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Life Lessons of a Youngin’: When College Didn’t go According to Plan

Let’s talk about college.

I mean the beginning phases the part where you had to determine what major would be suitable for what you wanted to do… FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

For someone who liked to plan her life down to every little detail, it was an excruciating experience. This was an important decision and I cringed at the thought of failing to make the correct one. And at the thought of wasting my time and money? On a degree that, although it would make me become more “socially acceptable,” would actually result in me being unfulfilled? Eeeeeeek!

Social rebels, do ya feel me on this one?

Admittedly, though, the process of exploring which major I wanted to pursue opened new phases of thought-provoking questions and other self-exploratory experiences for me.

AND THEN there came that fateful moment *dramatic music playing in the background*, where I was faced with a tough decision, the decision to take out a loan OR take a year off of college. Little did I know then that I made the best decision I could have possibly made.

My summer leading up to college

During the summer approaching my first semester of college, I spent my nights searching the different types of doctors I could pursue being. My search went a little something like this: “How much does a _______ doctor make?”  And then I would proceed to search up all the different schools that I could obtain my medical degree to become an [insert filthy rich doctor here]. I genuinely had a lot of joy in doing this. Why? Because I was young, ambitious, and I was looking forward to embarking on this path of achieving the type of “worldly success” that could make my mom and pop proud. I wanted to be the first in my family to have achieved such a noble and respectable career. Ya know?

I was determined and it was reflected in my first semester’s schedule: Chemistry, Biology, Calculus II and English.

My mentality: if I was going to do this for the next 12 years, I’m going H.A.M (hard as a mother f*) now.

First semester: from failure to self-awareness

Dropped Chemistry.

Dropped Biology.

& I Failed English.

(but passed Calculus II, though! I love math. 🙂)

It’s incredible how when going through a rough experience, you wonder how you’re going to get out of it, but in retrospect… you realize just how blessed you were to have gone through it. I’m glad because I literally embraced an “if I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail quick” mentality. Which, I did… and that’s okay! I may not have discovered what I DO like, but I discovered what I DON’T like, and that’s a step in the right direction.

Discovering what you don’t like is just as important as discovering what you do.

Most importantly, I learned that my definition of success was not based on the truth. I had to redefine what it meant to be successful. Success is in the means to the end… not the end. If it were going to take me 12 years of misery doing something I truly hated simply to make everyone proud and then succeed at that, what am I really successful at, then? This was a small yet powerful realization that I’m sure we all think about, but I took it a step forward… it was the reason for me taking my next move: the next year off.

How my life changed in a year

Fortunately (in retrospect) I couldn’t attend college the following semester. The Financial Aid Office wasn’t so happy with my low grades and dropped courses. But eff that, I wasn’t so fond of taking a loan for a meaningless degree because society said so, anywayThat was my mentality. No school for me.

I wound up finding a program called Year Up. Little did I know then that because of this program, this year would be a year of MASSIVE changes and growth. I may have lost a year’s worth of school but I gained so much more. I gained:

A sense of direction in my life

I interned at an advertising agency (a pharmaceutical one, actually, which I found extremely funny since I desperately wanted to become a doctor, haha). My role was a Digital Producer Intern. During this internship, I worked with Web Developers,  User Experience Designers, Digital Producers, Account Executives, and Creative Writers. I had access to real-world people within each field and a wealth of knowledge and experiences that I could tap into and learn about.

What intrigued me the most, though, wasn’t the details about everyone’s role. It was their personal story. I was interested in how they got there and why. Hearing these stories allowed me to reflect on my own.

Truly, I share my story with you in the hopes that you could do the same.

Connections to relationships and opportunities that have opened doors for me

I learned about the power of networking by attending networking events at LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, and other Fortune 500 companies. By being connected to further training at other programs including The Knowledge House (TKH), I had the opportunity to establish strong relationships (and was eventually hired by TKH for my first full-time job with benefits and all – and NO college degree 😉).

I also had the opportunity to start a business, from idea to prototype. As a team, we wanted to create an app that connected students to a mentor. We didn’t create an app but we connected people to mentors 😉. It was an overall great learning experience. Whether big or small, I’m glad I was able to contribute to this much of an impact.

An understanding of my working style

This one realization was the most meaningful for me. Imagine working at a job for years AND THEN realizing that your job isn’t fulfilling enough because it didn’t align with your working style? Well, this year off allowed me to do just that (to an extent, of course, there’s always room to learn, grow, and make new self-discoveries).


I was challenged to do things outside of my comfort zone by giving a public presentation about once a week for six months, having conversations with the Chief Strategy Officer at FCB Global (the most nerve-wracking conversations ever), and interning at an organization alongside students from top colleges (even though my GPA was incomparable – seriously). I overcame my insecurities of imposter syndrome and being a young Spanish female, dabbing into the world of corporate America.

Learning by doing

I love college because I love learning (I just hate the politics behind it). But this experience helped me learn beyond the capacity of college. I learned because I was doing. I was actively experiencing what the working world was like. It gave me a heck of a perspective.

I didn’t just practice resume writing, conducting interviews, and public speaking, but I did it in a practical, real-world setting… over and over again. Textbooks ain’t got nothing on the opportunity to put that knowledge into practice. There’s just not a better way to learn.

Back to School: With a Renewed Sense of Purpose

Through this experience, I learned one of my first life lessons of navigating a life-is-not-going-according-to-plan moment. This helped me take a step back, re-evaluate what I wanted and needed in life, and consider exactly how college was going to fit into the bigger picture vision for my life.

You better believe that when I went back to college, I was ON IT; A’s, participating, sitting in the front, all lat! Hey, I saw my purpose clearer, and I wasn’t about to play ANY games this time.

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