Before my grandfather was diagnosed with dementia, he would always tell me this same story about his experience in college, especially after I became a college student myself.
My grandfather, Jay Sanders, was a musician and music minister by trade. He grew up on a farm with his family in Alabama. Later in life, he would spend his days toiling for the post office. He did everything in his power to provide a better life for his children, allowing them to achieve the American dream of entering the middle class.
After my grandfather’s enlistment in the United States Army as a member of the Army’s band, he enrolled at the University of North Alabama after some encouragement from his fellow servicemen. He would drive from Huntsville, Alabama to Decatur, Alabama every day to take his classes. All while providing for my family.
He would always follow up this story by explaining to me the importance of getting a good education. Both my father and my uncle had followed his advice by attending what was then Memphis State University and his words of encouragement would also motivate me.
My grandfather died this March. He will not be able to see me walk across the stage as I graduate this semester. As I reflect on my grandfather, I find myself motivated to carry on the legacy of his work ethic. Although I am significantly less musical, work ethic is something that students, myself including, should dwell on this semester.
Working hard can influence those around you. It can give you a leg up in life, as well as push others to do better. I want my work to be something that my grandfather would be proud of and my fellow students should too.
I have some suggestion for both new students on campus or for those that are returning.
1. Put your whole effort into everything
Over my college career, I’ve come to understand that finding my “passion” is less important than the effort I put in. I am more than guilty of being lazy those classes that I did not think were important. Slacking off in class hurts not only grades but also your relationship with your teacher.
2. Money is on the line, act like it
My goal this semester is to treat every class like money is on the line because money is on the line. Whether paying upfront, getting a loan, a scholarship or through an installment plan, students will always have to pay for the classes they take. I’ve tanked in my share of courses. It was a waste of time and money. If you have the option to work your way out of a hole, it’s always better to do so.
3. Keep your friends close and your professors closer
My dad always tells me to do everything short of bribing professors to get good grades. While it sounds ridiculous, he isn’t wrong. You need to communicate with your professors about the ideas you have, the concepts you don’t understand and the projects that you’re struggling with. Either make your professor your best friend or annoying them to the point when they give you an A for effort.