March 3, 2014
By all the standards of determining college readiness, I should have never gone to college. My parents had no expectation for me to go to college and there was no example to follow. My grandfather had a third-grade education; my grandmother went through sixth-grade. My father dropped out of high school and later went back to get his GED; but neither of my parents obtained a college degree and neither had the college experience to provide guidance for my life after high school. I had to figure things out for myself, and some of those experiences were on the road of hard knocks. As it turned out, I figured out the system and ended up completing three degrees, including a doctorate. But as a professional educator, I don’t ever want to lose touch with the discomfort first-generation college students experience when they take that initial step into the world of higher education. I have occasionally enrolled in freshmen-level courses to keep the new college experience fresh in my mind.
My experiences at some institutions were not ideal. At a couple of larger universities, I was immersed in large, impersonal, intimidating atmospheres of discouragement, proliferated with insensitive teachers. But I also experienced the type of climate where the atmosphere was one of encouragement, while maintaining uncompromising standards of academic rigor. Today, if I enroll in an online course at a university and find the negative type of environment, I am reminded that, as a first-generation college student, I could have easily been one of those college drop-out statistics.
Tragically, for most students, the decision to withdraw from college has nothing to do with intelligence. While life tends to happen and students are sometimes faced with circumstances beyond their control that require withdrawing from college classes, there is another reason that we can control. This latter reason for dropping out of college has to do with whether or not a student is placed in a college environment that helps him or her learn to take responsibility, learn to cope with stress, learn how to keep from falling behind, and learn how to build confidence – without compromising academic standards.
I enroll in entry-level college classes and risk going through the trauma that many first-time college students experience because, as a college administrator, I need to occasionally be reminded what students are experiencing and how I can help make their college experience a positive one. Morgan Community College (MCC) is a rare gem in the wide world of cut-throat academia. At MCC, we aggressively work to provide a top-notch quality college education with the highest academic standards while establishing a nurturing environment for student success. We accept students from every walk of life and from every type of background. It makes no difference who they are or where they come from. But when they leave Morgan Community College, they are ensured every opportunity for success in transferring to a four-year university or in immediately launching a successful career in the workforce.
Am I cut out for college? If I were once again a first-generation college student, I would be very careful in making sure the college was a right fit. But I know I couldn’t go wrong at Morgan Community College.