Thinking about college and your future career can be very overwhelming at the beginning. There’s so much to consider when it comes to getting ready for college: where to go and what to study. I’ve heard it said that sometimes a student will enter college fully aware of what they want to do in life, and doggedly reach their undergraduate goal after four years of diligent study. My college career didn’t start off on the best footing. I was a dreadful student in high school, chronically absent, and not doing homework even when I could be bothered to attend class.
My Arlington, Virginia high school was competitive, and my mother relentlessly referred to my performance as “not living up to my potential. ” However, there was one class I never missed, and that was Madrigals, my high school’s elite choir group. There was nothing I enjoyed more than signing old songs in a tightly knit group. When it came time to apply to colleges, I was in a quandary. My SAT scores were high enough to get in just about anywhere, but my grade point average was so low that I did not expect any school to be interested in having me as a student.
Then I saw a poster for Shepherd College in the choir room. It was in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, which was near enough to be convenient, but far enough away that I would definitively be on my own. Shepherd also had a very early date for notifying approved applicants, and it turned out that my guidance counselor knew their director of admissions and was willing to put in a good word for me. I applied to them early, and to my surprise and relief they sent me the Thick Envelope of Acceptance.
Having gotten in somewhere, I didn’t bother to apply anywhere else, and after attending summer school one last time to make up yet another class for which I hadn’t shown up during the regular year, I was on my way to historic Shepherdstown to start my higher education career. I spent a year at Shepherd, and it was the same story all over again – I attended my music classes and did well, but dropped almost all of my academic courses. After a year of this mediocre performance, the worst possible thing happened from the perspective of academic success: I fell in love with a graduating senior.
She was returning to her native Delaware on graduation, and with the finely honed reasoning that only eighteen year olds can display, I decided the obvious response on my part was to drop out and go with her. Rather than bore the faithful reader with the details, suffice it to say that over the course of the next ten years, while moving around the East Coast, I amassed piecemeal credit from Shepherd College, Virginia Commonwealth University, Northern Virginia Community College, North Carolina Wesleyan College, and Strayer University.
Meanwhile, I had changed majors from Music Composition to Music Education to Communications before finally becoming involved with information technology. The ‘90s were a great time for technical people. No one cared about college degrees, as demand for competent labor was too high for employers to care about anything other than ability. After the burst of the dot-com bubble, however, things changed completely. One of those changes was my attitude toward completing my degree.
Since the ads for jobs in my field had gone from saying “Associate degree preferred” to “Bachelor’s degree required, Master’s preferred,” it seemed that the time had come to finish what I had started. There was a higher motivation, however, in that my years as a professional had changed me; I had become serious about setting goals and reaching them. I initially considered returning to Strayer University. However, I was dismayed by how long it would take me to finish there, as I only had about seventy credits all told.
Strayer would give me some advanced standing for having earned the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer technical certification, but I knew that the expense of their courses would mean that I could only take a few in a year. The time had come for research. After scouring the Internet looking for the best option for me I found and decided on Charter Oak State College. I looked at my transcripts and the requirements for their Bachelor of Science, general education, and Information Systems Studies concentration, and was pleased to be able to map all of what I had done to meeting requirements.
Moreover, after looking at earning credit by standardized examination, I realized that it would be the most efficient way for me to demonstrate what I had already learned. I was very thorough in my preparation for applying to Charter Oak. While getting ready to submit my materials, however, there was one more interesting plot twist to my story. A friend of mine discovered that I was evaluating colleges for degree completion, and on seeing how well I had navigated all of the available materials, suggested I apply for a position at Keiser College in Florida, where he was chair of the business department for the online campus.
I remember thinking that if only I could finish my degree and be done with it, I could wash my hands of academia forever. Now, however, I finally appreciate the benefits my undergraduate experience has given me, from both general education and my concentration. Most important of all, I am ready and eager to experience the next chapter of my academic autobiography.