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Campus Overload
Posted at 06:00 PM ET, 08/23/2011

#College101: You are not alone on your academic journey

Today’s guest blogger is Mary Churchill, special assistant to the vice president at Queens College, City University of New York, and the executive director of University of Venus, a writing collaborative that brings together the voices of GenX women in higher education from around the globe.

I was the first person in my family to go to college, and I had no idea what to expect. It was the mid-80s, and Michigan State University was the second-largest university in the country. I was living in a dorm larger than the small town I had just left.

It was awesome. But for some of us, it was too awesome. Many of the kids I started with didn’t finish, and there were a few times when I was worried that I wouldn’t make it, either.

I made a lot of mistakes, but the biggest mistake I made was in trying to go it alone. A guy in one of my classes told me that if I dropped a class, I would lose my financial aid.

Terrified of losing this lifeline, I never dropped a single class, and I never asked for an extension or an incomplete — not even the quarter I received three F’s for having missed four weeks because I was out with mono.

I never thought to ask for help; partly due to embarrassment and stubborn pride but mostly because I didn’t know that I could. I eventually graduated and even went on to earn a PhD, but that’s another story.

The big takeaway here is that everyone stumbles! We make mistakes. We all need help and being on your own just means you have to find that help, not that you have to go it alone. Reach out to people. Talk to your professors and adviseors.

You are not burdening them, and trust me, your story is not anything they haven’t heard before. Make connections. The people you meet now will be with you for the rest of your life. Introduce yourself to your president, provost and dean. They want to talk to students: Be one of those students.

Good luck!

Every day in August (and perhaps some in September, too), Campus Overload will feature a 300-word-or-less essay centered around one piece of #College101 advice for the Class of 2015. To participate, e-mail Jenna at

By Mary Churchill  |  06:00 PM ET, 08/23/2011

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