Struggling to balance a double major, a job, and extracurriculars, Ahmara Watson discovers her strength is endurance as she navigates her way through the overwhelming expectations of college life.
"Knowing what you can get out of it helps push you through. I think that being able to overwork myself and power through, even when I'm tired or overwhelmed, has been a strength that I've discovered in college."
Ahmara Watson is a second year student at San Diego State University double majoring in Criminal Justice and Psychology. She works part-time at the police department and is involved in the Criminal Justice Association and Young Life clubs. She was surprised to learn that she was capable of double majoring, and is thankful for her father's veteran's benefits that cover her tuition for 4 years. She has discovered her strength in endurance, but struggles with test taking, especially multiple choice. College has taught her to push herself, and to not be afraid to take on challenges.
Struggling to balance a double major, a job, and extracurriculars, Ahmara Watson discovers her strength is endurance as she navigates her way through the overwhelming expectations of college life.
"Knowing what you can get out of it helps push you through. I think that being able to overwork myself and power through, even when I'm tired or overwhelmed, has been a strength that I've discovered in college."
Ahmara Watson is a 2nd-year student at San Diego State University (SDSU) double majoring in Criminal Justice and Psychology. She works part-time at the police department and is involved in the Criminal Justice Association and Young Life clubs. She was surprised to learn that she was capable of double majoring, and is thankful for her father's veteran's benefits that cover her tuition for 4 years. She has discovered her strength in endurance, but struggles with test taking, especially multiple choice. College has taught her to push herself, and to not be afraid to take on challenges.
In this episode, you will learn about Ahmara’s:
1. Academic Endeavors: How does she navigate a full workload, double majoring, and a job?
2. Social Transition to College: What was it like going from COVID lockdowns to a 24/7 social life?
3. Strengths and Weaknesses: How does she take advantage of her strengths and how has she compensated for her test-taking weakness?
Connect with me:
Statistics show that approximately 40% of students drop out of college every year. Nearly 30% drop out their first year. Ahmara Watson is a second year student at San Diego State. We'll be talking about her study locations, her academic endurance, and hey, even a possible internship.
Ahmara Watson is a second year student at San Diego State University. She is double majoring in Criminal Justice and Psychology. Watson is also involved in the Young Life club. She describes college as an introduction to adulting.
Student: My goal is to graduate in 3 years instead of 4 years with my double major. Is that something that you would recommend for students, high school students to take some AP classes if they can or no?
In college, there's so much pressure to get into the good schools. It's not just about your GPA anymore, it's about your extracurriculars. I think AP classes definitely prepared me the most.
I think the social environment, because COVID hit maybe, like, my mid junior year, that was basically half of my junior year and all my senior year where I didn't really socialize. Going from no social life to an everyday 24/7 social life was just a shock to me. I was not ready for that at all.
I was really surprised by the amount of work I've been able to do. I tried working when I was in college and I just couldn't do it. It's a lot doing both. I see why people don't work.
Is there anything that you've discovered as a strength that you just didn't know that you had coming into college? I think it would be my endurance. Knowing what you can get out of it helps push you through.
My weakness is test taking, which is very problematic for a college student. I've never once done well on multiple choice exams. It's either a C or D. Not doing well on something that weighs a lot, you have to do really well on homework and papers.
My primary major is Criminal Justice, and my secondary major is Psychology. Criminal Justice and Psychology works well together. We were getting VA benefits for tuition and some fees. It gives us the ability to go to any UC or CSU school basically for free.
I want to go into the police academy right after I graduate. I feel like everything in law enforcement is about experience. I definitely want to start planning ahead so I know what I'm going to do after college. Having a goal makes it easier for you to know for decision making along the way.
I like to go home because I feel like it centers me. Going home isn't just like a physical thing, but mentally it's like I get a reset. What advice would you give freshmen struggling with feeling overwhelmed or stressed out?
Where I'm most productive is the library. Where I realistically study is my room. I study when I have windows of time. The environment is also a really big factor. Is there a time of day that works best for you?
"I struggled a lot during my freshman year, but along the way, I developed some skills that allowed me to turn things around," she says. She set out to get straight A's from then on out. Had she not set that goal for herself, she would not have had enough runway left for her to graduate with honors.
