How I Went From High-school Slacker to Passionate College Student
By: Rachel Adragna
Every student follows their own educational path. Mine has led me to somewhere I never thought I could reach, outside of my comfort zone. I went through public school believing senior year would be the end of my education. I saw myself working as a waitress, receptionist, or for anyone who would hire me, right out of high school and for the rest of my life. I graduated high school with sub-par grades and my parents – neither of whom went to college – were proud of me. I didn't drop out! I always thought freedom from school meant just that: freedom. What I found instead when I graduated, was that no suitable opportunities were available to me. I was working at a dead-end job and wanted to change my situation. I had no goals for my future and was really just waiting for something to come out of the blue and help me get on my feet.
I was working at a gym and was very close with many of the members. One in particular was a member of the Elks Club. He told me they gave scholarships to college students, and he consistently encouraged me to look at programs and apply for the scholarship using him as a reference. After a few months, I applied for the scholarship, got it, and used it to help me pay for four classes at North Shore Community College. The funny thing is that I completely forgot about how I ended up going down this path – and how instrumental this random person was in my future – until I sat down to write this piece. I didn't know if I was going to continue beyond one semester, but decided it wouldn't hurt to give it a try and get my feet wet. Without quitting my job or moving out of state, I started taking night classes after work to see how it went. The gym members and my family were really supportive, and even more so when my grades came in. I finished my first semester of college with a 4.0, which was nothing like my high school performance. After all the positive feedback, I decided I wanted to go all in.
I started looking at schools in the area that offered Bachelors degree programs and really thinking about what I wanted to do. I applied to the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) with the intention of majoring in Business. I wanted to start my own gym, and do it right. For the first time in my life, I had a goal, and I was doing something about it. This felt great. Once I began my first semester, however, I started to realize business wasn't for me. Marketing just felt like lying, and I didn’t care enough about money. Luckily, I had also enrolled in a general psychology course. I had taken a psychology class in high school and loved it (although that doesn’t mean I necessarily tried any harder at it than any of my other classes!). The general psychology class I took in my first semester at UML expanded on ideas we discussed in that class, and challenged me to look at myself and others in a whole new way: as minds that could be studied. I knew this is what I wanted to get involved in. I started taking as many psychology courses as I could, and finally decided to switch my major after one more year. I am now on the path to graduate next year with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, and plan to go to graduate school and one day become a college professor.
Going to college has taught me how to try, no matter what. It isn't always easy, and I'm not always happy with myself, but this doesn't mean I'm not getting better every day. I have learned more than I ever thought possible, and it's actually useful to me! I am a better person, friend, daughter, because of what I learn in and out of class. The dedication it takes to finish assignments and go to class does not come in a day. It comes from pushing yourself to go above and beyond what is comfortable, and letting your success be your motivation to do it again and again. Now, it's easier than it used to be. I expect to do homework every day and wake up early. I'm not surprised or anxious. I am ready.