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As a nontraditional student, I have walked to the beat of my own drum. By my senior year of high school, I had no plans for college. I despised the idea of furthering my education and took some time off. During those six long months, I spent my free time doing nothing but reading everything and anything I could get my hands on. My days were filled with visits to libraries, bookstores, and cafes.
But I was bored and unfulfilled. So I figured it was time for me to accept my defeat and go to community college. I chose to go to the community college in the county next to my own because I refused to subject myself to running into former classmates whom I had so skillfully avoided all these months.
- Erica Rosenthal
Throughout high school, I was told that I was lazy and had “so much potential,” but I never cared. I did whatever my friends did and never paved my own path. I took fairly basic classes my first semester in community college since I had just started a new job and was unsure of how much work I could handle. To my surprise, I thrived in every class that first semester. I discovered that doing well—and actually trying—felt good, and it ignited my passion for learning.
I graduated with honors, was awarded “Most Outstanding Student” in my department, became a published poet, was president of the internationally recognized honor society Phi Theta Kappa, discovered new passions, led an award-winning project fighting the opioid epidemic in my area, and contributed to my community. Yet, even though I accomplished so much, I still felt like I was behind everyone else. If I went to college straight out of high school, I would be a fourth-year student right now. Yet here I am, transferring in as a second-year student at the age of 21.
But I’m here to tell you that it is okay. You are where you need to be at this moment, as am I. I know that most of my high school classmates haven’t accomplished half of the things I have in two years. And, yes, some have accomplished a lot more than me, and that is okay.
Posing with Dr. David Stout, president of Brookdale Community College.
Because of my experience with Phi Theta Kappa, my transfer process was stress-free. Utilizing the tools I acquired through Five Star Competitive Edge, a soft-skills program provided by the society, and with support from my chapter, I knew that applying to Arcadia would be the least- stressful part of the transfer process. I filled out an application with no fee, was excused from the essay portion due to my involvement in Phi Theta Kappa, and within a month was informed of my acceptance. I chose Arcadia because they awarded me a scholarship that no other schools could match. But I knew I made the right decision when I visited the campus. It felt like home. The views were beautiful, the school’s writing program was one of the best in the nation, and nothing compared to the feeling I got standing in the Castle.
I don’t regret a single choice I have made. I graduated with an associates degree in Creative Writing from community college and am transferring into Arcadia with an individualized major in Environmental Journalism. Sure, I’m terrified of failing. But it is the right choice for me. Trust your gut; it knows more than you think.
A wise person once told me, “Go where the love is, it will never steer you wrong.” So if you are doubting your major, or feel left behind because your friends seem to be ahead of you, tell yourself it’s okay. Because it is. Not every student was meant to graduate in four years and know their entire life plan by 18. I sure didn’t.
Don’t be afraid to step out of the crowd and walk on your own for a little bit. I promise you it will all be worth it.