I think my main win is that I got a conditional job offer with the FBI. What do you do to celebrate your wins? I celebrate it with excitement. Your win is celebrated by doing something that's rejuvenating.
You have to come in as strong as you can, morally, ethically, with your values. You can have fun, but know the consequences of it and value your education. Remember your goals, and hopefully that motivates you to stay focused in college.
Additional Links from Episode:
Interview Date: 10/24/22
Episode 1. Academic Endurance, Overcoming Challenges, and Self-Reflection with Ahmara Watson at San Diego State
This is the Academic Survival Podcast, and I'm your host, Dr. Shandra McDonald. Statistics show that approximately 40% of students drop out of college every year. In fact, nearly 30% drop out their first year. Well, I am on a mission to improve these stats.
I have way too many co-workers who have literally said that to me on their graduation day, and I'm like, that's not going to be me. I'm not working four years for me to say at my graduation, "I don't know what I want to do." I think that's just like a chicken running without a pet. I cannot do that.
That scares me. I don't know what about it? I think that it scares me. That's Ahmara Watson, a 2nd year student at San Diego State. We'll be talking about her study locations, her academic endurance, and hey, even a possible internship.
Coming up next on Academic Survival, with me, Dr. Shandra McDonald. All right. So hello, Amara. How are you?
I'm good. How are you? I'm doing pretty good myself. So I wanted to thank you for coming to the Academic Survival podcast. I believe that you have enough information, enough amount of schooling under your belt, college experience under your belt to where you will be able to help freshmen, current freshmen, and then students who will be freshmen next year.
So let's begin by just giving us a little bit of background in terms of what school you go to, your major, and anything else introductory that you'd like to share. Awesome. So my name is Ahmara Watson. I go to San Diego State University. I'm a 2nd year student, and I'm double majoring in Criminal Justice and Psychology.
I'm also working at the police department as a community service officer, my specific role as a field training officer. So I just train, like, a bunch of new hires when they come in, and I'm limited to 20 hours a week as a student here on campus. And then I'm also involved in the Criminal Justice Association club and also Young Life club here. Young Life. Tell me a little bit about the Young Life club.
Young Life is, like it's a faith based organization. I personally really like it. I found out about that club from one of my coworkers, and it was last year when I was, like it was, like, a rough year, and I was like, I need to make some friends. I need to find some unity and just, like, friendships that I can have because I feel like the school is very party based. So that's personally not me, but having an organization or, like, a club where I can meet people who want, like, deeper relationships and friendships, that sounded really nice to me, and it kind of felt a little bit more like home.
So, yeah, I enjoy it. I go as much as I can, and there's really nice people there. Wow. Yeah. I remember speaking with you on a different occasion.
And I remember one of the things you said was that you lacked having a friend group, so yay, I'm glad that you found one. Yeah. So thinking back to the day you moved out of your home and went down to San Diego State, tell me what was going through your mind and how you felt at the time.
I was excited just because we were in quarantine for, like, a good year and a half, and I was like, at home, did nothing, saw nobody. So going to college, I was really excited, but then I was also kind of like, okay, now I'm on my own. Now what? Now they dropped me off. Now this is, like, the real thing, because at first you're just building up that like, oh, you're going to go to college.
You're going to be on your own. You're going to have to make decisions for yourself. You're just learning how to make good decisions and be without your parents. At first, it sounded all great, and then I was like, wait, okay, now it's actually happening. Now they're actually gone. Now I'm by myself.
So it was definitely a shock, but I honestly really liked it because I feel like being able to be on your own, it forces yourself to make good decisions for yourself or not make good decisions, and you learn the hard way. But I just enjoyed being able to have that opportunity to be away from my parents and have that experience instead of living with them and always being under their roof. Yeah. It's like a real introduction to adulting, right? Yeah.
Can you share with us where you are in the college process, what year you are now? Yeah, I'm a second year student, so my goal is to graduate in three years instead of four years with my double major, but I don't know if that's going to work, but that's my goal. I came in with a lot of AP credits and dual enrollment and combined, I came in with a decent amount of credit, so I'm ahead. So that's why I'm trying to take my full workload each semester. So on top of that, I can try to graduate early.
Wow, that's awesome. So how many AP credits did you come in with? It was equivalent to 19 units, so that's like, a little bit over semester. Okay. Is that something that you would recommend for students, high school students to take some AP classes if they can, or no?
