At some point, you get old enough and look at the crazy twists and turns and be like “ahhhhhh” that makes sense. In the moment, you wonder “why is this happening?” Years later bring perspective and the ability to see God’s divine plan in a situation.
One of those turning points is the end of my first quarter of my freshmen year of college. I went to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). I remember visiting with my dad. Attending felt like it was meant to be.
RIT was on a quarter (10 week) system, although they’ve just switched over to semesters. The academic term went fast and the professors prided themselves on jamming 15 weeks (semester length) of material into 10 weeks. The joke was that if you missed your first week of class you’d be so far behind that you’re too far behind at that point.
Lansing, Michigan isn’t a tiny town by any stretch but it’s not a BIG city. I was always an A/B student or a 3.5 – 3.8 GPA. Everyone was BLOWN away that at 13… 14 years old that I’d learned HTML and was making websites for others. At RIT, my major was Information Technology, which is like applied computer sciences. It’s more application than theory. Albeit to say, my confidence was REALLY high in my abilities.
Well, I’d gone from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond. Everyone was like me and a lot smarter. Plus like I mentioned classes were INTENSE. My first quarter included things like Discrete Mathematics. I swear it didn’t use numbers for the first 4 or 5 weeks. I also had Intro to Java Programming. Programming in Java is VERY different than writing HTML. It came with a bit of learning curve.
I remember getting my first grades for my first quarter and it was a 2.7 GPA. I was DEVASTATED. I’d really felt like I was at RIT for a reason. This was my career path. Why wasn’t school coming more naturally to me? I paced up and down the academic quad for hours questioning everything. Should I stay? Should I quit? I could always get a job at CompUSA (remember those?) or Best Buy back in Michigan.
I made the decision to stick it out.
How’d I get through it? I had the grace of God and… I put in the work. I trusted that God had put me at RIT for a reason. So if I put in the work, it’d pay off.
So thankful for the love, support, and encouragement from my parents. They’re amazing and the best parents ever.
I also sat in every professors’ office hours that I could find. Most college students avoid office hours. I went to ALL of them. It was free help. If others weren’t gonna use them, I was. Ha!
I ended up graduating with honors and a 3.75 GPA.
On the whole, college was hard. School was a 60-70 hour a week job, if not even more. It taught me…
- Hard work – I’m sure it sucked for my parents to see their boy face adversity but I’m so glad I did. It’s impossible to know what it means to work hard and overcome something until you face a hardship, which is going to be painful. Life is going throw you situations where you’ll have to work hard. In all those future situations I’ve felt so much more equipped.
- Working smarter – When you have a million things to do and it feels like the water is quickly going past your head, you have to think differently about how you work. It’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter. You have to find new ways to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of the day.
- Getting thrown into the deep end – So much of school was learning something new. In one of my programming capstone classes, the final project was learning a new programming language in 3 weeks and then teaching it to the class. You just had to figure it out. RIT taught me how to learn and love being in situations that forced me to learn.
When I left college, I sought out people that shared these values. After searching for jobs, I moved to DC to work at the Library of Congress. The first people that I looked for were people that wanted more than a 9-5. I looked for people that if a problem popped up, they’d find a creative solution to conquer it. I hung out with programmers, nerds, and entrepreneurs and it changed the rest of my life.