How I Almost Failed Graduate School Before It Started

One hot topic in the press right now is about our education system. With hundreds of thousands of students emerging from the academic system right now, there’s an incredibly high unemployment rate for those in the early twenties. Not exactly the place you want to be coming out of school.

Now, I’m not really in a position to speculate whether you should go to graduate school and hide from the job market for two years, but that’s the particular route I chose. What I can tell you is the entertaining tale of how I almost screwed up and didn’t get into graduate school in the first place.

Let’s begin so you can start laughing at my innumerable mistakes.

When I was graduating college, I, like many kids that are coming out of their four years of debauchery right now, had little clue what I really wanted to do in the real world. I had gathered some extensive experience in health and fitness and thought about just pursuing personal training right out of undergraduate school.

Somewhere along the line (and with an amazing graduate assistance opportunity available), I was convinced to pursue another two years despite my unbelievable desire to never sit inside the walls of a classroom again.

Now, this may come as a shock to many of you reading this, but I wasn’t always the stunning display of professionalism that I appear to be today. In fact, during my undergraduate degree, I was quite the opposite.

My first semester started off with a bang as I managed to secure a “C” in Calculus despite having taken it once before (don’t worry, I managed an A+ in jogging class to balance it out).

In spite of my ambition for fitness and desire to become a personal trainer, I dropped Anatomy the first time I took it. That particular instance culminated with a sub-par score on the first two tests and ultimately led to my decision to drop the class while studying for the third test at 11pm one night – electing to hang out with my friends instead. Clients and coworkers, have no fear. I ended up retaking it and getting an “A” the second time around.

My attendance in class wasn’t all that stellar either. My affinity for early mornings wasn’t quite as well-developed and I routinely overslept for early morning classes. On more than one occasion, I completed a chemistry quiz drenched in sweat having sprinted across campus in my pajamas to make it in time.

Outside of the classroom, I was having far too much fun. The end of my freshman year happened to coincide with my first ever written arrest (sorry Mom), which I can assure you was about as much fun as you could imagine. I still remember being scared to death while I stood in front of the judge thinking to myself “Sweet! First court appearance of my life at 19 years of age.”

Pursuing my enthusiasm for fitness, I secured a job at the recreation center on campus. Despite having a sincere passion for the job, I still remember waking up to a phone call from my former-boss-now-close-friend informing me that I was 30+ minutes late for the job training I was scheduled to attend.

How am I doing so far?

For those of you keeping score at home, the tally would be something around – Life: 76 Jeremey: 1 (I successfully conquered the majority of a pumpkin pie in one sitting. Yes, I consider that a triumph.)

Let’s Turn This Around Shall We?

This same very kid was about to apply for graduate school. Although the rap sheet listed above is a combination of my low points and doesn’t include any highlights like winning the mile in the aforementioned “Jogging” class, it doesn’t take an admissions officer to identify that I wasn’t necessarily a stellar candidate for a post-graduate degree.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to let a few years of blunders stand in my way of becoming a master of science.

Here’s where things got interesting. The application required several things including a few recommendations from professors I hadn’t taken the time to get to know outside of handing in a test every few weeks. Also, my lovely application was accompanied by a note from the Dean of Students office informing the application committee of my little run in with the wonderful boys in blue at the ripe young age of 19. (Note: I later had this dropped from my student file and it was never brought to the attention of the application committee – I don’t think.)

Side-note: At the time I was applying, I was taking a course titled Strength and Conditioning. For all intents and purposes, the class was designed to prepare you to take a personal training certification at the end of the semester. This is important as we continue the discussion. As I already had my certification and had led a few continuing education seminars, I somehow felt that it was okay for me to skip class on a weekly basis despite having unannounced quizzes. Again, I wasn’t all that smart a few years ago.

Long story short, somehow, I managed to convince a professor to take me on as a graduate student and also secured a few letters of recommendation although they were much less personal as I would have liked since the professors didn’t know my name from Adam.

To spoil the ending, I managed to finish with my Master’s degree in Human Performance (because Exercise Physiology required a thesis and I wasn’t quite as into writing back then as I am now).

Remember That Class I Skipped?

Remember that personal training class I was taking during my last semester? Turns out that same professor was the head of admissions for the college I was applying to. My admissions letter came with his signature on it.

I remember thinking to myself “This guy must be nuts. I’ve skipped 40% of his classes. How does he think I’m in any way prepared for graduate school?”

Needless to say, I’ve grown up over the years.

Why would I write an entire post about how I almost failed? For one, I know there are tons of students going in and leaving the university system at this very moment. I hope people can learn some things from my story (for one: know who your professors are and what other roles they serve in the college). I completely understand the “lost” feeling you have while you try to figure out where you can add value (and get paid) in the real world.

If anything at all, I hope it was just damn entertaining. I know I laughed for quite awhile as I reminisced while writing.

Help me feel better. Tell me the stupidest thing you did in school.

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