Yeah, I think that taking AP classes, it challenges you in high school. It looks good, and it also helps you in college, so you kind of get rid of your GE a little bit faster because no one likes the GEs. It's like two years of that. If you can shorten that and start your major sooner because you took APS in high school, I think it's a really smart move. If it's a doable thing in high school for you.
Well, that leads me into something else I want to talk about. In what way did you feel that high school prepared you for college?
I feel like it prepared me. I feel like nowadays in college, compared to other generations, there's so much pressure to get into the good schools, to get into the prestigious schools. It's not just about your GPA anymore. It's about your extracurriculars. It's about your hobbies, your interests, your volunteering.
There's just so much more to it now that there's a lot of pressure that students get that they didn't get before. And I feel like that's another reason why people are just so stressed out with school, because it's kind of become more of a stressful thing. And it's always been stressful, but I feel like now we have higher expectations, higher standards, and a 4.0 doesn't look as good anymore than other people who literally have a four point something GPA, even though 4.0 is amazing, and that's a really good GPA nowadays, it's like, okay, someone has a 4.3, they're doing better than the 4.0. And I feel like it's just nothing is ever good enough. And so you kind of just have to do what you think is good in high school.
And so for me, my mindset was to do something that interested me. So I took, like, AP World History, I took psychology, those kind of related to criminal justice in some sort of way, because it took care of my history, GE took care of my psychology, like, 101 class. It definitely took care of a lot of GEs that I probably wouldn't have wanted to waste money on. With GEs taking that when I just didn't need to, I could do it for free at high school. And so I think AP classes definitely prepared me the most.
Okay, so then what then prepared you the least? In what way was high school not helpful or just did not adequately prepare you for what you were getting into? I think the social environment, because COVID hit maybe, like, my mid junior year, that was basically half of my junior year and all my senior year where I didn't really socialize, we moved up to the desert. I was just not around people.
So when it came to college, going from, like, no social life to an everyday 24/7 social life here, it was just a shock to me because I'm social, but I'm not that extroverted. Like, when I see parties going on here, I'm like, oh, my God, I'm going to stay in my room. So the fact that it was such a big change and so fast, I was not ready for that at all. Wow. So is there anything that has taken you by surprise about yourself or about the school other than the partying?
Yeah, I think I was really surprised by the amount of work I've been able to do. I know that when I came in as a freshman, I was the only person on the floor other than my roommate. Both sides, both wings of the dorm. Myself and my roommate were the only ones who worked. And I was like, wow, I didn't know that people just don't work in college.
I know college is expensive. I don't know how you guys are being able to manage that, but I know that I was working and I was doing my double majors and I was also part of club. So I think that I surprised myself and I was like, whoa, I'm taking a big load. And I did not know I can do that. But I also like to keep busy.
So I think I did that on purpose. Well, I tried working when I was in college, so I also had financial aid, so that was obviously extremely helpful. But I tried working when I was in college and I just couldn't do it. I would literally get out of class, go to because I worked at Target at the time, go to Target, get off work, and then I would attempt to do homework, and I would fall asleep while I was doing my homework. And eventually I had to realize that because I didn't have aspirations to move up in the ranks at Target, I actually was a Criminal Justice major, and I wanted to be a probation officer because I wasn't pursuing retail or anything like that.
I had to consider, is this a job you're even going to school for? No, it's not. So I had to let it go because otherwise I was not going to survive school. It's a lot doing both. I see why people don't do it.
It's hard to find that time to be able to study, because when you work, you're taking away time you could be studying. So, yeah, I definitely see why people don't work, but I was just kind of shocked that me and one other person were the only ones working. I was like, whoa. Wow. So I'm going to switch a little bit here over to what would be considered like, your strengths.
Is there anything that you've discovered as a strength that you just didn't know that you had coming into college? I think it would be my endurance. I tend to overwork myself and overload myself, but I try to power through whether I'm tired or not. I definitely get stressed out and overwhelmed. But I think that knowing what I could have in the future and knowing my future goals, I feel like it's easy to look straight in the future and just be determined and use that to kind of get you . . .
