A Student’s Guide to a Successful Semester


“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy of life lies in having no goal to reach.” Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

Photo credit: GregFellows.com

This is truly a historically significant moment in my life! August 26, 2009…Two years ago to this very day, I was a non-traditional college student who decided to put on my big girl undies and wade out into deep, dark waters… in pursuit of higher education. Mind you, it had been 27 years since I had last set my eyes onto the insides of a school textbook. Thoughts of failure were lurking, but I had goals to achieve and a dream to live, so I refused to let them stop me.

“Consider the postage stamp:  its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.” – Josh Billings

As I opened the doors at entrance 10 of the FVTC campus, I was timid, fearful…and truthfully, a bit nauseous. I was afraid of swimming with the barracuda… classes like Business Math and Culinary Applications, and downright terrified at the thought of bumping into the ravenous sharks -the younger generation of students who would surely tease, point, and poke fun at my expense as I fumbled my way through cooking rotation classes.

Despite my fears, I was incredibly excited at the opportunity to learn and hone skills that would help place me back into the workforce, but still… I silently sobbed inside. The inner tapes of my mind were playing ancient messages. (The “voices of the devil” as I would later learn to tag them.) The tapes were blaring negative messages at me, telling me that I had no place or right to sit in a classroom and learn. They told me that I had been given an opportunity for a successful life…but that I had blown it. I had mapped out a life of failure for myself through my past actions.

“The cycle of God, the good, is broken by a single act of negativity. The cycle of negativity is stopped by choosing the good — not just once, but again and again until it is goodness that prevails in your life and in our world altogether.” – JOHN MORTON; “The Blessings Already Are”

This is for all of you new students out there…The ones who are afraid to try, or who are fearful of change. This is also for those of you who are facing difficult challenges in your life. You know who you are…You’re secretly wanting to give up that dream of yours. You’re afraid of embarrassment and/or failure, so you’re about to quit. I’m pleading with you to keep your dreams and goals alive!

As I’ve stated time and time again, (at times more for my own heart to hear than for others)… life is for the living. Make the most of EVERY day you are blessed with. Set goals for yourself and then act upon them. Use baby steps if you must, but start the adventure now…before it’s too late.

Here is my tried and true method for goal-setting:

  • Set weekly, monthly, and term-length goals – Make sure to set goals for effectively managing the time needed for classes, studying, family time, and work commitments. Oh, and don’t forget to plan for some social time, too. All work and no play quickly leads to stress and burnout. If you don’t own a day planner or have a calendar program on your computer or Smartphone, now would be a great time to invest in one. I happen to love Evernote. The best part: It’s FREE!
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Keep your goals achievable and realistic so that you won’t be disappointed if/when you can’t achieve them.
  • Reward yourself when you accomplish a goal. This doesn’t have to be anything expensive, and it probably shouldn’t be…base the size of the reward on the size and depth of the goal. When you finish a small goal, rent a movie, treat yourself to your favorite coffee drink, spend some extra time in a bubble bath, or take the family out for dinner. When you make it to the finish line of a long-term goal, then it’s appropriate to go all out with a big reward.

Please learn from my mistakes and don’t waste any more precious days, weeks, months, or years. There will never be a “perfect” time to do anything. Just DO it! The kids will always come first and you will always have commitments that are seemingly more important that bettering yourself. Your significant other will always need you, and there will always be bills to pay. If you’re worried about finances, you should be, but there is a large amount of scholarship money just waiting for someone to ask for it. Before I started school, I used every excuse in the book to avoid going. The excuses got old as I started regretting my life more and more.

NOW is the time to make time for YOU! Mistakes are never failures if we learn from them. Live and learn from every experience. Jump in to the deep end and start swimming toward those goals. NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS! Don’t let anything stop you…especially yourself.

I’m forging into my final semester of an educational experience that has been nothing short of miraculous and wonderful. In a million years, I would never have guessed that little old me would be embarking on graduation. But I persevered and decided to swim below the murky, dark waters. Once I did, I found that there is a beautiful sea down there to behold. Jump in my friend…the water’s warm and wonderful!

Funding Your Education

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that it’s exceptionally cruel for stores to start selling Halloween candy 7 weeks before it’s needed?  Give me a break, please.  Do the retailers honestly think that I could keep chocolate in my house unwrapped and uneaten for that long?  Of COURSE they don’t.  That’s their point ENTIRELY.  Get me to purchase it, consume it, and purchase it again.  Now that’s some savvy business sense! 

What does that mean for you and I?  It means that we should be equally as savvy with our saving and spending… or risk losing our entire savings to the Nestle Corporation.  Which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the calorie monster that comes along with those purchases!

Here’s my plan and suggestion for putting a few extra dollars into your bank account:

Apply for a scholarship – Every year, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial scholarships (that’s FREE MONEY that does NOT have to be repaid!) awarded to college students.  They are awarded based on academic achievement (good grades), financial need, and even for community involvement.  It’s all there waiting for you…you just need to ask for it!  At FVTC, you can apply for scholarships twice per year, in the fall term, and again in the spring.  The fall scholarship application time is NOW, and applications will be accepted until September 16th, so be sure to click HERE and fill out your application today!  IMPORTANT NOTE: You will need recommendation letters from two instructors on your app, and you really should get their approval before you use their name.  Think of how you’d feel if someone used you as a job reference and never bothered to tell you about it. 

Another way I’ve put a few extra dollars into my pocket has been through the use of an awesome FREE search engine called SWAGBUCKS.  I bet even if you’re not familiar with the term “search engine”, you have probably used one.  Have you ever needed a map or driving directions, used the Internet to help you do research for work or school, or performed any other kind of search?  If so, then you’ve used a search engine to get you those results.  This search engine is exactly like any of the others…with one HUGE difference.  As you search, it randomly awards you with “digital dollars” called Swagbucks, which are saved and redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, or even PayPal credit.  It’s AMAZING!  I’ve used most of my winnings to buy Amazon.com gift cards, because I can buy virtually anything I want from that site.  I’ve stocked my kitchen with new cookware and appliances, loaded up my music collection with new CD’s, and even purchased some of my textbooks that way.  I’ve always been a skeptic when it came to sites that sounded too good to be true, so I was sure I’d end up with an email inbox full of spam, absurd shipping charges, or adware on my computer.  I was sure that there had to be a catch… but I was surprised and delighted to find out that I was wrong.  There’s no risk, so I encourage and invite you to sign up and try it out for yourself.  They’ll even award you 60 SWAGBUCKS just for signing up.  If you do sign up, please drop me an email or comment to let me know.  I’d be glad to answer any questions you may have and/or give you some tips on how to earn the Swagbucks in ways other than through searches (there are several other ways to earn them!)  This is what your screen will look like when you win Swagbucks:

The last tip I have for putting a little extra cash into your pocket is to pack a bag lunch.  I ate lunch in the cafeteria WAY too much last semester, and my wallet and waistline both suffered the consequences. Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE the food that is offered at this school.  After all, it’s made and served by some of the finest chefs-in-training in the Fox Valley!  Come on…did you truly think that I WOULDN’T shamelessly plug the culinary program?  However, I believe in the “all things in moderation” mindset.  I’ve decided that I’ll purchase 2 meals a week here and pack the rest.  To help me decide which days I’ll purchase meals on, I plan ahead by taking a peek at the weekly menu, which can be found here: CAFE MENUS

I hope that you have a FABULOUS Labor Day weekend.  For those of you with an extra day off from work and/or school, enjoy! 

I hope you’ll come back to join me here very soon.

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