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Why did I believe I wasn’t smart enough for a Bachelor of Science degree? It was a brief thought that fluttered through as I decluttered papers from a safe.
Similar to other areas that attract messiness when tucked away, my safe was full of clutter like old bills, statements from credit cards I didn’t have anymore, and insurance I no longer use. I gradually combed through each manila folder and added more useless paper to the shred pile.
Eventually, I stumbled across an old progress report and an unofficial transcript from high school. This was my proof that I was an average student, mostly Bs with a dash of As and Cs. Considering how little effort I put in school, it’s a surprise that I managed any success.
It wasn’t the first time I wondered – why did I think I wasn’t smart enough for a Bachelor of Science degree?
It’s hard to lay blame on any one reason. It could have been that I hung out with average students. It’s what I strived for after moving so much. Average was better than the new girl look I frequently got.
Whatever the reason, I identified myself as – average. Normal. Typical.
Either way, when my science teacher suggested I look into a Bachelor of Science degree, I was quick to respond, “I’m not smart enough for that.”
I hope it was said half-heartedly, but it wasn’t. Ironically, I didn’t feel smart enough to handle the rigors of a science degree. Yet, at 17, I felt hardy enough to enlist in the military.
A Daring Change
When I enlisted, I knew that whenever I finished at 4 years or 20, I was going to get a college degree. I signed the paperwork for the GI Bill and paid my dues.
After a less than enthusiastic experience with military structure and unpleasant supervisors, I decided to cut my military career to 4-years. Or at least, that is what is dredge up 14 years later.
Getting out and going straight into the workforce was similar to how I felt about joining the circus. I didn’t have the skills, let alone an idea of what I would be good at or, more importantly, enjoy. College felt like the kinder, gentler version of figuring out happy ever after.
After years of working in a field that brought little joy, I knew that I wanted to work somewhere fun and meaningful. This slow, persistent realization led me to agreeing to a science degree. I had to dig deep and rally myself for academic rigors; if I could survive the Navy, deployments, and 2 wars, I should have enough fortitude for a science degree. Amiright?
I visited a few universities in Wisconsin and settled on the one that felt right, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. It had a small, warm campus, with fun courses, and a giant library. Sure, the library looked like a prison, but it had more books than I had seen in a long time.
It felt like home.
During my orientation as I was about to confirm my major, I changed it from pharmacological to natural resources. This quick degree change was unusual since I tend to plow through big decisions in a slow methodical way with an extensive pros-versus-cons list. But, this instant change felt right like a warm embrace of my future and I soothed myself with the thought of taking a bunch of plant and animal classes.
What could go wrong?
A Degree in Defiance
The first semester was the hardest. Doubting myself constantly did little to help my nontraditional look. Navy success was easy, all I had to do was what people said which was basically show up. They used simple words and occasionally a drawing.
In college, I had to develop my own idea of success, and worse, I had to make a plan and stick to it. No supervisors to update or comrades to complain to, just one girl trying to figure if she was doing it right.
It was a struggle but my stubbornness to use the GI Bill is what powered me through grey days.
After a while, the struggle got easier, and the expectations became obvious. I continued to war over other parts of college, but I felt like I was accomplishing things. At least my grades were better than average this time but only after admitting I needed help.
Lots of help.
Copious amounts of studying, tutors, and less than ideal snack choices are how I propelled myself to higher grades and corresponding expectations.
It would take 4 and a half years, but I achieved my Bachelor of Science degree. My endorphins and ego got an extra kick in the pants when I was nominated by my professors for the Chancellor’s Leadership Award.
As I reflect on how far I traveled, how much I learned, and how much ice cream I consumed, I don’t even recognize the girl who didn’t think she could do a Bachelor of Science.