. . . through all the stressful times, all the work I have to do, the studying and the exams that I maybe didn't do so well on. I think that knowing what you can get out of it helps push you through. I'm glad that you said endurance. There's literally an acronym that I use that's called self, SELF, and I look at it as what helped me get through college.
So the S stands for Speak-Pp. There's times where you just have to speak-up. That's going to the professor's office hours and asking questions in class. So the S stands for Speak-Up, but the E stands for Endurance, and the L stands for Letting Go of other people's expectations of you and then even any kind of limiting beliefs that you have about yourself. And then the F stands for Focus on your goal.
So, yeah, absolutely. Endurance is essential. And that's good. That's kind of like a strength that you found. What about weaknesses?
Is there an area of, maybe weakness is not the right word, but just maybe something that you realized, "This is not my talent"? I need help in this area. My weakness is test taking, which is very problematic for a college student. I think that so my entire life, I've always been horrible at taking multiple choice exams. I've never once done well on multiple choice exams.
It's either a C or D. Multiple choice is not my friend. I do so much better when it comes to analyze this, write an essay on that, short answer this, fill in the blanks. But multiple choice, for some reason, I don't know, I can study for hours and hours and hours and know something inside out and be able to verbally say something without looking at a paper, and I do just fine. But when it comes to multiple choice, I don't know, what about it.
I just don't do well. So being in lectures of like, 3-, 4-, 500 students, they can only give out multiple choice exams. They don't have time to be giving out all these essays and short answers, and they don't have time for that. They don't have enough TAs and professors to do that. So, yeah, multiple choice is what they have to do.
And it makes it really hard because the midterms, the exams, the finals, whatever, they weigh a lot. So not doing well on something that weighs a lot, you have to do really well on homework, and papers, and other things. And that has to be exceptional to be able to balance out the exam. Yeah, I remember when you initially took the Flight Assessment that you scored really high as Air Traffic Control. So that's like, really analytical.
And that makes sense that you would do well on a written exam because it's allowing you to pull in all the information, you know, Right? Whereas the multiple choice test is almost . . . sometimes it feels like they're testing what you don't know because you have to know which answer is not correct. So yeah, I could totally see that. So we've talked about your strengths and your weaknesses.
What has college taught you about yourself that you didn't already know? That one's a tricky one. I did not know that I'd be able to do a double major. It was already rough enough to go through college for four whole years, with a major and a minor, and working just that alone. I was like, okay, that's good.
But, like, adding a major, I was like, I can't graduate with just a major. Criminal Justice here. You need to pick up a minor to be able to accumulate enough credits to graduate. But I'd rather be using those credits in a major than doing a minor that's like, okay, she minors in this. I also didn't want to be using credits on bowling and kayaking and those weird electives that just add a few credits to you.
I just didn't want to do them. Like, if my dad is using his benefits to be able to provide our tuition and fees and stuff, I'm not going to be using on bowling and surfing. I kind of feel guilty about it. So I'm like, I can do that somewhere else, but I'm here for school, so I might as well pick up a major. So I picked Psychology because I had a lot of Psychology credits from high school, and I was like, that's like, the only thing that interests me other than Criminal Justice, and I feel like both of them go hand in hand, and I can go two very different routes with both degrees.
So I was like, you know what? I'll do Psychology. And so it definitely surprised me because I didn't think that I could do it. I tell myself that I can't do it a lot, and then I end up doing it. So I'm just like I think that I kind of just need to push myself to see if I can do it and then decide from there if I can or can't do it.
But I have thought about dropping the major. I've thought about it multiple times, but at this point, I'm like, I've already come this far, I might as well just finish it off now. Can you repeat for us what the two majors are? Yes. My primary major is Criminal Justice, and my secondary major is Psychology.
Criminal Justice and Psychology works well together. Now, you mentioned on the side your dad's benefits. Is that something you could share? Yes, we were getting VA benefits for tuition and I believe some fees. I don't think it's all fees because I've had to pay out of pocket for a few.
And so it's not the GI bill, it's the plan B of CalVet. And so basically, me and my sister are able to go to any UC or CSU school basically for free. Everything's pretty much taken care of. Housing . . .that's the only thing I have to take care of. But they pay for your four years of college.
