A Different Success Story. Please Read if you're still in High School.

Well guys, I’ve decided to post my experience or “success story” after having read through the various other ones that have been posted throughout this forum. I wasn’t initially going to, but I realize that my experience is quite different from the stories and unique experiences that I’ve read about.

I want to briefly say that if you’re still in high school, please read this post. I can tell you that if you were like me: bored, felt unfulfilled, tired of the routine, and simply sick of the usual complacency of high school - this is for you! Oh, and please forgive my wordiness. I’ve always been pretty wordy, and I tend to write more than I need to.

Soooo…when I was a kid I was always very hard working and did well in school. I participated in the San Francisco regional spelling bee and placed third in middle school, scored very well in IOWA and other standardized tests, and worked to further myself and impress my family and teachers.

I went to private school from K-8, but things changed afterward.

When I was rejected from my “dream high school”, which at the time was St. Ignatius in SF, I became disillusioned and angry. I made the decision to go to a public high school instead of other privates. Frankly, I’ll be honest when I say that I made a terrible decision. Not only did I lose the personal attention that I had always received, but I felt overwhelmed and pretty sad. I became extremely apathetic and depressed.

I had a solid, small group of friends, but the general population of the school irked me. I was surrounded by groups of people that I had never even remotely affiliated with before. Many of them were intrusive, mean, and generally just disrespectful. I was teased here and there, but nothing too extreme. However, it wasn’t the other kids that bothered me all that much. Rather, the teachers at my school were deplorable!!

I knew kids that would write the most random, completely fabricated BS on their homework, and they would get credit for the work because the teachers would “stamp” the work instead of actually reading and grading it. I concluded that there was no point in doing the homework at all. Was this the correct call? - nope. I ended up with around a 1.0 cumulative high school GPA through sophomore year and was truant from missing so much class.

I fell into a pattern of disgust, apathy, and low self-esteem. I was definitely depressed, and was also dealing with a social phobia that afflicted me on a daily basis. Sometimes it would be so extreme that I wouldn’t go into class when I was a minute late because I didn’t want people to look at me. Other times I would think others were talking about me, when they weren’t. Don’t worry, this wasn’t schizophrenia or anything more serious. I had a legitimate social phobia that contributed to a negative self-perception and too much anxiety. I would know lol - I’m a psych major.

Anyway, it became obvious that high school wasn’t working for me. My parents enrolled me in a Middle College. For those that aren’t familiar, Middle College is a program that allows students to concurrently take high school and college courses. Did I make the most of this opportunity? Absolutely not. I attended Middle College for 1 year, and I failed nearly every course. My psychological issues, which were completely untreated, were contributing. However, I’m not trying to suggest that I’m not responsible for my actions. I certainly was and am. I just couldn’t deal with the constant barrage of punishment from parents and teachers and my own personal issues at the time. This combination affected my motivation and self-esteem.

Those that have failed will know what I mean when I mention the “cycle”. It seems like each negative aspect of life (whether internally or externally) affects every other aspect. It’s a sickening cycle. Obviously I would have loved to improve my performance in school and become happier at the time, but with parents threatening to kick me out of the house the day I was going to turn 18, my principal yelling at me on a daily basis, and having next to no one to turn to because of a social phobia, everything becomes more difficult.

During my first semester of MC (second sem junior year) I failed all of my hs courses, and 3 college courses. At the time my friends didn’t know what to think of me. They’re all strong students and work hard to achieve. I envied their persistence and willingness to adapt to their challenges. However, I chose another route entirely. I made the decision to seek out other methods of schooling.

First semester of (what would be) my senior year rolls around. I’m behind in a lot of courses, and I attempt to enroll in an adult school. In order to join the adult school, I had to meet with a committee. Oh yes, a committee of 8 administrators met with me to determine whether or not I would be capable of doing the work and sticking to it…something I had NOT done in high school or college at that point.

We sat together in a transparent room around a large, circular table. I slouched down in my chair and avoided glaring, embarrassed stares from my Mom. I can remember thinking about how I hated the transparent room and would easily give anything to be invisible. I couldn’t help but think how silly this all was. I recall the sense of empowerment I perceived in the administrators, and mocked them in my mind. How ridiculous their jobs were - so I thought to myself. I remember laughing at the idea that this meeting with a failing kid was part of their job description. Readers, please understand that I don’t think like this now, and I’m only trying to describe my experience as I remember it as a 17-year-old kid.

The meeting concluded, and the head administrator determined that he’d give me a shot to enroll in their adult school and concurrently take college courses at my local community college. This has been and is what I consider to be the luckiest day in my life. I’ll be honest, I probably would have dropped out of school…well actually there wouldn’t have been any other options available at that point for me, had they not permitted me this chance. I am seriously indebted to those people. More on this later.

I began at the adult school diploma program. I began with English (my favorite subject), and then proceeded with math. I needed the hs math though. I began doing the packets. Each packet had 30 pages each, and there were 7 packets…of remedial math. Bear in mind, this was 1 year ago almost to the day.

