It was January of 2007 and I had not applied to any university or college. This was a shock to my grandmother and she questioned my decision. At that particular time, my mind was focused on making money and becoming part of a fast food management team. Two things would happen to shift my mindset from burgers to books. After talking with the store manager at my place of employment, he informed me that there was not room for someone like myself in management. It would take almost four years to revisit that conversation because I did not know what he meant at the time. In addition to that conversation, my grandmother forced me to apply to schools because as she stated, “You are smart enough to go to college, so find a school.”
In my current position as an Admissions Counselor at Western Illinois University, I encounter students who see college as their main option to create a better life for themselves and their families, but they also view it as barrier to immediate success. Often quoting the decorated scholar, educator, author and 11th President of Western Illinois University, Dr. Jack Thomas, I let students know that, “A college education changes lives.” These words almost always resonate with students in the most positive way because they believe it to be true, but their doubt stems from a lack of motivation.
In the pursuit of higher education, there will need to be motivation from both internal and external sources in order for a student to succeed. In my current role, many of the students that I recruit are first-generation college students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds so motivation of any kind is a must for them. That being said, when motivating students, you must not hide the truth from them. College is an intellectual battleground of clashing viewpoints, ideals, and cultures, but when the dust clears you are to become a more well-rounded individual ready to contribute to society.
When I reflect on my college years, I remember the one moment that changed my collegiate path forever. I was ecstatic to be a Fighting Leatherneck and I was ready to make an impact at Western Illinois University, but even more excited about making an impact as the first person in my family to attend an institution of higher education. On the first day of my Psychology 100 class, I sat in the front row because my goal was to get an A in every class, and I had never known of anyone who received an A by sitting in the back of the classroom. As the class began, I noticed that the PowerPoint was moving very quickly, but I kept writing. Eventually, I could not keep up with the slides so I asked the professor, “Can you go back to the last slide?” The professors responded, with a strong tone, “This is college so you will have to keep up with the pace of college, young man.”
Now, I could have taken that the wrong way and used it as a crutch, but I chose to accept the criticism as a challenge to be a “college” student. In accepting this challenge, I began to work harder on my analytical, writing and reading skills. At semester’s end, I received an A in that class and I never looked back. This was a case in which an external motivating force created an internal source of motivation and I am forever thankful to that professor.
In closing, as I share my story of how I made it in the realm of higher education, I ask that each and every reader strive to be the motivator or the beneficiary of said motivation in your pursuit of higher learning.