And it's really helped us because college is very expensive, and I'm already working 20 hours for housing and other expenses I have to take care of. But I can't imagine if I had to take care of my tuition, too. It would have been either a loan or I'm working a lot. And so it definitely has helped, and so it gives us the ability to go to any CSU or UC school. And I had a few options because Criminal Justice isn't . . . all over the place.
Like, there was only a few schools that really had it, and I picked this one, and it really helped getting my tuition covered for. That's awesome. What do you want to do with your degrees?
That, I'm still thinking about? I definitely want to go on the law enforcement route. I want to go into the police academy right after I graduate. I want to be able to structure it so that when I graduate, I will already have either a position or I will have a certificate saying that I will be going to the academy. I definitely want to find an agency.
I don't want to be one of those college kids that work 4 years to get a degree, and at graduation, they're like, "I don't know what I want to do after college." I have way too many coworkers who have literally said that to me on their graduation day. And I'm like, "That's not going to be me. I'm not working 4 years for me to say that at my graduation - I don't know what I want to do."
I think that's just like a chicken running without a head. I cannot do that. That scares me, and I don't know what about it. I think that it scares me. So I'm definitely going to figure out I have to figure out doing what I want to do.
I'm currently working on an internship with the FBI, which should be exciting because I get that experience, and so I'm currently going through that. And I feel like everything in law enforcement is about experience, and I think that it'll be good, but I definitely want to start planning ahead so I know what I'm going to do after college. I like that. Yeah. I knew what I wanted to do, even though when I got out, I did something different.
I knew what I wanted to do. I went in as a Criminal Justice major. I wanted to be a Probation Officer. And I ended up going a different route because another door opened up. And so I went down the path that the door opened up, but that door would not have opened up had I not gotten a degree.
Yeah, I think goals are really good because even if you don't get that exact goal you want, I feel like the fact that you had a goal to begin with led you to be in a position where you do get your goal filled. It's just maybe not the exact thing. And just ambition, I feel like that's also really big and just being determined because there's a lot of college kids who they don't have that mindset of what they want in the future. And I think it's important that you do have one, even if it's something that you don't end up getting. I feel like just the concept of having a goal shows that you care about your future.
You want a future. You are putting things in place to be able to get a good feature. I think that it's planning ahead helps you get from point A to B. And especially in college, that's really important. Especially when you're selecting your classes.
You're applying for internships, you're applying for jobs, you're getting that experience. That all takes time. It doesn't just happen overnight. Yes, I agree with you there. The importance of having a goal is that it makes it a lot easier for you to know for decision-making along the way.
Right? So you set the goal and then the decisions that you need to make along the way get filtered through that goal. So it makes it a lot easier for you to hit the target. What about your, you mentioned about sometimes being stressed or overwhelmed. How do you cope with that?
What advice would you give freshmen who might be struggling with feeling overwhelmed or stressed out? How do you cope with that? So being only an hour and a half away from home, I go home pretty frequently. It's a lot of gas money. But I do like to go home because I feel like it centers me.
It brings me back to a more calm state because I get really anxious and stress at school. And just being in the dorms, like, something about it, I'm just like, I need a break. I need just a mental break from school. I live at school. I go to school every day, I go to work.
All of that is at school. I literally don't leave campus. So going home isn't just like a physical thing, but mentally it's like I get a reset. So when I come back on Sunday and I'm getting ready to start the week again, I feel more refreshed. I feel more, like, energized to continue my week because it gets really hectic and I never have time to relax.
So it's obviously like, I get a little burnt out. And so going home is definitely like. A recharge for them. What if a student didn't have the ability to go home, say, if maybe they live out of state and they can't fly home every weekend? Is there any advice that you would give to them?
I feel like if you have one person, whether they're at the school or not at the school, it really makes a difference. You don't need to physically go somewhere or go to someone to feel that emotional support. I feel like if you're close to your brother, go call your brother. Maybe on a hard day, he has some advice, he has some words or support that he can give you or even going to clubs or organizations, I feel like you can make some friends, and maybe there's that one person you know you can talk to.Did you say going to clubs? Is that what you said? You know how they have clubs at the school?
Oh, like social clubs? Not like party clubs? Okay, yeah, no, there's, like, clubs at the school where you can join it, and you're just a part of the club, the association and whatnot. And I feel like just having that one person you can talk to, I feel like that can make a difference. Having those deeper friendships, especially at a school, like a very social school, you can feel more like you belong, because when you have so many friends, I feel like it's harder to go to them because you're not as close to them, and sometimes you can feel a little bit more lonely.
