elated was an understatement.
During my two years at our local state college, I soared through gen-ed classes in the hopes of being overly-prepared for future involvement at my university of choice. I ditched the suggested high school experiences like late-night coffee dates and pouring over textbooks on subjects equally as challenging as the AP or honors courses I took in high school. Studying was an option, but not a necessity.
When finals week arrived, I didn’t experience the heart-pounding sensation of needing to cram unknown material at the last second. The community college offered me just the right amount of freedom to develop my own schedule, while maintaining a pace I could already handle. I was thrilled, arguably undergoing the best time of my life, but I didn’t quite see that reality while actually in the midst of it.
Ultimately I got too cocky, to say the least. I kicked my study habits from AP-level to true college standards. I stopped participating on certain assignments and even began skipping classes whenever I just didn’t feel like going. I thought I could maintain a notable GPA by getting away with doing the least amount of work possible.
Fortunately, I did. I graduated with my Associate of Arts before I even graduated high school, assuring myself by saying, “Hey, I’m smart!,” along with other terribly arrogant remarks. Unfortunately, what I didn’t know at the time was that my lazy study habits were completely unacceptable, and I was about to drown in the sea of university expectations.
My freshman year was a psychological dead zone. I don’t talk about it too often, because there’s simply nothing to tell. And, yes, I truly do mean nothing. I did nothing and I was nothing. Oozing with overconfidence, I entered my first semester at Florida State with a loaded ego, adopting the same mental patterns I had established during the dual enrollment program. “Play now, work later.” How hard could it be?
I spent countless lectures goofing off on my phone, sending texts, messages, yaks and snaps. I’d always have time to go over fundamental material at home. When that specific at-home study hour arrived, I replaced my textbooks and scant class notes with Netflix because I just needed to get in one more episode. My passion for Parks and Recreation was deeper than my desire to learn trigonometry and naturally, my ridiculous priorities stuck like glue.
When I failed my first test, I was shocked. Convinced that I was still the same strong-willed student of my early high school days, I couldn’t handle the weight of my first academic failure. Suddenly, all those moments in which my roommate had warned me that maybe Leslie Knope wasn’t as important as cosines and tangents came flashing back to me. It only took me a matter of days to realize that I wasn’t able to manage a recovery. I knew that I needed to drop the course, and felt overcome with the stress and expectations I had ignored.
The volcano of madness I accidentally concocted finally erupted, and I simply checked out. Adios, sayonara and good day! The weight of being behind was an overloaded semi-truck that I couldn’t learn to drive. My homesickness abruptly kicked into play, mixing up the perfect potion for mental disconnect. I barely got by in my classes, hanging by a thread on espresso shots and all-nighters. Luckily, the caffeine never let me down.
I spent spring semester reviving my GPA, and I entered my second year with no distractions. Whenever I see freshmen ‘Noles, I want to run up to them and advise, “Drop any ego you may have! Don’t be the kid that got too cocky; don’t be like me.”