Hard choices: reflections from a 20-year-old college senior
If you were to guess my year in college simply based on my appearance, my personality or where I live, you might be shocked to find out that I only have 11 credits left to finish my bachelor’s degree (hopefully). It’s not uncommon for students to get ahead in school, and it surely isn’t uncommon to get behind, but graduating from a four-year college before I’m legally able to drink is just unheard of.
To make things clear, there’s a few things that I should mention before assumptions are made. For one, despite my status, I am by no means a “genius,” and I doubt I have a uniquely high IQ. I never received any merit-based scholarships, nor have I had a straight 4.0 GPA. In reality, I never was a perfect person, as no one really is, and the odds of me getting into college, let alone graduating at 20, seemed unimaginable to me not long ago.
But what made up for those imperfections was the good decision that I made for myself. For me, it was the decision to leave high school behind for college and become a PSEO student at 17 during my senior year in high school. It was that year that I learned how to be an adult: how to be responsible, independent and carefree in a way.
As hard as it was to adapt to life in college, it became easier once I got the groove of it and it actually gave me more freedom. I didn’t have to stay at the college all day, and it felt good to know that no one was watching over me. I enjoyed taking my classes, even the difficult ones. Most importantly, I met so many people from all walks of life, and I was given more respect for my discussions and opinions in and out of the classroom than I ever was before. It gave me a whole new perspective on life, and it gave me the motivation to push on.
Yet it hasn’t always been pleasant for me. There have been many difficulties for me within the last four years such as transferring colleges, gaining and losing friends and making choices that were either difficult or regrettable. Although many people have appreciated my company, some haven’t, and I’ve been picked on for my social awkwardness as much as I was in high school. This has made me anxious, depressed and in many cases scared about my future because I’m always afraid of making mistakes.
But I didn’t let that stop me. I didn’t let fear take me over. I didn’t let the regret of the past hold me back, nor did I let people hold me back. I didn’t, and I won’t.
Although I was lucky to be able to have the opportunity to go to college early, luck was not the sole reason I made it through. I made it through because I made difficult choices for myself: more time studying, less time at leisure. I made it through because I worked hard to get there, often spending entire evenings at the library to get work done. But most importantly, I made it through because I used every resource I had available to me and I had people who supported me along the way who I listened to. I never took anything for granted, and I never stopped working towards an assignment until it was finished.
To reflect back: I would like to thank my parents, family, friends, teachers, professors and fellow classmates for their guidance and their support over the entirety of my academic career. I would not have done it without you, and I would have never imagined being able to go so far at a young age. Whether you will all be able to witness my graduation next May is a given, but I know that my latest accomplishment would have not materialized without your presence.
In addition to my gratitude, I would also like to send a message of motivation to those who read this. I didn’t write this to brag about being done with college at a young age, but rather to give a reason to move forward with your path in life. In order to defy the odds, you need to make difficult choices in your life to get ahead. You need to accept your differences, but never let them define who you are. You need to plan out what you need and on occasion let go of what you don’t. Most importantly, you need to continue to work towards your goal, use every resource you have available and never stop working towards it until it’s complete. Because while you might not end up graduating at age 20, you will definitely gain a lot more confidence and motivation to complete your degree.