So just having those deeper connections, I think that makes the biggest difference. All right, so tell me a little bit about [I'm going to put the academic hat on for a moment]. Tell me a little bit about study places and study time. Where are you most productive in terms of studying?
Okay, where I'm most productive is the library. Where I realistically study is my room.
The reason that is because I, just thought of having to walk all the way to the library, go through all the little gates, find a seat. I don't know even that I'm like, that sounds like more work than I could I could literally just stay in my room, have my fridge there, my freezer, the bathroom, my bed right there. I feel like it's just easier to be in my room. But when I'm most productive is at the library and I have to be facing a wall, I cannot be facing other people because I have one of those people that I'll be typing. I'll be, like, reading something.
Anytime someone walks by, I will look up and yeah, I cannot look at people. I get too distracted. So that's why I also like my room, because it's like I'm facing a wall. There's no one else in there but my roommate, so I'm not as distracted, but at the same time, I'm distracted in other ways. Like, my bed's there, I have my food's there.
I get up, I clean. I definitely get more distracted in my room. But, yeah, I think the library is really nice. It's quiet. No one talks to you.
You have the computers, you have the books. It also gives, like, that environment, like that studious environment where it's like, whoa, everyone else is studying. They're very studious, and it puts you in a mood where it's like, okay, I need to grind out my homework. I need to do this, this, and this. So, yeah, the environment is also a really big factor.
Yeah. And what about time? Is there a time of day that works best for you? I don't choose when I study. I study the little windows that I have, and that's when I force myself to study, because other than that, I work either 5:00 or 6:00 until midnight.
So obviously there's no afternoon studying. So I study when I have windows of time, and that's like, I don't care if I'm tired, if I'm sleep deprived, I will study during those times because that's the only time I can. I don't choose when I get to work on homework or study. I don't choose when I study. Yeah, that's pretty interesting.
I know that for me, when I was in college, undergrad, I studied in the evening, but I learned when I was working on my doctorate that I was working full time, and I did study after work. I literally would leave work and then go straight to the library because I would miss rather than sitting in traffic for an hour to get home. Using that part of my evening where I was still a little alert, I found that it was easier to just go straight to the library that was by my job, and then do homework until the library closed. And then once the library closed, I was able to go home, and I got home a lot quicker because traffic had died down. However, I found that actually, as far as comprehension, reading comprehension, things come a lot easier to me.
I understand things better in the morning, and I didn't know that all while I was working on my bachelor's or my master's. I didn't know that. But being forced into it because of working and just getting up a little bit earlier before going to work, there's a peace and quiet, and it's a real peace when you feel like you've gotten up in the morning and it feels like the whole world hasn't woken up yet. And so there's like, a little pocket of peace, and I feel like I can grind it out until such time. It's like, oh, now I got to go to work.
Yeah. It's nice. So looking at your freshman year, tell me two wins you had. What would you pat yourself on the back? Yeah, I think I did a pretty good job with that.
What are your two wins for your freshman year and then one for this year so far? Two wins. I first got a job as a freshman, which was for me, that was a win because I'm like, no one else is doing it. And I was the only freshman that was working at that police department. Everyone else, they were all juniors and seniors and ready to graduate, so I was the youngest one.
So kind of getting used to that work environment, while also during school, I was like, okay, if I can do this now, I think I can continue this throughout college. The second one, I would have to say I made the Dean's List.
I was working, and I was getting my good grades. So, yeah, those were. Two wins the Dean's List. Congratulations. Do you remember what the requirement was for that?
I think it was like a 3.5 GPA and above. Yeah, I was excited. I was like, okay, some people when I was in school, some people felt like, well, as long as you get the degree, that's all that matters. No one's on the interview is going to ask you what your GPA is. I'm like, okay, like, I struggled a lot during my freshman year, but along the way, I developed some skills that allowed me to turn things around.
And so I had several semesters where I was able to bust out straight A's, which is unheard of for me because I never even did that in high school. And I made it onto the Dean's List [**Correction: President's Honor List**]. And when I set the goal to get straight A's was really from a situation where there was a dean. Um, not a dean. Jeez. There was a teacher's aide in one of my classes, and it was during my sophomore year, and he said, your freshman year is going to be your best year.
