Among other things in high school, I was a band geek and an AP student. Not the valedictorian or even close, but I constantly pushed myself to take college classes and get high grades and high test scores. I joined Drumline and marched with the band, and did all of that while working a full-time job and having a full-time boyfriend. Needless to say, by the end of my senior year, I was exhausted.
Senior year I also had the incredible opportunity to attend the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in LA to compete with my project that was essentially a non-medicinal treatment program for PTSD. It was a project I had been working on and cultivating for three years. I walked away with fourth place in my category. While I would never take back that incredible experience, the week of ISEF landed directly between the week of all my AP exams and graduation. That meant I had to finish everything up extra early just so I could make sure I would graduate.
I graduated with high honors and 24 credit hours towards my degree. To everyone, I was the picture of what a successful high school student should look like. I had several scholarships from a local college and plunged straight into school, taking on 18 hours a semester.
College was different, to say the least. I was promoted at my job and I changed my major. My class' fall semester inspired me and provoked thought and work ethic, especially my poetry class. However, I was burning out.
I ended up having to retake English 2010 spring semester because my grade in the class was insufficient. English has ALWAYS been my strong suit, but I just wasn't putting in the effort for the class. I stopped caring about my work. Spring semester, I began to feel stuck, even as I was applying for other colleges. I started to feel like maybe college isn't for me. It's an unpopular opinion in modern society, but not everyone is college-bound. I started to feel like maybe I was one of those people, even though an MBA was the fastest track to where I wanted to go in the business world.
I was accepted at a great school in Boston as a transfer student in the business program. Between scholarships and financial aid, my tuition was paid for. Everyone in my life was beyond elated—my parents, my boyfriend, his parents...
But I just felt stuck. I felt like I wanted to quit. I wanted to give up. I was lacking motivation and inspiration and the drive to be successful. I ended the fall semester with a 2.2 GPA. I failed English 2010. Again. I barely passed the rest of my classes.
Failing English 2010 was a huge wake-up call for me. It should have been a breeze; it's just an argumentative essay writing class. All I had to do was show up and write four decent essays. But I couldn't even swing that. I was spending less than six hours a week on campus, and barely even checking on my online classes.
I made the decision to defer my enrollment at my new school for a year and take a year's break. I decided that if I kept trying to go to college when I wasn't ready, when I wasn't committed, that I was going to ruin it for myself. You only get one chance at your college GPA. You only get one shot to do it right or ruin it for yourself.
I moved to Boston and got a better-paying job working 50 hours a week. Knowing I won't have to balance school with my job, my boyfriend, and his school has genuinely made me happier than anything else in my life.
I truly believe that college is something I want to do with my life. And why not do it if it's paid for? But if I keep trying to go before I'm ready to commit to it, I am going to flunk out of college. You shouldn't do something so significant in your life before you're ready.
For now, I'm working a job in my intended field that's a step up from my former position. I am pursuing my passions. I am doing the things that I love to do and supporting my amazing new boyfriend as he pursues his and goes through a grueling music degree. I am proud to be the breadwinner and to be doing something that I care about. I am proud that I made what I felt like was the best decision I could. I am finally wholly happy for the first time in my entire life.
You don't need a college degree to be happy or to be successful, though it definitely helps. If you're feeling stuck, uninspired, overwhelmed, or apathetic towards school, I urge you to pause and steady yourself before continuing. It is okay to take a break from school. We do thirteen years of standardized education and are then expected to dive right into six to ten more.
The gap year is important, and it doesn't matter when you take it. My year might become two or three. All I know is I will know when it is time to continue to pursue my higher education.