My 6th year as an undergrad made me who I am today.
A couple of years ago I attended a graduation party for one of the most amazing students I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. He was wearing a t-shirt that said:
“College – the best 7 years of my life!”
I kidded him about it because I knew that he had not finished in the typical(?) four years and he admitted that it had indeed been seven. Not only that someone gave him the shirt his freshman year.
It made me think back to the end of August 1994 when I was about to begin my 6th year enrolled as an undergraduate engineering student.
I had plenty of excuses and rationalizations for the fact that I wasn’t done but none of them mattered what mattered was that I had no intention of asking my parents for money to pay for this year – a year that should not be – and that I had used up all of the money I made during year four to pay for year five. (I took year four “off” and worked full time.)
With almost no cash and a full course load for two more semesters staring me in the face I signed up for the payment plan offered at the bursar’s office and got a full time job driving a forklift in a warehouse attached to a plastic injection molding company. This was my first experience working directly for a manufacturing company and it was an eye opening experience.
It was also a tiring experience you see I was still taking a full course load and was working second shift five days a week plus taking all the weekend overtime they would give me. Amazingly enough I did not fail all of the classes I took that semester, but I failed enough of them to know that I needed a better plan for the spring.
I still use some of the credit cards I applied for that winter and finished the spring semester passing 12 classes with all As and Bs and almost $35,000 in credit card debit that I was very adept at moving from card to card in rotation.
In one sense, looking back, I can see that I manufactured both my failure that first semester and my success the second. During the first semester I misused my resources my time and my focus. One of the only classes I passed that semester was a class I now teach at that same university and I often wonder if the C that I got was actually a gift from the instructor.
In the spring of 1995 on the other hand success was my only acceptable result and I was able to focus on the things required to pass my classes and manufacture my success.