Your GPA just goes downhill from there because classes just get harder. So his logic was, your freshman year is your best GPA. And I'm sitting there like, what, you're supposed to be helping us, you're supposed to be encouraging us, not telling us that our best GPA is from our freshman year. And so there was a part of it that just kind of turned like it just ignited a flame in me that was like, oh, no, I'm going to prove you wrong. You don't get to decide for me.
That's why I talk about, like, letting go of other people's expectations, right, in that SELF model, like, letting go of other people's expectations. And so it literally was a challenge for me. I took that as, I'm going to prove this guy wrong. There's no way that he is going to put a limit on what I can achieve. And so I set out to get straight A's from then on out.
And then I think I was like, either three or four semesters. I'd have to go back and look at my transcripts, but either three or four semesters, I ended up getting straight A's. And had I not set that goal for myself, like we talked earlier about setting goals, had I not set that goal for myself at that time, I would not have had enough runway left for me to graduate with honors, which is what I did. I busted out enough semesters of getting on the Dean's List [**Correction: President's Honor List**]. That when I graduated.
I graduated Cum Laude. And my first job required you to have a 3.5 GPA or higher. I entered the federal government through the Outstanding Scholars Program, and at that time, the GPA minimum was 3.5. It didn't even matter what your major was. If you had a 3.5, you qualified.
I was like, yes, so don't let anyone tell you that grades don't matter because they do. And so congratulations to you for getting it on Dean's list. Thank you. Yeah, I think it's definitely very empowering when you know that you have a goal and then especially like you said, when people tell you something and you want to prove them wrong. I feel like on top of having a goal, I feel like that that just makes you want to fight for it, makes you focus on it.
I think that it's a really good motivating factor. Yeah. Okay, so what about wins for you said making the Dean's List, and what was your other win? Oh, my second one. Not that making the Dean's List isn't a big deal.
That's a pretty big deal. I just was wondering yeah, you said two ends.
I think I said it was getting my job. Wasn't that right? I'm sorry. Yes, that's right. Working.
And you mentioned that you were the only freshman there. Everyone else was with juniors and seniors. Yes. So working and then getting on the Dean's List. Okay, so what about for this year?
Any wins yet for this year? I think my main win is that I got a conditional job offer with the FBI. That one for me. I didn't expect it, honestly, I think the interview, I did not expect any of their questions. I was just like, okay, well, that interview that went a flop, I'm probably not going to get it.
And then they called me back saying that I need to fill out all the background stuff because I got a conditional job offer. So I was like, okay, cool, I might be fine somewhere this summer. I thought that it was definitely unexpected, but I know some of my coworkers who are also pursuing law enforcement and they applied for it too, and they didn't get it. So I was like, yeah, wow, that was definitely my win for this year. Oh yeah, that's huge.
Even if I don't get it, it's just the fact that at least I came this far with it. Yeah. Wow. Well, congratulations on that. Thank you.
That's a pretty big win. So what do you do to celebrate your wins? Or do you? I don't really celebrate my wins. I celebrate it with excitement. But I feel like I'm just so busy that I don't have time to go out and do anything.
I do like to go shopping, but I don't really associate that to like, oh, I did something good, let's go shopping. It is something that I do enjoy, but I think when I do something that I'm proud of, I just feel more motivated to continue with what I'm doing. But I do like reading. So when I do have downtime and I'm like, okay, I did a lot of work, I did good work, I'm going to go take time to go read a book.
Does the reading rejuvenate you? It does. I used to hate reading like, I hated reading. It was not something I enjoyed. Also, I didn't like it because when you're growing up and you're in elementary school and middle school, they tell you what books you need to read, and you read as a class, you read, like, the classics.
Those for me, I was just like, yeah, no, but then when I was in high school and then college, I started reading books that I actually enjoyed, and I was like, okay, I actually do like reading. I just didn't like the books that they gave me. That's huge. That's huge. I think that's kind of why I stopped playing the piano, because I didn't like the music I was playing, and I didn't get to choose.
