Eighteen Versus Twenty-Four

I’m almost finished with my first class of trade school. I even finished the final project already. Despite my anxiety about the next course, I am glad this first one is almost over. Though, I’m disappointed I genuinely struggled with the “Student Success” half of it. Of course, I attended trade school to avoid such classes, but four weeks is better than two years of them.

One thing I hate my high school for is making life sound so black and white. They pushed the idea everyone who is successful goes to college, that there’s no other way, that there’s no excuse not to go, that community college is a waste (it was referred to as “the 13th grade”), and that all incoming college students were our age. What a load of trash. And I say that with zero fondness for community college.

I’m still getting over the feeling of being an “older” student, but I must admit I think I’m doing well because I’m not 18 years old in college. While I went to college for bad reasons to begin with (family pressure), there was more to it than that. I was also burned out from 14 years of mandatory schooling since the age of 5. Birth, if you count daycare, preschool, and head start. I didn’t want to go to any school anymore! I wanted to work, make some money, and go to college later! Obviously, that plan fell apart and I despise retail with an intensity that matches the sun’s, but I don’t regret it. I had more freedom as an uneducated part-time retail worker than as a jobless college student. If I had the personality for retail to be a lifelong career, I’d go for it and never have chosen to return to school. Unfortunately, being an introvert means that’s the equivalent of hell.

Having some years off of school let me have some experiences I couldn’t do while in school. And while not all of them were pleasant, it was still a nice, long break from being confined to one place for nine hours. It’s insanely ironic how being surrounded by hundreds of people for over a decade of your life can turn you into a misanthrope. I think my preschool self who was happier building blocks alone than being forced to “make friends” was on to something.

Experiencing something besides school (and bullying) let me feel more motivated and focused when I returned to school. Sure, I still have my grievances. I hate having to wake up at 6 AM and I wish I could’ve stayed with the first group of classmates I started with. But unlike my mandatory school days, schoolwork is not my life. It’s part of it, but I’m not forced to make it all of it. Again, the irony is insane. I get my schoolwork out of the way as quickly (and meticulously) as I can, to the point I will work through lunch to finish it. High school and under? Classwork and schoolwork was a battle to get me to finish if I wasn’t interested in the subject. I know some people do well under pressure, but I think I’m proving time and again I’m not one of them. It seems I do well when the pressure is off. That, and when I feel what I’m doing is worth my while. I still remember almost nothing I learned in high school, and what I do remember is limited to the Italian and French classes I took.

So, I don’t mind being a “non-traditional” student, as it’s called. I’m actually glad I can pay for my own schooling. It means no one needs to keep tabs on it besides me. Want to know my grades? None of your business!

Advertisements

Hope Is Wasted On The Hopeless

In three days, I return to school. After all of the nonsense that happened, I should be happy to return, especially since I don’t have to pay as much as I initially did. The key word in that sentence is should.

I should be happy. But I’m not.

To pay off what financial aid did not cover, I have to make monthly payments, the first of which was due on the day I start school. Unfortunately, the time between receiving that balance and its due date were too close. While I have savings for this kind of expense, I’d rather not use it if I can help it. The result was the split the payment between my most recent paycheck and one of my credit cards.

I can pay the credit card off. There’ll be interest, but what that will amount is barely a pinch in comparison. At the same time, this is the first instance I’ve put a large purchase on one of my credit cards. And since I’m still paying off a medical expense, it wasn’t really something I wanted to do. There was no option I wanted to do.

I’m not happy. I’m worried. I’m sad. I’m afraid. I’m frustrated.

The looming question in my mind, the one that stands over me like a collapsing tower, is: Is it worth it?

