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Is College for Me?
Breanna King

I always wanted to go to college, but didn’t think I was “good enough.” My high school years were rocky. I was asked to leave my first school—a private Catholic school—at the end of freshman year. I’d been hanging out with troublemakers, and my passing grades weren’t high enough to be “Catholic-school acceptable.”

At my second school, I also had a lot of friends, which led to easy distraction and bad grades. School wasn’t important to me; I just wanted to go out and chill. I was falling behind, but I couldn’t see how it would affect my future options.

I didn’t get a lot of strong guidance from my parents. My mother hadn’t attended college herself, and I knew she wanted me go. But she never stressed it or really pushed me to get my work done.

Doubts About College

During senior year, I wanted to turn back the hands of time. It started with parent-teacher conferences, where all of my teachers talked about how smart I was and how they wished I would put more effort into my school work. Afterwards, my parents wanted to discuss my future.

My father wanted me to become a cop. His main focus was me being able to retire after 20 years on the force. But I knew for sure I was not interested in law enforcement. My mother doubted that I would take college seriously and change my lazy ways. She was afraid I would go and end up partying.

Meanwhile, ever since I was small, my grandmother had told me, “I just want you to go to college and be someone in life.” I didn’t want to disappoint her or anyone else in my family by not living up to my potential. But I felt unsure of what I wanted.

The truth is, I did have goals. I’ve always wanted either to become an astronomer or to become a news reporter or meteorologist (all of which require college). I’ve never been shy and I can talk to people about anything, which is essential in journalism. And I have always had a love for the stars and the planets. If I didn’t go to college, what would I do? These dreams would be out of reach.

But I never really spoke to anyone about my goals; I just figured I would deal with them when the time came. Now the time had come, and I had no clue what to do.

A Taste of Campus Life

As college application deadlines drew closer, I started doing some serious thinking. I knew that college was something I wanted to experience. Most of my friends were planning on going away for college; knowing they were doing what I wanted to do made me feel disappointed and ashamed. I knew my grades and lack of motivation were in danger of holding me back.

It was late to act, but better late then never. So when I got the opportunity to visit Herkimer Community College in upstate New York, I took it as a chance to get a feel for college life and help my decision-making process. I spent three days there and stayed with my cousin, who lived with four other girls in housing off campus.

While they did homework, they told me all about life in college. They had complete freedom, coming and going as they pleased. They would stay up late at night and still get up and go to class. They had a lot of work, but it was nothing they couldn’t handle.

I realized that college would give me a feeling of being on my own. But I knew I wasn’t completely ready for independence. I have never been away from my family and friends for a long period, so the idea was nerve-racking and exciting at the same time.

I Needed a Plan B

The trip got me thinking more realistically about my options. Although I preferred to go away for college, because of my grades I realized that I needed a Plan B. I could live at home and attend a two-year community college in the city, and then transfer to a four-year school after raising my GPA. Another option was to take a break after high school and find a job, saving up enough money to support myself through school.

I was confused and wished I had more time. It was now November and deadlines were approaching. College applications needed to be done, I still needed to apply for financial aid, and I hadn’t taken the SATs yet.

image by Elijah Hickson

I realized that wishing I had done better in the past was keeping me from pursuing the future. I feared my bad habits would repeat themselves and I would get caught up—not doing my work, getting easily distracted, and not succeeding. I was stuck, and now I see that it was mostly about me doubting myself. I knew I could do better than failing grades and tardiness, but I was almost ready to give up without trying.

In the end, I decided to go to a community college in the city for a year, improve my grades, and transfer. While I’m going to community college I will mentally prepare to move out. I plan on finding a part-time job. This way I can get a feel of both college life and work before I leave home.

Telling My Mom

The only thing left to do was let my parents know my decision. I hoped they’d be supportive, which would make an already difficult situation easier. One night I sat down with my mother. As I spoke, I tried to read her facial expression.

I started by saying, “This has got to be the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make concerning school, but I think I came up with a solution.”

“Well, what did you come up with?” she asked.

“I came up with three choices: taking a break after school and working, staying here for school and later transferring, or not going to college at all. Each choice I spent a lot of time thinking about.”

“The last one is not an option,” she said. “I want you to do better than I did.”

I paused for a second and continued, “Well, I decided to stay here and complete a year in a CUNY school. Then I can transfer out of state after getting my grades together.”

“What made you choose that one?” she asked.

“I knew I wasn’t going to want to go back after taking a break from school, and not going to college at all would just be lazy,” I answered.

“Well, wherever you decide to go, I’ll support you, just do what you feel is best for you and your future,” she said in a warm tone.

After our conversation I felt good about the decision I made. Knowing I had my mom’s support gave me that push I needed to start my college journey.

In the end, I want to prove my old doubts wrong and make my family proud.

How I’ll Banish Self-Doubt

Now, my biggest worry is whether I can banish my self-doubt. I avoid studying and finishing my assignments because I’m afraid of failing yet again. Instead, I procrastinate. I play with my phone, shuffle through my music, watch TV, and surf the Internet. Sometimes I waste hours this way. I’m concerned that I’ll continue these bad habits when I get to college, so I’ve started thinking about what I can do to change.

For one thing, I have to get strict with myself about sticking with a study schedule. And I have to completely unplug: turn off my phone, my iPod, and the TV, and try to avoid the Internet. I also realized that I focus better when I study with someone else, so I’m going to make a point to let my mom quiz me, and form study groups with my classmates. I’ve been told it’s good to meet with my professors during their office hours, and I think that may help me follow through with assignments. I’m still nervous about whether I’ll be able to do all of these things, but it’s better than having no plan at all.

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