How I Learned To Be A Winner

In 2011 I graduated from high school with a 3.7 GPA and had applied to Western Michigan University. My ACT scores weren’t even sent to them until well after I had taken the test (if I remember correctly I did not list it as one of the schools I wanted them sent to before taking the test). My scores went to Grand Valley State, Ferris State, and Michigan State — three schools I didn’t even apply for when I needed to be applying to higher education institutions. The only school I applied to was WMU. After waiting for a time frame I can not remember, I got my acceptance letter from the school.

I was ecstatic. My mom took a picture of my broad smiling face holding the acceptance letter up, tongue sticking out. In August of the same year I moved into Garneau Hall in Western Michigan’s Valley 2, the farthest dorm from the rest of campus, but we had the only stir-fry on campus in our dining facility so that made up for it in my eyes. I was now free. Free to “be an adult,” free to “live how I wanted,” and free from the lifestyle that had brought me up through elementary, middle, and high school. I was on my own, rooming with my best friend and literally across the hall (four feet) from my brother and other friend. I was one of the happiest people ever.

And then everything changed. I stopped doing my assignments, I stopped going to class, and through my first two semesters of college I did more gaming and odd activities with my friend and brother than I did going to class. On one of our first days we took the cardboard carpet rolls and jousted. We had cardboard armor, a helmet for “the Hound” and lots of pain.

That was the start of my downfall. I skipped my classes, failed some others because I wasn’t doing the work correctly, and declined to get help from the professors who seemed to be genuinely concerned. In total, I ended my first year of college with a 1.87 GPA, was put on academic dismissal, and was out of Western Michigan University after my first year. I had failed, and that stung more than I had ever believed. I cried when I found out for so many nights it’s seared into my head.

The next year I stated at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, having moved into an apartment by myself in Kalamazoo. I drove ten minutes to school every morning at 8AM for a 9AM class, and told myself that what happened the last year was not going to repeat itself. I was living on my own, my brother had moved back home, my friend had moved back home, and bother were attending Grand Rapids Community College. Over the next semester I kept myself motivated, told myself that what had happened in my first year of college was a fluke, and it turned out to be true. I ended my first year at Kalamazoo Valley with a 3.4GPA and knew in my mind that I was capable of being successful — I just had to put the time and effort into my work.

After a year and a half at KVCC I transferred back to Western Michigan University and did fairly okay. I didn’t keep the high GPA I’d had at Kalamazoo Valley, but it wasn’t terrible. It was now 2014 and I was happy to be back at the university I’d come to love. Then, my efforts slowed again, my studying habits faltered, and rather quickly, my GPA slid again. Right now, in 2017, after three terrible semesters starting in 2015, my GPA is somewhere in the low 2.0s…

I’m slowly finding my studying habits and trying to get through a foreign language class that has taken me a total of four semesters to get where I am, and still need three other classes. In total I am thirteen credits from graduating with my Bachelors in Arts and Sciences five-and-a-half years after my first semester.

In 2015 I was skipping classes again, failing to contact my professors, and ignoring my family who was only trying to help me. I started seeing a counselor at WMU’s Sindecuse Health Center and he and I have figured out many of my issues. While I could elaborate on this I won’t in accordance to the private policy and confidentiality clauses set in place by the counseling services. From 2015 to 2016 I failed or dropped out of more classes than I passed with even 1.5s (which is the equivalent of a C-). It stung again, and I realized that I needed to find myself. Who am I? What am I capable of? Can I finally graduate?

Yes, I can. I know I can. I’m capable of graduating and getting into a career, even if it’s taken me almost six years to do so. I’ve started watching the TV shows I enjoy, I’ve started doing bodyweight workouts in my apartment, and trying to better myself in the long run after failing at so many things throughout the last five-and-a-half years. Sure, it’s taken me this long to realize who I am, what I am capable of, and how I can accomplish my goals, but there’s nothing stopping me except myself.

I’ve surrounded myself with few people, but people who care about me (my girlfriend, my brother, a few of my brother’s roommates I’ve gotten to know). I may not be the most amazing person, but I know who I am, and how I can get through the final year of school. I’ve learned that I am more inclined to do writing than reading because of my major, but that’s a hurdle I need to learn to jump — and I will. I’ve got two history classes that I need to pass as well, which are research-based, so perhaps getting more help from the instructors on what they’re looking for and how to incorporate my own thoughts into scholarly research would be beneficial. I’ve slowly learned how to be more proactive and how to succeed because I’ve failed for so long.

I’ve failed but I know I can succeed. College has nothing on me. I’ve just got to continue to be myself, the proactive student who once had an English professor record zero grades in the second class I took from him because he “knew I would get the work done and do it well.”

That’s who I’m learning to be again. I’m learning to be the active student, the student who asks questions, who studies enough to do well on tests and feel good about himself. So, school and life, you’ve got nothing on me. I’m above you. I control you, you don’t control me. I’ve switched my mindset and learned how to succeed because I’ve spent so long failing.

It’s my turn to be the winner.