5 Keys to Beating the Odds (From a 1st Generation College Student & Mother to Be)
College is one of the most self-defining experiences in an individual’s life, often described as the milestone that will make you or break you. Overwhelming pressures to make exceptional grades, preserve a job, and maintain a social life is now competing with the necessities of getting a decent night’s sleep, keeping up with laundry, and remembering to keep the refrigerator stocked. College has just redefined responsibility in a matter of days. So what happens when an individual adds a marriage, a newborn baby, dual residential renovations, and an entrepreneurship to the list of newly anointed responsibilities associated with undertaking the college experience? The reactions have proven to be quite diverse. Family has the best of intentions in mind, but sometimes their concerns can come across as rather un-encouraging. I can recall my family having their doubts about whether or not I would be able to handle it all; but I found the more they second guessed me the more I became determined to prove them wrong.
Organization has been the key in my ability to successfully manage all of my responsibilities. Daily planners have become my best friend since college started. A daily agenda helps me keep track of assignments, prenatal appointments, and important tasks. On a daily basis I know exactly what assignments need to be worked on and I can easily work on assignments ahead of schedule. A specialized prenatal journal provided by my midwife helps me keep track of exercise and nutrition, as well as materials that my husband and I have learned throughout our ten week course birthing class. Staying healthy and fit for my baby and I has become an achievable goal thanks to organization. I am able to monitor my progress and easily make important changes in my diet and exercise routine. As a result I have more physical and mental stamina, better sleep, and a very healthy baby. I am the accountant as well as the half owner of the construction business that my husband and I jointly operate. Keeping a daily log of hours worked, tasks accomplished, materials purchased, transportation costs and money spent on food allows us to operate the business efficiently. In addition to a daily work log I keep a file for receipts and invoices organized by month. The task of organizing may seem tedious, but taking the time to be organized has actually saved me time in the long run. Aside from organization helping me to keep up with my husband and our business, every year when tax season rolls around I am ever grateful for already having all the numbers and figures lined up from our receipt and invoice files. After a quick tally to determine annual figures, our taxes are ready to be filed. I had made the mistake once of not being as organized as I should have been with our receipts, invoices, and work log. This lack of attention came back to haunt me at the end of that year for a good two weeks as I struggled to organize a year’s worth of records all at once. I learned the first time from that mistake. As a college student, time becomes invaluable. Keeping a brief record of tasks completed or uncompleted allows one to become adaptable. There are days when I do not get as much as accomplished as I should have, or maybe I have to play catch up at the expense of sleep. Agendas do not always get followed to perfection, but that is okay. Without some form of organization I would not be able to successfully manage all of my responsibilities, including my sanity.
Communication is an indispensable skill that I have improved on significantly as I have progressed in my journey as a college student. Maintaining effective communication with my college instructors, advisors, business clients, prenatal doctors, and my husband has proved to be a challenge followed by personal growth. When one becomes stressed and overwhelmed it can be difficult to exchange ideas clearly or to maintain composure and a sense of professionalism. Challenges such as these have allowed me to improve on my capacity for patience and understanding. Relationships suffer when there is poor communication. A large part of the college experience really is maintaining good relationships with one’s instructors and peers. Learning is communication: an exchange of facts and ideas. An individual cannot learn all that they need to know to be successful in a career if questions and answers cannot be exchanged. Strong communication has allowed me to get the most out of every college course I take. It has encouraged me to become adaptable to different personalities and perspectives of individuals from campus affiliates to business clients. Respectively incorporating the element of honesty into communication has opened hidden doors for me, and quite frankly has made life easier. Keeping honesty in tact with communication has strengthened my husband and I’s relationship the most. We can be open with one other in our marriage, discussing problems while still remaining respectful of one another’s positions. This not only proves beneficial in intimate relationships, but in professional relationships as well. When one can successfully communicate a concern to a colleague or client, it becomes easier for both individuals to work together to achieve progress. Time and stress are spared when individuals can be open and honest with one another while still remaining respectful. Effective communication is one of the keys to success for not only surviving college, but for conquering the world in one’s career and endeavors