I have to hope it is, but debt, however necessary it may be, is never fun to owe. Putting any part of the payment on my credit card was a one-time thing. That I had to do it to begin with makes me hope completing this school is worthwhile, but fear more and more it won’t be. Excitement and fear are not two emotions that can mix within me. One kicks the other out, and in this case, fear has sent excitement packing. I feel unnatural as it is, being someone who’s just starting school while everyone else is graduating (two of my friends from high school graduated with their bachelor’s – one in chemical engineering, the other in psychology – just days ago), so more than anything, I want my time and money toward this school to prove to be worth the debt. Worth the stress, the tiredness, the temporary smacks to my credit score. But, admittedly, mostly worth the debt.

I won’t know if it’s worth it until the end. I have to hope it is. I have to believe it will be.

But I don’t know if I can!

Many Grains of Salt

I am more anxious than I expected to get back to school. Of course, I’ll eat those words when I really start, but it feels so strange to have so much free time. My hours at work have been heavily cut and without school, I haven’t had so much free time since I first began working. It’s hard to find much to do that feels fulfilling with the time I have and all that’s been on my mind is returning to school.

Yesterday, I spent much of the day reading reviews for the school I’ve chosen. For the sake of some privacy, I won’t reveal its name, but it is a school with a lot of negative reviews on a certain website called Grad Report. I am all for doing research on any school of interest. However, I noticed while some poor reviews had legitimate complaints, most were faulting the school for what was the student’s fault, either accidentally or intentionally. I understand many people throw legible spelling, grammar, and sentence structure out of the window when it comes to the internet, but many of the low reviews were typed so badly, I had trouble understanding what exactly the problem was beyond the reviewer simply screaming, “This school sucks! Don’t go here!” I am by no means suggesting any school is perfect or it’s always a student’s fault if they’re dissatisfied, but internet or not, I cannot take a review seriously when it reads like it was written by a hormonal middle-schooler. Some students did not even give the correct rating. They had nothing good to say about the school, but awarded it four stars. I truly hope that’s an odd glitch on the website.

Some complaints of a few reviews that particularly stuck out to me were:

  • The cost of the program(s). This seemed to be the most common complaint. The total cost of every program is listed on the school’s website, so if this was unknown beforehand, I cannot understand how this, while maybe a genuine unintentional oversight, isn’t 100% on the student.
  • A former student complaining she failed her chosen program for frequent tardiness and one day of absence while other students who missed multiple days were excused because they had notes. In most schools, including below higher education, too many unexcused absences and late arrivals result in the student failing the semester or the whole year, regardless of their academic performance.
  • Being expelled from the program for getting into a fight. In this example, the reviewer stated he was the victim. As a victim of bullying for all of my school years prior to high school graduation, I can find this believable on its own, but I’m skeptical because of its source.
  • One student had the entire cost of her schooling covered by FASFA, but complained she still had to work full-time to cover her unrelated expenses. I understand having to work and attend school sucks, but I found this complaint particularly egregious for two reasons: 1) The school has zero control over how much FASFA covers, so she is pointing the finger at the wrong people. 2) During what time was aid awarded by FASFA ever intended to cover outside expenses?
  • Being expected to provide their own lunch. When I attended community college after high school, if you didn’t have your own food and you were hungry, you used the vending machines. In other words, I highly doubt this is an uncommon expectation of colleges and trade schools. Even if it is uncommon, it’s hardly unreasonable. Heck, this was an expectation after elementary school! If you don’t want to pay for lunch, you bring your own.
  • Their degree or certificate (varies by location) being withheld due to being in debt with the school. This is stated within a handbook given to students, and I’ve found this to also be a common rule among colleges. There was one instance of a mother reporting the school to the BBB because this issue occurred with her son. To put it simply, she lost the case.
  • One student was unable to take a test for a license because she had no transportation to get there, and the school only covers the cost of the test for a year. Again, a situation that sucks, but is not the fault nor the responsibility of the school.
  • A complaint about being expected to wear uniform and abide by a strict dress code. This is another rule stated within the handbook and enrollment is entirely optional, of course. The dress code, while strict, is not exactly religious. I was permitted to wear flower-shaped earrings.
  • Another complaint about the uniform was only two are provided for free. It’s possible to purchase more uniforms, and to my knowledge, there is a popular chore called “laundry”.
  • One student complained there was no hands-on lab work. For a trade school, this would be a reasonable complaint. The problem? The student not only mixed up the name of the school with a university’s, but majored in liberal studies. How can a program for politics have any hands-on learning, short of an internship in a political office? I despise politics and am not on any side, but even I have to laugh at that one.
  • A student complaining he wasn’t told he needed a license to be a mechanic. Even if this one is true, I find it ridiculous. Why would you not research the requirements for the type of job you want?
  • A student who took night classes complaining no one has time to do book work, study, or prepare for tests because they have a day job. Again, I very much understand going to school and having a job at the same time sucks, but if you truly do not have time, why would you enroll in school to begin with?
  • A student who complained he still owed a balance, despite not having job when he tried to enroll. When in history has lack of employment ever negated your bills? Note this student didn’t lose his job. He never had one to begin with. His complaint was his lack of employment wasn’t netting him a free ride if he enrolled.
  • In my opinion, the worst was from a mother. Her complaint was her daughter claimed she could take the test for GED and this turned out to be a falsehood. It seems neither she nor her daughter verified this. Why would a trade school, of all places, offer a test for GED?

