Thursday, January 04, 2007

Report Card

The fall semester I just completed was the most challenging of my educational career thus far. Besides being a collection of very heady, very theory oriented, very upper division courses that are required for the completion of my BA, I was also working nearly full time as a staff writer at a small newspaper while still taking care of my (single) parental and household responsibilities as well. It was not a surprise that I was busy, I knew I would be. I was not “in over my head” either; I was always confident that I would prevail. It was not, however, easy - not by any stretch of the imagination.

In addition to the expected, my share of the unexpected materialized as well. Those that have been reading here recently know of my son’s injuries sustained as a passenger in an automobile wreck and the pensive holding pattern my world entered for a few days – just as the semester came to a close. My priorities are non-negotiable; my son's needs came before my own. Yet, with the help of family and friends, I was able to be with him when he needed me most and still persevere in school... and my job.

The schedule I set up was of my choosing. It is conceivable that I could have been all but done with my education had I not chosen to accept the opportunity to write professionally. Only one class was unavailable last fall, which would've left only those three units to complete this spring - my final semester. After assessing, cutting back and considerably juggling my fall schedule, I was able to make the commitment to work until the end of the year. However, the option was mine as to whether I would continue until this coming summer and beyond – class schedule permitting. As it turns out, I could have worked it out again. I just didn’t want to.

I never took the job for the money. Although I’m not inclined to reveal the pay, suffice it to say that it was very “entry-level.” No surprises there and I expected nothing more. The real value has a much more lasting effect. I now have tons of clips. I don’t have to gather the few published works I have and submit them all - the good, the bad and the ugly - to a potential employer. For an inexperienced writer, that’s the hard part. My problem will be deciding which clips to use. Indeed, although I might still be inexperienced, I am far less so because of this internship-turned-employment opportunity that was laid at my feet.

Although more experience never hurts and the pay, modest as it is, always helps, I decided not to extend my employment beyond my initial commitment. My spring schedule could have been arranged around the job again this semester. However, it would have again demanded a great deal of sacrifice. I know I am up to it, even more so than before. I know this because of my marks this semester combined with the feedback I received from my superiors at the newspaper. My grades this past semester?

American Foreign Policy: A-
Public Policy Development: A-
Public Affairs Reporting: A-
Online Publishing: A
Dean’s Honor List for the third consecutive semester.
That totals a 3.775 GPA!

Now, for sure, I know I can do it. But I don’t have to endure that kind of pressure going into my final semester at school. Not working has also afforded me the time to take two courses that aren’t required but will be extremely helpful in furthering my career. And I can relax a little and enjoy this last semester. Freelancing is still an option – in fact, I’ve already turned down two or three requests… I’m still decompressing. But it is an avenue I will be pursuing in the very short term. School doesn’t begin again for another three weeks – I’ll be ready to kill some of this abundance of time very soon.

I approached the last semester, with all the attendant demands on my time, with a “can-do” attitude. There were times, however, that I felt I would have to sacrifice some of my GPA. In fact, right up to the end, I felt like I had a tiger by the tail. It was all I could do to hold on at times, yet I always knew I would. It seemed I was always scrambling to keep up, I never felt like I was ahead. I accepted that my GPA would probably take a hit.

But it didn’t.

It wasn't easy.


Ellen said...

Congrats on the excellant GPA and Deans List... a true achievement, and well earned.

I used to think my son would end up continually repeating his grades over and over again, as he was a low achiever in grade and high school. I have lost count over the number of times I had to send him to summer school for math, as well as have him privately tutored by his teachers. And then he went to college, and it's like his life began there for academics. All of a sudden he's getting A's on everything.... including his remedial math courses. He now qualifies for our state program called Hope Scholarship. What this means is that he can now get his tuition for University for free as long as he applies to any school in the state of Georgia. Whoopie for my bank account!

My personal thought on all of this... and your life included: Somewhere, somehow, we all find our niche. It may not be when we most expect it or want it... and we may even put it off a little bit during the course of our life, but it does happen.... and it mostly happens when we have the fire in our bellies to put our nose to the grindstone and apply ourselves when everybody else seems to write us off. Sometimes, a life changing experience (such as you had) is the catapult, and sometimes it's just the belief of someone else believing in you. Whatever the course, the outcome is something to be very proud about. You've earned not only the respect of your peers, you've earned the respect of yourself... a powerful propelling factor that will turn your 25-year plan into a lifeplan.

Congrats again... I am so proud of you, my friend! I raise a glass of virtual champagne in your honor.

Anonymous said...

It's never "easy" but always well worth it. Bravo to you on a job well done!
Wishing you all the best on your final semester!

barbie2be said...

i don't know if i could handle going to college at my age. but i am thinking about chef school.

barbie2be said...

doh! forgot to say michele sent me.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Here from Michele tonight, Mike...
Your grades are fantastic, and considering how stretched you were with ALL that you were doing---that is even more fantastic! I can certainly understand not wanting to have all that pressure in this last semester...good for you for lining up your prioities and deciding to take yourself our of the pressure cooker---letting go of the "tiger by the tail" takes courage and you have plenty of that! Congrats on your outstanding marks!

Anonymous said...



Snaggle Tooth said...


Ya know I always found the more I was worried I'd get lower grades, the higher they'd end-up, because I was so driven to do my best in the short available time by the additional pressure.

(I made mcl after 10, FT sems on the Dean's list)
Also I think being older n more invested in your goal brings better grades than the younger attendees.

Carli N. Wendell said...

awesome gpa-congrats.
It was probably a good idea both to take the job at the paper (for the clips and the experience) and to leave. I regret not quitting a very poorly paying, very unsatisfying internship my Senior year of college. Now you have more time to focus on your last semester and a bright future. Here from Michele.

purplefugue said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog. I'll put the kettle on the next time. :-) Congratulations on those grades. And best of everything in your last semester.

Here from Michele too! *waves*

Sunny said...

Congratulations Mr. Althouse!
I have been reading your comments on a friend's blog and have decided to swing by your way and take a look at your writing. I really enjoy your blog and you have a wonderful writing style. It is not a bit of wonder that you did so well this semester. I am sure you will handle your last semester with as much gumption as the last.
I will be adding this to my favorites and look forward to your next post.
Just wanted to say that I was not sent by Michele's blog. I came all on my own.

Biker Betty said...

Congratulations on all you have accomplished. And it's a lot! My husband has been bugging me to go back to college. I'm thinking of actually doing it starting in the fall. Something in the computer area. I'm not fond of school and keep putting it off, but I love computers and would really enjoy learning more. I keep coming up against walls because I don't have an Associates degree.

mckay said...

sam, nice GPA. if i lived closer i'd take you out for an ice cream to celebrate.

glad you've been able to successfully juggle life, family, school and work. not an easy task, my friend.

hope your son's doing well :0)

carmilevy said...

Your life/work ethic is an inspiration to those of us who want to expand the envelope and build for a better future.

Thanks for sharing so thoroughly. And congratulations on a job well done. You deserve every accolade in this list of comments.