By Sergio A. Lagunas @salagunas
It was a spring quarter at UC Santa Barbara, and I could barely afford to pay rent. It was a tough ten weeks. I had to work two jobs (Office of Admissions Intern, and Housekeeping Student Assistant). All of this time working, and I was still not able to find the funds for purchasing textbooks required by all of my professors. I was enrolled in two English Literature courses and two Education courses. I took out plenty of loans to keep up with the tuition fee hikes, so I was in a tough situation; nevertheless, I did not want anything to get in my way from becoming the first person in my family to graduate from a four-year university. This was only my first year as a transfer student, and I could not let my family down.
I never bought the required textbooks for any of my classes that quarter, but I was able to find some of the required readings online from Project Gutenberg. I attended every class, and I took notes in every lecture. Yet, without the reading material, I was lost during the close reading sessions with our T.A.’s. I even went to every professor’s office hours. I got to meet and learn about my professors, yet I could not completely grasp the information or the ideas from these courses.
I felt like dropping out of college toward the ninth week of the quarter. I knew my midterms went badly, yet I still went in and took my final exams. Then after grades came in, I was placed on academic probation. I visited my academic advisor, and I was told to write the reasons for not performing well, then I was reinstated. I had the whole summer to think really hard about my experience at UCSB, and I did not want to leave.
I tried to take a summer course, but I could not afford to pay the fees, so I dropped the course in American Literature. Not being able to afford college can be very discouraging.
During the rest of my college career, I was able to retake these three courses and earned A’s and B’s. I learned three major lessons about college because of this experience:
- Always persist: The best way to persist when you are on a mission to succeed in anything especially in higher education is to ask for advice. One major way of persisting is by asking for help from mentors, older students, any staff and your professors. Ask your roommate for help when you get sick, and ask for an extension when you really can’t complete the assignment by the professor’s deadlines because of outside responsibilities.
- Always ask questions: Clarification is key to knowing what is expected from you. Visit your professors during office hours and get to know them. Ask them about the course, their assignments, the midterm, the final exam and their path toward their career. Find a mentor to help you clarify life’s greatest questions while you are in college. Also, don’t forget to ask your parents questions, they are very wise.
- Always read!: Whether it is for a class, workshop, meeting, or any event that requires active participation, read what you need to know before showing up. Read the material so that you are able to contribute to the discussion. Read so that you understand what everyone is talking about, and express your ideas inspired from the reading.