The low reviews with valid complaints were outnumbered by reviews with complaints like the above and more. It’s one thing to be dissatisfied with the school and realize it’s not suited for you. That is absolutely okay and what happened with me in community college. It’s why I sought out trade school. However, blaming the school for your own mistakes and shortsightedness is a whole other matter. While I don’t believe all positive reviews and testimonials at face value either, they are more believable than someone who’s angry they still have to take responsibility for their life outside of school. There’s a reason for the old expression about leading a horse to water, but being unable to make the horse drink it. There’s only so much even the most helpful campus can do.

These negative reviews have not swayed my mind at all, though they were a surprising source of amusement for a full day. I look forward to returning and hope I get the best out of the program I’ve chosen. The campus has already proven themselves to go out of their way, so I have little doubt about their commitment, but time will tell where I stand.

Perfectionism?

I enrolled into a trade school, into a 9-month program, that trains students to become network technicians. The programs treats students as if they’ve never used a computer, so the first class covers the basics of using a computer and the programs of Microsoft Office. So far, I have 28 grades: 22 for ordinary assignments, 2 for midterms, 3 for projects, and 1 for professionalism, which I admittedly don’t really care about because I see it as the equivalent of being awarded for showing up.

26 out of those 28 grades are 100%, which I am embarrassingly proud of, despite the class teaching basics. That’s not to say I’m not learning anything. Just that I don’t think passing basics is a big achievements. It’s basics and I’ve used Microsoft Office for much of my life since I started using a computer at age 5. There’s little reason not to pass.

So, I’m unhappy two of those grades—the midterms, to be specific—are not 100%. Instead, they are each 96%.

I know that is still a good score, but I’m unhappy because I screwed up something I really should not have. The assignments are done with a simulator and it’s very sensitive. Even if the outcome is still correct, each step must be done in order and exact, or it will be marked as “incorrect”. This is what caused the mistake on the first midterm. I accidentally did a step out of order and the simulator forced me to the next question without allowing me to finish, marking the previous as “incorrect”.

The mistake on the second midterm was a result of my own error. It was a question I was unsure of, so I had to take a 50/50 chance and I chose wrongly. I am less upset about that one since I genuinely did not know which answer was correct, but it’s still an error on what was really a simple question. And I do mean simple: I had to click only one button to be moved on, and I clicked the wrong one.

Because of the two 96% scores, my grade average is 99% instead of 100%. Again, I recognize this is still a good score, but it bothers me because it’s not as good as it should be. It should be 100%, but because of two clumsy errors, it’s not. My boyfriend thinks I am a perfectionist. I disagree, but even if he’s right, I am paying for this school and to even my surprise, I like being here, so I take the work seriously. On top of that, I’m doing this in the hopes I’ll gain the skills to be employable to a job besides retail. No, nothing is wrong with retail, and I know people who have worked in retail for over a decade and are happy. While I respect and admire them (because as far as I’m concerned, retail sucks and customer service can kiss my behind), retail is not the career I want for the rest of my life.