As I mentioned earlier, I hated busy-work. There is nothing more boring and tedious than 200+ pages of remedial math. As one would probably expect, I decided to give up on that too. I entered the GED program. I studied for 2 days, and then I took the 5 tests to get my GED. I scored perfectly in writing and science, and very well in the other 3 subjects. I received my GED about a month after my best friends graduated high school, and I had roughly 15 units completed at my CCC with ~2.5 GPA.

I really feel like these little victories like getting my GED, working a job in San Francisco, and taking some CCC classes (9 units per semester at first) really boosted my confidence and improved my self-esteem. I took 10 units of summer school at my CCC last year, did very well, and didn’t look back from there.

Over the past year I’ve taken tons of units in order to transfer to a UC. My ultimate goal as of last summer was to get into UC Davis through a Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG). I’m going to be brutally honest when I say that getting a TAG is relatively easy. You only need a 3.0+ GPA with certain prerequisite classes done to be GUARANTEED admission to any UC other than UCLA and UCB. My ultimate goal was to get to that 3.0 and get to Davis.

I ended up receiving TAG’s to UCSC, UCD, and UCSD. I found out that my TAG’s were accepted to these schools in fall 2009. Again - little victories. My parents were astounded. My friends were shocked. How could a 3.0 in CCC after failing out of not 1…but 2 high schools, having a GED instead of a diploma, and clearly having a much shorter span of academic success get me into such great schools? Well, the community college system in California really is fantastic. I’m so lucky to have had this opportunity.

In my final semester that the UC’s would see (fall 2009), I received a 4.0 in 18 units of work and volunteered for over 200 hours. I gave it my all, and sent off my application to 5 UC’s - UCSC, UCD, UCSD, UCLA, and UCB. I spent 2 months on my personal statements. I knew that I had to explain my abhorrent first semester at my CCC. I would have avoided this issue entirely…had it not been for College Confidential. People on here told me to EXPLAIN my issues back then, and hopefully the UC’s would evaluate me holistically.

I finished the last of my 60 units to transfer to a university this semester. I actually finished with 62. I remained at my CCC for a total of 2.5 years (second sem junior year of hs through what would have been my freshman year of college).

My cumulative GPA at my CCC is a 3.74. It’s nothing spectacular (obviously only out of a 4.0 scale), but is pretty solid. Last month I received acceptances to every school I applied to and have decided to go to Berkeley. Never in my completely absurd and most preposterous of dreams would I have ever envisioned myself at Cal. Well, I mean, Berkeley has always been a school that I loved in sports and had a culture that I could (more or less) relate to, but I never really considered it. I’m a double major in psychology and philosophy.

So here I am. I just turned 19. I skipped a grade. I’m going into my junior year of college, will be experiencing my first time at any university, and have completely turned my life around. I have high self-esteem, love interacting with people, and am generally optimistic. I’ll be starting summer school at Cal in 2 weeks (to get further ahead), and will also be working a great job in San Francisco.

My friends think I’m completely crazy. My family and their friends can’t believe how I’ve changed.

However, I’ve come on here today at 4 AM to write about this because I want some of you guys that are still in hs to consider other options. I was forced into other options through my failing ways, but in the end, these other options saved me.

If there are those of you out there that detest high school, cannot stand the routine, or just want to explore other options…please be innovative! I say go for it. Many people will contend that taking the safe route and doing what everyone else does for 4 years is the best path. For some, this is definitely true. I can tell some of you though…those of you that I know hate the hs experience and count down the days until you’re done, those of you that are independent and are determined to explore your options, those of you who know you’re capable but have not done so well - this is something you should consider.

I really think it takes an open mind and a willingness to embrace change. I talk to my siblings about this, and they roll their eyes and think to themselves…and sometimes say aloud, “He took the easy way out.” But did I really? Perhaps my path to success was unorthodox. Perhaps my decisions were terrible, and I got lucky. However, there’s a part of me that knows that in order to grow as a person and mature, I had to go through all of this. I had to fail. I had to learn from my mistakes. I had to experience for myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying anyone should fail! lol. I’m just saying that the GED is a great option that should be AT LEAST considered for certain people. It IS (I don’t care what anyone else says) the equivalent to a diploma, and it is NOT looked down upon by admissions committees. It is a 5-subject test that is much easier than the SAT’s, which I never took btw, and is a quick way of getting hs out of the way. If it wasn’t for the GED, I’d still be doing remedial math to get my diploma and would definitely still be in community college.

I’d also recommend that those of you who want to stay in hs should try and take community college courses. Whether it be during the academic year or over summer, college credit is (at some point) going to be needed. The more you get ahead - the less you’ll have to do.

