I had to go to college, and when I say this I don’t mean it in an inspirational way. I don’t mean that I suddenly felt compelled to go, had some sort of epiphany, or felt a burning desire. I literally mean I had to go to college because I had no other choice. It was either: go to college or don’t go back to school at all.
See, after high school I tried to jump straight into university and the whole experience was what one might call an epic fail. After my first attempt at post-secondary I knew that if I wanted to carry on with furthering my education, college was where I’d have to do it (spoiler alert: this turned out to be a very good thing for me).
First attempt at university
Right out of high school I applied to the University of Lethbridge, got accepted, packed up my life, and moved away from home. I was starting over in a new town where I could be whoever I wanted to be. At this point in my life, university was more about escaping the constraints of the small town I grew up in than it was about school.
I didn’t know what it meant to live on my own or be in charge of my own finances. I had no concept of what it meant to be a “post-secondary student,” and I wasn’t ready.
A few months in I started to lose motivation and disengage. While I managed to maintain good grades in some classes, I stopped showing up to others altogether. I gave up on studying for exams, and some of my marks began to suffer.
Getting put on academic probation
At this point I didn’t understand what a GPA (Grade Point Average) was or why it mattered. Basically, in university and college you’re graded on a points system where 4.0 is the highest GPA you can achieve. You want to stay above a 2.0 if possible (that’s like having a 50% average).
Let’s just say that after my first year of university my GPA was below 2.0. Brutal. I was placed on academic probation, which is just a fancy way of telling you to do better. If you’re on academic probation for too long you can be kicked out of school.
At this point I didn’t care. I’d given up; I wasn’t enjoying my classes or school in general. There were so many students in my classes that no one noticed if I didn’t show up. This provided little incentive for me to go to school. It didn’t even occur to me that I was paying to be there (well, my parents were). I was over university.
Dropping out and trying to go back
After bombing my first year of school I quit. I literally walked away and never looked back (which, by the way, is not actually how you’re supposed to drop out). I didn’t go through the proper process of withdrawing from my program or talking to an advisor, I just left.
It turns out that by failing to drop out properly, I would cause myself a bunch of problems down the road when I decided I wanted to give university another try. It was just over a year after I quit that I decided I wanted to go back. I applied to the University of Lethbridge without considering that I’d been on academic probation when I left. Naturally, I was rejected.
This was partly because I had no idea how the application process worked and partly because I thought I would just be reinstated as student and put back on academic probation. Lesson here: DO YOUR RESEARCH. I could've saved myself the $100 application fee.
I talked to someone at the Registrar’s Office as well as an advisor, and both of them told me, “if you ever want to be a student here, or at any university, again you’ll have to pull your grades back up above a 2.0.” I was told that I HAD to go to college, whether I liked it or not, if I wanted to be student again.
Going to college with no regrets
It would take me almost another full year to actually apply to a college. Needless to say, after this my free ride was over. My parents had paid for my first year of university and I’d completely blown through all $25,000 of my savings. When I finally went back to school I applied for student loans and scholarships. I even lived with my parents rent free and worked to rebuild my savings. When I finally did go back to college I was ready to be a student.
Quitting university was right for me because frankly I didn’t want to be there and wasn’t ready to put in the effort to be a good student. Even though it was an expensive lesson to learn, I don’t consider it a waste of time or money at all.
Also, all of my courses from that first year still count: those credits don’t disappear, they transfer and can count towards other programs I might take. Some count as pre-requisite courses, which means I won’t have to retake courses that I’ve already taken once. The best part is when you transfer courses it is only the credit that transfers and not the GPA (grade) that you earned, which means that if you did terrible in a course it can still count without a bad mark counting against you.
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