I don’t expect sympathy from this post. I’m completely aware I sound ridiculous and probably like a spoiled brat. Note I do not think I’m entitled to a 100% average. No. I want to work for it and that’s why I’m upset. That my work is not up to par, that I’m not doing as well as I should be, and that my clumsiness/ditziness cost me what could’ve been. Never would I think I’m entitled to or I “deserve” a passing grade. I didn’t enroll in this school with the expectation of good grades being handed to me because I got out of bed.

Speaking of getting out of bed, I overslept today and woke up an hour late, so I had to take Lyft to arrive at school on time. Compare that to when I intentionally clocked in fifteen minutes late for work to finish breakfast when I had arrived at work long before I was supposed to clock in for no other reason than I was aggravated I had to be there so early. Granted, it’s easier to be less aggravated when your schedule is consistent, which my school one is.

Wrong Way To Motivate

A certain post in one of my Facebook groups reminded me of something from high school.

When I was in tenth grade (for the second time due to transferring schools), one of my teachers once mentioned planning to get her master’s degree. In what subject, I forgot, but I suppose I asked her about it. I really don’t remember what I said, but I do remember her answer. She told me she was pursuing it because she wanted to be able to walk into a store for a pair of $600 shoes and say she has the money for them.

I didn’t know what to think of that. To this day, I still don’t. I do now understand her intention with that answer was likely motivating me to take my own schoolwork more seriously, but that came off as an extremely shallow reason. I realize she meant she was trying to financially better herself, but surely, there was a better way to phrase it.

I won’t lie and pretend I don’t like shopping. I do, and in the last few years, clothes have made the list of what I like to shop for (when it’s of my own wishes, not someone else’s). But I don’t think there’s any article of clothing on the planet that looks so appealing, I’d be willing to give $600 for a single quantity of it. Especially not clothing that’s worn on the ground! One “talent” I do have is the tendency to give my shoes a pounding. That $600 would become a waste in 2 to 3 months.

Obviously, these are my values, but I don’t like the idea of materialism being a motivator for education. For starters, education itself is expensive. I think I’d sound very funny if I told someone I spent thousands of dollars to be able to blow thousands of dollars. That sort of reason would likely motivate only someone whose end goal was wealth. My end goal is stability, which is not synonymous with wealthiness. That doesn’t mean I’d complain if I were rich. It means it’s not necessary for me to be happy. For me, when I can say I fully support myself without living paycheck to paycheck, I’ll see myself as successful, regardless of what the number allowing me that privilege is.

For the sake of not coming off as “holier than thou”, I’ll say right now I do not think I’m better than anyone whose end goal is wealth and purchasing multi-hundred dollar clothing. If that teacher’s given reason makes sense to someone else or motivates, great. I’m just not that person. Yes, there are expensive things I do want and sometimes obtain, but those things have many more functional uses than strutting pavement, so I see them as more valuable for my own use.

I’m certainly not above materials. I have a big collection of books, games, DVDs, and dolls, as well as some smaller collectible things like jewelry, boxes, and stuff animals, and I have a $100 phone. Whenever I think about that teacher’s comment, I think about how much $600 could buy besides a single pair of shoes. Perhaps it’s only because she said shoes I found her answer very weird since shoes are meant to be worn outdoors and would naturally ruin over time from use. Maybe she was exaggerating and merely trying to emphasize a point. Maybe she thought that was the goal of all students. Or maybe it was some kind of last resort since I wasn’t an easy student to motivate. I value the job I have now over school, so she wouldn’t be entirely off the mark. Only wrong it’s money I care about most.

I do plan to return to school, but I have my own motivation and finance is only a part of them. The most important parts are somewhat intangible. And one is human.