College began for me at the tender age of 17. It’s not that I had skipped a grade; I was just born late in the year, meaning I’ve always been the youngest in my class. That being said, I did kill on the STAR exam in elementary school ― so I like to think age was never really a factor with me.
Those standardized exams, telling as they were, did not prepare me for the many surprises I encountered at California State University Fresno in 2008. Instructors insisted we purchase our own books and scantrons ― even print out and keep track of our own syllabi! Did I really sign up for this tyranny? With a new load of responsibilities weighing me down, I wasn’t really ready to appreciate the upside of college: all the newfound freedom.
You could ditch class without worrying you parents would be notified. Instructors wouldn’t call you into their office if you were missing assignments ― the merciless grading system took care of that. With each passing year, I became more and more capable of navigating college. I wasn’t getting lost on campus, I had mastered the art of dodging fanatical religious canvassers and had successfully cohabitated with a fair share of colorful roommates.
After a long inner debate about what major to select, I decided, at the end of my sophomore year, I’d be a Public Health major ― better late than never. Now, I had been warned about the undesirable “victory lap,” an academic anomaly in which a bachelor’s degree took five or even six years to finish. I would often see “graduated” peers return come fall in order to finish up some classes. To avoid said lap, I became determined to graduate in four years. I spent hours on the public health department’s site, figuring out what courses were offered in the fall or spring, what courses had prereqs and to find the professors who would ensure my success (thanks, ratemyprofessor.com).
My weaknesses were in hard science and mathematics. Armed with this knowledge, I made sure to take biology, accounting and statistics during the summer. The four-week summer structure was instrumental in allowing me to focus on tougher subjects (and to pass with flying colors). I also took winter intersession courses and kept an unorthodox schedule during the regular fall and spring semesters.
In order to graduate on time, I took courses with 3-hour gaps in between. A typical school day started at 8 AM and ended at 9PM. Was it inconvenient? Completely. I sacrificed many semesters of unconventional schedules for the chance at graduating on time. And it was, undoubtedly, worth it.
Ultimately, the time came for me to graduate. The ceremony was my final moment of realization. I was surrounded by family and friends, and I had pulled it all off ― I had my Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health and it felt unbelievable. All those all-nighters, mid-terms, group projects (ugh), they had all culminated in this one moment…and then the moment was over.
Time to move on. To what? More college of course! I started graduate school the following fall semester, with my academic momentum in full swing. And here I am today, nearly done with that master’s. Time sure flies.
Next week I relive the best bits of being a Public Health undergrad. See you then!