Stress management is my saving grace whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed by the busy lifestyle of a college student. Activities which provide a creative and physical outlet for stress enables me to stay positive, no matter how high of a hurdle I may be facing at the moment. My hobbies focus on physical fitness and health as well as regularly practicing traditional art and craft. I enjoy weight lifting and long-boarding with my husband. I find that these activities not only keep my health in optimal condition, but also provide a beneficial way for me to manage the daily stresses of life. Lately, renovating our two residential properties in combination with remodeling houses through our construction business has been my physical outlet for stress. I am able to physically release my energy while still being productive. These activities allow my husband and I to spend important quality time together, giving us the opportunity to motivate, encourage, and take pride in each other’s personal accomplishments. Quality time with friends and family is a great way to stay grounded. Surrounding one’s self with positive individuals will always provide one with an encouraging support group to look to for advice and motivation. My hobbies in traditional art and craft focus on drawing, knitting, and cross-stitching. Taking the time to participate in the practice of art and traditional craft has allowed me to expand my creative thought process, increased my patience, and has given me an eye for detail. My latest creative project was hand knitting two baby toys for my newborn daughter. Focusing on subjects I enjoy, such as baby toys or serene landscapes from past vacations, gives me the opportunity to meditate on all the positive aspects that surround me. Reminders of positive experiences and people in an individual’s life make any negative notions quite small in comparison. Relaxation and personal quiet time, along with a good night’s sleep, allows the mind and body to rejuvenate itself from the taxing stresses that come along with being in college. Having a creative outlet to help me wind down at the end of an overwhelming day balances my physical outlet for stress. There are days when I need to productively release my built up stress and energy, and others when I just need to take it easy with a relaxing distraction. Healthy and productive forms of stress management are the key to not letting stress become overwhelming. Remaining focused, positive, and grounded will allow any individual to maintain the motivation and discipline necessary to achieve any goal.
Achieving one’s goals, whether it be passing that chemistry exam or achieving that dream career, can seem impossible sometimes. Through the stress and daily shuffle an individual may lose sight of why he or she entered college to begin with. Times like these require an individual to really consider the goals trying to be achieved. During times such as these, it is important to have a plan. When I feel like I have reached an obstacle that I cannot overcome, I first consider how far I have come and all that I have achieved. Recalling what I have already accomplished allows me to remember my capabilities. With this rejuvenated self-confidence, I then consider what measures I need to take in order to reach my goal. Brainstorming ideas of how to reach a certain goal allows an individual to consider all the options available. As I juggle the responsibilities of college, motherhood, business ownership, and the aspirations to begin an entrepreneurship in organic greenhouse cultivation, I can lose sight of what my goals are. In order to prevent this, I set up short term goals that take me a step further to reaching my long term goals. Beginning an entrepreneurship in organic greenhouse cultivation and turning it into a successful career is quite the journey. My first goal is to obtain a degree in horticulture so that I will be able to manage the greenhouse production personally. My second goal is to obtain the capital to construct a greenhouse by selling one of our town-houses so that I can invest the money into the greenhouse structure on our ranch. As I work towards my academic goal, I take things a semester at a time while making note of what areas in the curriculum I need to improve on. While I study horticulture, I take the cultivation techniques that I learn each semester and apply them to the small nursery that I am growing. This “kills two birds with one stone” by allowing me to apply what I learn in college to the field, learn from experience, and begin accumulating plant stock. As I work towards my financial goal of renovating and selling a house, I take things one room at a time, focusing on which areas need more attention in each room instead of trying to tackle the whole house at once. Developing a study plan or finding a good tutor may be some of the options to achieving a passing grade for the semester. Becoming actively involved in the right community may open the door to being considered for a certain internship or job. Creating a plan allows an individual to set aside time out of a busy schedule to focus on areas that need improvement in order to achieve a certain goal. After considering all of one’s options, one may come to the realization that he or she is not going to get that passing grade or is not going to get that coveted internship/job posting. There is no need to be discouraged! The most important thing is to stay positive and remember that every accomplishment and shortcoming is a learning experience. No one can take away an individual’s most valuable possession: education gained from experience. Learning from a mistake allows one to avoid repeating that mistake twice. I have found that developing a plan to move forward and tackle a hurdle from another direction has been empowering. Devising an intensive study schedule with a study group before retaking a class may help one to start off properly prepared. Looking for alternatives, such as considering whether or not the credit hours can be earned through passing a CLEP exam, may help one save on the financial cost of retaking an entire class. Developing a plan to achieve one’s long term or short term goals allows an individual to realize that there is no mountain too high. An individual learns to bounce back from shortcomings with greater strength necessary to achieve. Plans are the key to allowing one to stay focused and motivated, while also teaching one the importance of becoming flexible when a certain strategy does not work out.
