The Professional Student
The term “professional student” has two meanings. In more official talk in academics, it means a student who has a bachelor’s degree and is continuing their studies. This is not the definition I am talking about, for in more slang terms the phrase “professional student” takes a more negative turn.
In this layman’s terms, a professional student describes someone who just seems to be in school for admittedly a little too long. Instead of graduating promptly and using that knowledge into forging their career, they have either elected or were forced to stay in their selected place of education for an extended period of time. I would describe myself as this interpretation of a professional student. But how did it come to pass for me?
Things were looking up for me upon graduating from high school. I opted to attend community college to save a couple of bucks and was fortunate to attend the best one around my place of residence. I even had a scholarship for the first semester of college so for that semester I paid nothing. I felt great; two years here, maybe find a job and finish at a 4-year to solidify my chances at finding a career. In my plan, I would attend 4 years, have my bachelor's, and definitely be ready for the market. It was 5 years later where I actually finished community college and just got my associate's.
The first signs of trouble started in the same first semester. I attended the wrong classes, their credits meaning nothing to my degree, and for some general classes, my placements in them were… average to say the least. I was furious at both prospects, my plan was ruined! now I would graduate from community college in 3 years instead of 2, how tragic! (ironic I know). For some reason I didn’t take this as “Ok I’ll just do well in these classes and re-direct to the correct classes in time”. I considered this a transgression against me, if these classes were useless then I just won’t do them. Did I drop them? No. Did I still attend them? Oddly yes. Did I do well in them? …well I stayed there for 5 years didn’t I?
So the first thing that held me back was attitude, one that I realized and tried to clean up, but the damage was done. After the first semester, I did not receive any more scholarships. To top things off my family was reaching some hard times so aid couldn’t come from there either and a part-time cashier job will obviously not cover the expenses. As you can deduce, the second harbinger of this story was money or lack thereof. Because of the money troubles, I was unable to pay for semesters in full, meaning that I had to take multiple semesters off to save money to attend.
Now you may ask “how come you didn’t use student loans? At least then you would have kept on track.” and you would be right. There were some hiccups with my FASFA process that made it slightly more difficult, but it was no excuse. The real answer comes from why I felt imposter syndrome for my entire time at college. I stated before that at first I just didn’t do the work in class once it was revealed that they were useless. I kept saying to myself: “Had I have been reasonable I would have reached my goals already.” A phrase that first started as a means to get in gear so to speak, but eventually became a source of depression. This was compounded when I just didn’t get a few select later classes, such as my calculus II class, which prolonged my stay even longer. This made me question if this path was for me at all. Was I good enough? Was I some kind of hack trying to stumble his way into a lucrative field? How long will this take? I definitely felt depressed, I even felt depressed that I was depressed. “How can you even be sad about this, you’re the one who didn’t even do anything!”
In the end, I did graduate, but my original plan was in pieces. To make up for it and to help mend the feelings of inadequacy I attended extra certification classes and boot camps (such as Flatiron School; the one that taught me the importance of blogging). And through meeting people during those classes, I learned that everyone’s process was different. I was so mad that I wasn’t getting through school fast enough that it actually hurt my work ethic in school. Instead of battering myself and comparing myself to others, I should just do the best I can. Maybe after things are said and done I can reflect and compare, but doing it at the moment was just hurting myself, not pushing.
Currently, I am finishing up my time at Flatiron School. Along the way, I met people from many walks of life. Some getting into the field for the first time, some well established but seeking other opportunities. And then there is me the professional student, ready to do all I can to ensure a better future