The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Freshman Blues
Matthew Dedewo

As far as college is concerned, I must have made every mistake in the book. I thought the first semester was supposed to be the hardest, but to my surprise, in my second semester, things took a turn for the worse.

I entered college back in 1999. Before I even started classes, I was already having a hard time. I didn't know there were so many bureaucratic procedures so I was late with everything, including my financial aid forms and my payment.

I was also late with registration and that added to my stress, because the only classes I could get into conflicted with my work schedule. Back then I was working full-time at Pearl Paint. They were willing to be flexible, but I still ended up having the harder classes at night, after a long day's work, and the easier classes in the morning, when I was most alert. So lots of times I was feeling sleepy when I needed to be wide awake, and I was wasting my mental alertness on subjects I could've passed in my sleep.

Slacking Off

Once classes started, I didn't apply myself enough. I had been out of school for a couple of years, and high school was such a breeze that I underestimated college work. My first semester classes didn't require much study-time. I passed them with C's and a couple of B's, except for a math class, which I failed. But second semester was harder. During the beginning of the second semester, I got in the habit of taking a couple of hours out of each day to study, but I was still struggling with that one math class. And even though it was my second time taking it, I didn't want to get a tutor. I was too proud.

Then the subject I planned to major in started to frustrate me. I liked to draw and as a child when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said an architect. I knew there was a lot of drawing involved, but I didn't expect to spend hours and hours drawing the same thing over and over only from different perspectives.

During the first semester, I felt proud that I was finally pursuing what I thought was my life's dream, even though the classes were a little dull. But by the second semester, the subject seemed tedious and I felt like I was forcing myself to do it. When I found out that not all architects make as much money as I thought they did, I realized that I needed another life dream. That's when I stopped trying to be the best I could be and started slacking off in my classes.


image by YC-Art Dept

Soon things really began to fall apart. I was already working full time but then I took on a part-time job for extra money. The room I was renting was too far from the school, so I found a studio that was only 30 minutes away. That meant more rent, more money, more hours at work. I gave up my social life, and I was soon overwhelmed. I started missing classes because it was a lot cheaper than missing a shift at work. I needed a roof over my head more than I needed the college credits, especially since I wasn't going to immediately reap the benefits of college.

Next, some of my financial aid was taken away-financial aid will be taken away for bad grades and poor attendance, and I had both-and the school sent me the bill. I wasn't able to pay it right then so it affected my credit report. (By the time I was able to pay it back, a year had passed and it had been sent to a collection agency, which is a company whose sole purpose is to bug debtors like me until we pay up.)

Needless to say, by the middle of my second semester, I was overwhelmed and frustrated. It was hard to juggle work and school, and my low grades and new debt made me feel like a failure. At the time, it never occurred to me to speak to a counselor or even to go to school part time and ease the burden. I was used to doing things my way even if it was the hard way-although if I had swallowed my pride and asked for help, I'm sure things would've turned out differently. Instead, I decided to give up on my second semester. I wasn't quitting, I told myself. I was just going to take a little while to get myself into a better situation.

College Life, Take Two

That was 2 ½ years ago and I'm just now going back to college. I worked for half a year at a job that turned out to be not so hot, and then I spent two years in the Navy. Even though the Navy taught me a lot, I still feel like I'm behind in the schedule I'd had planned for my life. At the age of 26 I should be working on getting my Masters degree, not my Associates. That creates in me the urge to overload myself with classes trying to catch up, but this time I'm going to be careful not to add that to my list of mistakes.

This time around I've decided to major in computer engineering and networking. It's a profession that's in demand and it will give me the freedom of working with a firm and working freelance for extra income.

I'm going to be more careful about my class schedule this time and the moment I feel myself falling behind I'm going to get a tutor. I plan to go full time, but I'm willing to go part time if things get too tough.

I don't expect my previous experience to make things that much easier-I'm sure I still have a few more mistakes to make. But I understand that college is a learning experience just like life; the only way to fail is to give up.

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