Every positive and negative experience is an invaluable key addition to an individual’s textbook education. I have learned just as much from my mistakes as I have learned from my successes. Making mistakes has taught me to be humble. When I succeed I remember to not take my success for granted. Success requires discipline, initiative, motivation; these are qualities that can be difficult to achieve and even more difficult to maintain. By learning not to make the same mistakes twice, I am able to move forward when similar obstacles spring up in my academic path. The first time I took a plant identification course I underestimated the effort involved in memorizing 150 scientific names, common names, families, and pictures within one semester. My overconfidence led me to believe that I only needed to spend half as much time studying plant scientific names as most other students. After all, I had taken similar courses in high school that required the memorization of materials, and it had been a breeze. Half way through the course I realized that my overconfidence had come back to haunt me. I ended up dropping the course to avoid a failing grade. The following semester I registered for another plant identification class, this time knowing what to expect. Each day I took an hour of my time to memorize the plants by hand copying the list for that week. The class received a new plant list to memorize every week involving scientific names, common names, families, and pictures. As each week went by, more study time was needed to hand copy the lists. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner became accompanied with memorizing plants. I kept photos of the plants in my phone so I could study the images in the car as my husband drove us from job site to job site. By the end of the semester my hard work had paid off. I aced both the plant identification midterm and final, thus earning an A for the course that semester. My initial mistake of not seriously considering the effort involved in taking the course was a costly one; but my GPA benefited greatly from starting over anew. As I continue to take various plant identification courses, I will be aware of how much effort to expect to put into my studies. Making mistakes can feel discouraging, especially when a mistake comes as a financial blow. Failing a college class and having to retake the course is quite expensive, and can feel like a detrimental setback. Graduation dates may have to be prolonged, the confidence in one’s abilities may be questioned, GPA’s and scholarships can be negatively affected; the experience can end up feeling hopeless. When trying times ensue, an individual may be surprised at what they discover about his or her own self. The discipline, motivation, and initiative it takes to bounce back from such a pitfall can be empowering. One learns to stay positive when all the odds are stacked up, to be adaptable and configure a new plan to stay on track with deadlines and goals. Maybe an individual will have to obtain and extra summer job in order to pay for a summer course that will make up for the failing grade. Such a plan does not seem appealing for the summer break, but one will still be able to keep that graduation date while learning to be flexible. Learning from all sorts of experiences allows an individual to discover and master one’s capabilities.
Discovering these methods did not happen all at once. Over the course of several years I learned which techniques worked best for me. Every individual is different; thus, every student’s path to college success will be an original path. Each individual student will hold a unique set of keys that will open the doors along his or her college journey. Organization, good communication, stress management, having a plan, and viewing every experience as a learning experience has enabled me to successfully juggle all of my responsibilities. With my set of keys I know I am empowered to excel in my college studies to beat the odds.