Jovan Glass is a recent graduate from Wayne State University, holding a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. Always finding it hard to focus on one career objective in high school, Glass opted for journalism because becoming a writer, he says, allows you to wear as many professional hats as you please, from psychologist to forensic expert. Glass currently resides in his hometown of Detroit, Mich., working as a research and editorial assistant at Wayne State University, where he does a lot of work with Michigan’s Department of Education.
In high school, teachers, advisors, parents and everyone in between will urge you to attend a university, to further your academic endeavors in order to ensure a bright future. I remember the bombardment of college pamphlets and guest speakers that started as early as the end of my junior year of high school. They want you to go to college so you can get that degree and get that good job and make those millions more over the course of however many years than the Average Joe who opted to enter the world of work instead of going to college.
They don’t, however, stress a major point: you have to finish.
I started my undergraduate career at Wayne State University with a small group of friends; most of them were familiar faces from high school, but majority were new acquaintances I’d met during orientation and other icebreaking events throughout the summer leading up to my freshman year.
And out of that small group of maybe 10 or 12 students with dreams of a life better lived, maybe four, including myself, have finished and obtained their degrees. That’s approximately thirty percent. And sadly, that’s a realistic depiction of how many students finish the race; not just at my own alma mater, but universities nationwide.
It is one thing to work hard and get those grades and get those acceptance letters, but it’s a completely different ballpark to continue that hard work and walk across the stage a second time with your bachelor’s. At the end of it all, college is not a declaration of brain power, but of effort and determination. The ultimate test, in fact, because you’re constantly tempted to sway. There’s parties, there’s new relationships, there’s crowded lecture halls being commanded by professors you don’t understand, or particularly like.
But you have to see through all of that smoke and keep your eyes on the green light off into the horizon—like Gatsby, minus the sad death at the end.
Get to know your school’s qualifications. How high does your GPA have to be to get your degree? How many credits do you need? What classes should you take early and what classes can you hold off on? How do you get the most out of your financial aid each semester?
And financial aid is the biggest factor, from what I’ve seen, in delaying undergrads in their graduate pursuits—it took me 6 years to finish my undergraduate degree because of financial aid paradox. Get to know your school’s financial aid system like the back of your hand. Know how much money is available. Know the penalties. Find scholarships. The sad truth is, not everyone is lucky enough to have parents who plan for their child’s academic future and sometimes you’re going to have to take matters into your own hands.
Once you’ve figured out exactly how your school works, the rest is up to you. You’re going to have to learn how to multitask and prioritize. Is going to another party just to hear the same old songs and see the same old people more important than acing that Psych exam? The choice is yours. Because, quite frankly, you can’t always have it all when it comes to good grades, plenty of sleep, and a social life in college. You can only have two of the three. Choose wisely.