Thursday, June 6, 2013

A message to the High School Graduate

The past few years I have taught high school - my subject?  American Sign Language.  I love teaching these kids sign, which really has a high demand since it is the third most common language in America.  This past week I had the pleasure of watching a number of my students cross the threshold into adulthood and the real world.  I can only hope that they do their best as they enter college and the world of bill paying, responsibility, jobs, and eventually, families.
The first step for many high school graduates is college - whether a two-year or a four-year.  It took me 9 years to get my bachelors.  Yup, 9 years.  During my first year (while taking Human Sexuality, ironically) I became pregnant with my first son.  Within two and half years I had two sons and was trying to fit in school between raising my boys.  It was difficult and I DO NOT recommend that route, but that is why I spent 9 years getting a B.A.  But I digress....
Over the course of my college years I learned some things about making college easier and the things that make it more difficult.  For you recent graduates, these are my words of advice to help you enjoy college and making your experience successful.
  1. Get a laptop!  This seriously took me until my last year of college to obtain, but boy - did it make taking notes so much easier!  I found that taking notes in lecture-style classes was very difficult when trying to write down every word that the teacher dictated.  Once I started using the laptop to track my notes, I found that I didn't lose my notes and I could keep up with the professor.  My last semester I had three history classes and without my typed notes, I do not think I would have been able to keep all of the dates and events straight.
  2. Pledge a Greek House.  Even if it is just for giggles.  I did this at age 26 with two kids and a husband at home because it was always something I imagined would be apart of my college career.  Needless to say they didn't pick me, but I was still impressed with the sweet personalities and the philanthropies that come with each house.  The people I know that have become Greek, have made friends for life and cherish the memories they made while involved in this aspect of college life.
  3. Map out your classes before the first day!  Seriously.  Get your butt over to the campus and walk your schedule.  This helps with nerves on the first day, plus you won't have to worry about getting lost and then stumbling late into your class on the first day.  This also leads into the my next piece of advice....
  4. Get to your classes early (especially in the first few weeks).  It is so awkward to show up to class and either get stuck standing in the back of the room (because the students who are trying to add have taken the desk seats) or sitting on the floor.  When you arrive early you can get an early pick on what seat you want.  By the way, college students are creatures of habit.  Typically where you sit the first few days naturally becomes "your seat."  No seating charts needed.
  5. Enjoy pizza and a beer on a long day.  (After you are 21 of course!)  During my last semester of school I had two days a week where I was at school for 12 hours with an hour and a half for my lunch break.  It was so nice, on occasion, to sit back with my fellow program mates and enjoy pizza and a beer before the next round of classes. 
  6. Do your work!  This really goes without saying, or should, right?  Make time for homework and studying.  I just cruised by for the first few years and got C's and B's.  This took a toll on my overall GPA.  Jobs DO look at your GPA, just so you know.  By the time I transferred to a four-year, the damage was done.  I started getting straight A's, but the prestigious honor of graduating Magna Laude, Magna Cum Laude, or Magna Sum Cum Laude had slipped away (I was just a few tenths of points away from the lowest of these three honors.)  I wanted to kick myself!  All of your classes are important, even the general ed.
  7. Get to know your professors.  They can eventually become your friends, mentors, and potential job references.  To this day I am still in contact with several amazing professors and their advice, opinions, and insight are such blessings to me.  The semester I discovered I was pregnant, I was talking to my favorite history professor about how I wouldn't be able to take the spring semester because my son was due the first week back.  She told me that she had once been in my situation and that I would have her support.  "Come to school, take my class.  When you have the baby, just email me and let me know, I will hold your place.  After he is born, bring him to class.  Your education is just as important as being a mom."  I will never forget her kindness.  True to her word, I took her advice and brought him with me all semester.  When he would get fussy, I would step out of class.  There were times when she would scoop him up and walk around the room giving her lecture.  I wish there were more people like her in the world.
  8. Ride your bike.  When and if you can.  Parking permits are EXPENSIVE!  It was a blessing that one of my friends lived just off campus and we could park our cars at his house and ride bikes to school.  Not only was it a great workout, but it saved me over $300 a semester.  Having a bike on campus also made getting to classes easier.  Many of my classes were so spread out that the bike made things easier.  Here's another note - if you have a cute bike with an adorable basket make sure you A.) Remove said basket when you park and B.) Have a quality lock (none of those chain things.)  My precious baby blue cruiser was stolen in the middle of the day because I did not follow A & B. 
  9. Live in the dorms.  At least for a year.  I didn't do this and I regret it.  What a great way to meet new and interesting people!  Many people meet their best friends at college and often in their dorms.  Experience this part of college life!
  10. Don't date.  "Mrs. H!  You left this for last?!" - I can hear my students saying this now.  In my classroom we have posters that list many reasons why, "That's Why You Don't Date."  My theory is you shouldn't date until you are ready to get married.  Do students often listen to me?  No.  So often though, after a terrible break-up, they come back and say, "I see what you mean...I am done dating."  Dating distracts from studies and friendships.  College is stressful enough when you add dating to the mix.  A great guy or girl will be waiting when you graduate - and hopefully they too are prepared for a serious relationship because they have received their degrees, secured a career, and hopefully, just maybe, they have a house already.  Once again I didn't think these things through and ended up with two kids and spending 9 years in college.  I do not wish that on anyone.  Spend college focused on your classes and building friendships that will last a lifetime.  Make sure you figure out who you are outside of relationships so you do not compromise your values while in one.
I really do wish the best of luck to all of my graduates and hope they excel in school and in life.  I will miss you all and do hope you stay in touch!  As my favorite ASL professor says, "Hands waving in ASL" - Mrs. H.


  1. So insightful! I wish we'd known each other before college...

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  3. MRS HAWHEE!!! I LOVE THIS!! i am copying and pasting the list and going to save it a memorize it:) Your always the best teacher ever!! I'm SOOO going to miss your class. Loving the blog too! just discovered this gem today:) LOVE ya have fun in my new home town of S.L.O