6 Years in 6 Minutes: My College Journey

A journey from being average to achieving excellence in life

6 Years in 6 Minutes: My College Journey

This is where I share my personal learning experience in college and walk you through the mistakes I made throughout this journey. I have just finished my masters degree from Nova Southeastern University. It has been an amazing journey!   Looking back makes me realize that I made so many silly mistakes, and I wish that I could turn back time and fix things, knowing what I know now!

When I started college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

I had no idea.

It was very difficult for me to understand what my passions were, what major to select, what I loved to do, what I really wanted to do in life, what career would be good for me. I am sure you are all facing similar questions.

Without a doubt you too will go through these same feelings at the onset of this journey. It’s complicated and tough, decisions that will impact your life.  Take it seriously, but give yourself a ‘mind’ break, you will figure it out, just like I did.

The world is changing so quickly that what we think is the latest and greatest trend quickly becomes obsolete,  something new and better is always just around the corner.  So, don't get bogged down in selecting a path based on these trends.  At least not yet.

Now, the ultimate question is: how do you navigate these uncertainties and confusions while forging through college life?  Technically, this could even apply to our normal day-to-day lives.

Let's get right into it, then.

I went to Miami Dade College in 2002. I took admissions, and because my family migrated from Karachi, Pakistan, and English was not my native language, I had to take an English language test.

Guess what!  I failed the test and received a 4 out of 6, indicating that I was expanding my knowledge of English but still needed to learn more. In retrospect, this was very good for me. In Pakistan, we learned basic English,  reading and writing (mainly focusing on the grammar aspect). In the USA, I had to learn it all, reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. This was a whole new world for me. I was super excited to increase my proficiency and improve. I first experienced a lot of challenges and obstacles as an ESOL, or English for Speakers of Other Languages, but I'm writing about them and sharing my own journey with you.

Embrace the learning!


Lesson #1 - Enjoy the learning journey

No matter what you do in life—how difficult things get in college or in personal life—you have to enjoy the learning journey. Remember, this happens only once in your life; you will always remember and cherish the time you spent in college.

So going back to my journey.

Yes, I started my English classes and took writing and grammar level 4. I enjoyed it and had super fun, but I got really low grades (Bs and Cs).

Then I was told by my college advisor that I do not have a high school diploma from the United States, so I needed to get a GED. I started taking GED preparation classes, took the exam, and I passed!


Lesson #2 - Life situation may impacts your college life, be consistent

During the same time, I got bad news that my oldest brother had died in a car accident. My family was devastated and had to travel to Pakistan for burials. My parents took out loans for traveling, and when we returned, I had to work for a year to help pay back the loans we took.

After paying off the loans, I went back to MDC and started my classes again.

I was excited and motivated again to go back to school. Out of excitement, I took five classes at a time, and I passed all but Grammar Level 5. The grammar classes were extremely tough, and I realized I was not good at it. So, I accepted that I failed the class, but I am determined to try again in the next semester. From this, I learned to be consistent in order to complete my degree.

At this time in my life, I made one small change, which I suggest you do as well (remember, this applies to everything you do in life when you really want to accomplish something you really want, then do this).

And this is super simple and seems insignificant, but it worked for me!! I created a new password that I would use for all my apps and websites. This password was a guiding force designed to remind me to be consistent, to stay on track, and to finish my schooling.

The password: GetYourDegree

So now, anytime I unlock my computer, I have to type this password, which reminds me again and again that I have to focus on finishing my degree. In those days, we did not have fancy biometric or faceIDs unlocks, so yes, you got to type the password for EVERY SINGLE thing.

This tip was most liked when I shared it on Linkedin.

Lesson #3 - Overloading classes = overwhelming resulting decrease motivation and failures

I did not take any breaks on summer days, I took classes and continued to pass them. By fall, I had taken more full time classes and realized that I was pretty exhausted and overwhelmed.

I just couldn’t keep up with my pace, working full time and taking a full load of classes each semester.  This had a major impact on me,  I withdrew and failed one class.

Even though I had failures, I can also see that I had successes.  I was happy to have finished the English courses.


Lesson #4 - Think life is a straight line, but it isn’t. It's actually a roller coaster journey

I changed my major from computer science to business administration. I started taking fewer classes to manage full time work. I couldn’t keep up. I had it all planned out—this straight line to the finish line—but  life happens, and the journey I took was a crazy roller coaster ride. I was feeling so overwhelmed that I ended up withdrawing from many classes throughout.

I changed my major once again to Accounting, and then I reached the lowest point in this journey.

In 2006, I told myself, "Hey, let’s take five full classes and we can finish it just like we did years before’ but this was a big mistake. The classes that I was taking were not easy; I quickly felt overwhelmed and quit three classes within the first week. The other 2 classes I took but actually failed.

I failed, felt depressed, and thought maybe a business and accounting major is not for me. I should try something else.

I changed my major again to hospitality and tourism management, and then next semester I changed again to computer programming and analysis. Due to a high number of withdrawals and failing classes, I received academic suspension.

This meant that from that point on, I had to take this very seriously. I had to pass all my classes no matter what. Withdrawing, like I did before, was no longer an option for me.


Lesson #5 - Remember there is light after a dark night, success always comes from failures

Well, I made up my mind, and put on my big boy pants. I was determined to succeed, fully focused on my education. Carefully planning what class to take and, more importantly, why. I took the classes I failed in the last semester and got straight As. I took Airline Reservation System classes and got straight As.

After the lowest drop in my academic career, now with all straight As, I have achieved the Dean’s List for the highest GPA in this semester.

Because computer technology was booming, I changed my career again to computer programming and analysis. I took C++ and got an A. I was happy.


Lesson #6 - Do not fear failures in life

I was getting good grades and finishing classes quickly, but when I took Java, I was overwhelmed and couldn’t learn it. I got scared of failing again and just withdrew from the class. This is actually one of the biggest lessons in my life, always confront and never run away from what is difficult. Challenge yourself! I wish I could go back in time and retake this class again, I know that I could have passed this class if I had just stuck it out.

So the lesson here is this:

Do not ever fear failure. Failure is part of learning.

If you failed a class, that should drive your motivation even higher to retake it and try again. Fall down 6 times, get up 7 times.

Ultimately, it was a long journey, but I enjoyed ‘the ride’. If given the chance, I would have done things differently, but in the end, I have my degree. I received an AA in Business Administration in 2008.

It was not easy... I failed five classes, withdrew 10 more times, and changed majors nine times. It took me six years to complete this AA degree, lol. Some can do it in 2–4 years, I say very good for them, but this is my journey, and I am proud of every curve and bump that I faced in this journey and of where I am now.

This is the second part of my education series. The second part is coming up which I will share insights from my university life.


Stay tuned for part 2.



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