I recently added links to my undergrad (U.C. Irvine) and grad school (University of Miami) alma maters to the side bar on this blog. I guess you could say I’ve had a coast-to-coast education.
It wasn’t easy though. For those of you struggling through college or considering going back to school for another degree, I’ll tell you a little about my own background in the hopes that it’ll inspire you. Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can.
As a fairly clueless 16-year-old California high school senior applying to colleges, I didn’t know the first thing about the higher educational system. I didn’t know what private schools versus public schools were. I had no loyalty to my parents’ or grandparents’ alma maters, since they didn’t have any. No one had ever explained to me the difference between the University of California system and the California State University system. (Short answer: The U.C. system has fewer campuses, generally more selective admissions, and tends to focus more on research.)
I almost missed my chance to take the SAT entrance exam, only hearing about it through a friend at the last minute. I hastily registered for it the week of the test, and then showed up with #2 pencils in hand, but lacking the study guides, vocab flash cards, and cram course materials that everyone else seemed to have with them. I took the exam one time, totally cold, with no other preparation than my high school education.
My family had no money for college, which meant that I had to work multiple jobs to put myself through school, while balancing my heavy class workload, and still trying to maintain a social life, as well as practice dance as a creative outlet. Just figuring out how to apply for college and for financial aid was a daunting task, but I knew that I wanted to get the hell out of the southern California high desert, and I saw college as the first step in my ticket to freedom.
I ended up applying to U.C Irvine, an accessible campus where I could live at the beach while attending school. Let me tell you, living in Newport Beach, with the sand and waves out my back door, did nothing for my study habits, but it did help to relieve stress when necessary. I honestly had no idea at the time that UCI was such a prestigious university.
Several years after completing my bachelor’s degree, I decided once again to take the plunge and go back to school. I also worked full time while attending graduate school at the University of Miami. (Do you see the beach theme here?)
Ultimately, I benefited from college so much that I built “Phase I” of my career in the field of higher education and dedicated myself to making the educational process more accessible and easier for students. I’ve had the honor of serving as an administrator and a consultant at colleges and universities across the U.S., and I strongly believe that learning, in all its many forms, is always worth the investment.