And so it's like you said, like, yeah, no, I don't like this. So, yeah, that's good. Your win is celebrated by doing something that's rejuvenating. Okay. Now, is there anything that you have, is there anything that I haven't asked you that you think might be beneficial to college freshmen to know?
Not necessarily something that you haven't asked me, but I do think college freshmen like, okay, so when I before I went to college, I think my dad made it very clear, especially with my interest in law enforcement, that I need to be really careful what I do during college. All the fun, all the distractors, all the things that come with college, you have to come in as strong as you can, morally, ethically, with your values. You have to know what you stand for, and you have to know where you draw the lines. I think that, like I said, being dropped off at college, and now you're all on your own, you have to use what you learned growing up and remember how you were raised and kind of keep that with you, because everyone's coming from different places, different childhoods, different experiences, everyone's in a different place. And if you let other people take you down with them because they're going through something or they want to have fun, or they don't care about college, things like that, I think it's really important to stay focused in college.
Like, yeah, you can have fun, but know the consequences of it and value your education. Value, like, what you want to do. Remember your goals, and hopefully that motivates you to stay focused, because it's very easy to get distracted. There's a lot of peer pressure. There's a lot of illegal things that . . .
. . .go down to college. That's something that surprised me. I was like, how does this school let these things happen? But I feel like not everything. I feel like some schools let things slide either for financial reasons, political reasons, I don't know.
But I just think that there's a lot that goes on in college, and it's kind of scary that these things happen and you're on your own. So at this point, you have to be the ones making good decisions. No one can make them for you. And if you make a bad decision, that's on you. And so I think it's really important for freshmen to know that because in high school, you have a very controlled lifestyle.
You go to school from 8:00 to 2:00, 8:00 to 3:00, whatever, and then you go home and you're with your parents, you live under the roof. You have to ask them for permission to do X, Y, and Z. But in college, you have classes here and there. You have work if you choose to work. But then there's parties and there's events, and there's a lot of social outings and stuff like that, where you just have to decide if you want to do that, if it's worth it.
And it's so, yeah, I hear you. With that, especially, like you mentioned, with the direction that you want to go with your degree in a law enforcement. Yeah, you got to make sure that your background is clean. I remember when there was this class, awesome class that I had an opportunity to take when I was in college, and it was only offered in the summertime. So it was a summer school class, and it was visiting correctional facilities.
And so we visited the Chino prisons we visited at the time, the California Youth Authority was still open, so we went to CYA and Terminal Island. So anyhow, it was a whole week of visiting correctional facilities. And as a matter of fact, it started off with going to court, juvenile court, and then going to group homes for juveniles. So it was like looking at the progression. Right?
But in order to participate in that class, you could sign up for it. But there's a certain amount of background check that has to happen before you could participate in this field trip for a week, because guess what? If you got a background, they're not going to let you into the correctional facilities. And so, literally, one of my classmates, Criminal Justice Major, he wasn't allowed to go on the trip. Yeah, he could not go on the trip because of something that popped up in his background.
So that happened. And then another thing that happened is at one of the facilities that we went to, I think it was the Chino Correctional Facility for Men. We got off the charter bus and at the end of our session got back on the charter bus, and I recognize that one of my classmates was already on the bus. It was clear that she sat this one out, and I was like, what's? What happened?
Why didn't you come in? She's like, oh, yeah, I couldn't come in on this one. She had a relative in the facility, and so they would not allow her to enter the facility as part of this tour with someone who she knew on the inside. And then, lastly, one of the things was kind of interesting about this field trip is literally. We had to sign a waiver that if we were taken hostage by an inmate, that there would be no negotiation for our release.
That concludes our time together. Thank you so much for saying yes. And I know that you dropped some real good nuggets here that will help out freshmen and even seniors in high school that are thinking about what lies ahead. So thank you very much. Thank you.
What I would love to do is maybe sometime next year, check back in with you and see how things are going on your journey. Yeah, I love that. Thank you. That's it for today on Academic Survival. If you want to share your stories on how you survived your freshman year of college, you can reach me at info at www.shandralmcdonald.com.
We'll be back next week with more ways to survive your academic journey. Until then, happy studying.
I am a student at SDSU as a Criminal Justice and Psychology major. I was adopted from China when I was a baby and lived in Huntington Beach up until college. I love spending time with my family and surfing.