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College Struggles – “You On Your Own, Kid”

College Struggles –  “You On Your Own, Kid”

In high school, I just did what I had to do to get B’s and C’s. I could do that without doing my homework, so I didn’t do homework. I didn’t push myself to be an A student because as long as I passed and graduated, being the top student didn’t matter.


I was accepted into all six colleges that I applied to in New York City. I wanted to go to Brooklyn College to study journalism, but my mom wanted me to go to Medgar Evers College because it was closer to home. I got some federal financial aid money through both a Pell grant and a TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) award for books, transportation, and other expenses. But my mom was paying the rest, so I had to go where she said.

I’ve always had trouble remembering what I’ve read.  I signed up for math, English, history, and freshman seminar, an introduction to college life.  But almost immediately, I ran into problems.

My advice is to stay on top of your financial aid. Keep reminding the financial aid office that you need your money for books, transportation, and other expenses-not just tuition. Also, ask other students to fill you in if you miss class.

Another big problem was that I wasn’t used to studying. In high school, the only thing I studied was math because we got work packets to take home instead of a heavy textbook. But college math-algebra plus trigonometry-was so much more difficult than high school math. The only time I understood the work was when we did problems from the book and on the board.

image by Percy Tejeda

I realized I needed help when I failed my very first quiz in math class. I was too embarrassed to ask the teacher for help. I wanted him to think that I really belonged in college. The free tutoring Medgar Evers offered was at the same time as my classes, so I hired a student tutor.

Fortunately, I was given a second chance. There is a program at Kingsborough Community College called New Start that lets you enroll with a clean slate-a brand new GPA. I sent them my college transcript and explained my situation-that I was having trouble focusing so I flunked out.

So here I am Kingsborough Community College with a brand new slate. Four classes, 13 credits, and so far everything’s going smoothly.

Otis’s Study Tips

1. Turn off your phone when you’re trying to study.
2. Write down homework deadlines and test dates.
3. Don’t schedule classes for times when you know you’ll be sleepy.
4. Get a tutor before you’re completely confused.
5. If you like to talk, sign up for classes with lots of participation.
6. Make sure you have all the reading material-and read it!
7. Don’t get freaked out by big words; just look them up.
8. Always read the textbook!


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