Also, just to note, the UC’s (when transferring) don’t look at hs transcripts (thank god), and solely evaluate you based upon your college GPA and EC’s/jobs/finishing prereqs/personal statements. You don’t need AP’s. You don’t need SAT’s. You don’t need hs grades. Many people say this is much easier than the hs route. I’d have to agree, but it’s a perfectly legitimate option that exists. Btw this is true for California community colleges. I’m unsure what the case is for OOS students or those at 4-year universities already.

My only regret is that I won’t get to have the full 4-year experience. Instead, I’ll get 2 years at one of the world’s premier public universities, and hell, I’m not complaining. My diploma is going to say BA from UC Berkeley…not CCC transfer to Berkeley lol.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: When things aren’t working academically you can either adapt like most people or try to find another route. I chose the latter, and that has made all the difference for me. The former can be the better path for someone else. In the end, you have to do what’s best for you. I just wanted to put another option on the table for those that haven’t considered it.

I kind of wish I had known that I could take my GED test freshman year. At least that way (if I had passed), I would move onto CCC and be even further ahead. I thought it over, and I really would have liked someone to be forthright and honest with me about what the options are. High school did not work for me at any point. I found another way to be successful, and this could maybe work for you too!

I hope some of you guys do go out and at least look into the GED. No, I’m not referring to the 4.4 GPA, 2200 SAT scoring kids that have a shot at the Ivies. On the contrary, I’m mostly talking to those of you that are struggling or are bored with high school. There are other ways of becoming successful academically…please consider them :).

Feel free to PM me or respond if you guys have any questions! I’m really sorry for making this so long, but when ya bounce around from so many different types of schools, it’s hard to be succinct. I wish you all the best of luck! I also really want to thank those of you who actually took the time to read through this! College Confidential has been a saving grace for me. I love the support and respect that most of us provide each other with here.

Definitely use College Confidential…seriously this is one of the best resources out there. Alright guys. Thanks again! Peace.

Very inspiring! Great post! Congrats on everything!

Unfortunately, not all states have such clear-cut CC transfer options. Still, this is an incredible story, and I wish you the best of luck!

Oh, how I can relate! I hope you don’t mind if I tell my story here too [especially for students who are [url="&lt;a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gifted_At-Risk"]gifted-at-risk[/url"&gt;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gifted_At-Risk"]gifted-at-risk[/url</a>] or perfectionists].

It’s funny, our situations started out differently. I succeeded in my public elementary school. I had friends, a decent teacher, and outstanding grades. Since elementary school had come to an end, I applied for a nearby charter school and didn’t get in. My mom was new to the process so we didn’t have a safety school. She also abhorred our home middle school (with good reason). I ended up going to a private school that was about a half an hour away.

This is where my real trouble began. The cultures and styles of public and private schools are insanely different. I tried to make friends but that didn’t work. What my teachers were teaching me was way too easy, and I didn’t care about having individual attention because to me there was no difference. Because of all of this, I started slacking off and stopped doing my homework. That was a huge mistake.

Because of my perfectionism, I was always used to impressing teachers and I hated being there, in person, as my teacher called me out on not having my work. I felt my solution to this was to skip school that day. All that ended up happening was that I was behind in my work and refused to go the next day because I was too scared. And the result? I missed the whole second trimester and failed all my classes. In the third trimester, I tried to better myself, but there was no real effort in it from me. Thankfully, my grades went up so I wasn’t expelled. But since there was no effort from me, naturally, these tendencies carried themselves into all three years of middle school, where the only thing that got me to stop was my principal threatening to call CPS on us.

By some miracle, I got into a very rigorous and great private school. I made a few friends and two very good friends. All my teachers praised me. My dean said I was the perfect student.

Unfortunately, my school skipping habit came back to follow me because I hadn’t tried hard enough to get rid of it in middle school. I failed almost all my classes first semester and my friends betrayed me. I got caught in “the cycle” that OP mentioned. I was also kicked out of this great school.

Thankfully, the administration did genuinely care about me and they helped me find a new school, which I absolutely love. It’s an alternative school and it was perfect for me. Through real effort, I changed my habits and also blossomed into a social butterfly.

Now, all I really did is echo what I got from OP’s post: you need motivation to change, “the norm” isn’t perfect for everyone, and it’s very possible to leave “the cycle” and become successful. These go for everyone.

@ schoolisfun: Thank you so much!!

@ glassesarechic: Yeah, I know. I wish other states had such clear-cut CCC transfer options. I guess I am lucky that I live in California…despite the UC budget crisis lol.

@ Ilyana: That’s awesome that you can relate!! How interesting that we began in opposite situations, but both ended up turning things around. I can empathize with you in skipping school too. I think I mentioned that I was truant. I remember at one point - if I had missed one more day of school or was tardy once, I was going to have to pay a $500 fine. To this day, I don’t know how they can fine me for that, but apparently it’s possible! lol.

I am the same way with perfectionism. I was always out to do everything to the best of my ability and impress my mentors. I also enjoyed competing with friends for grades on quizzes and tests to see who would perform the best. Again, I can also relate when you mention being called out for missing homework.

However, I experienced the opposite. When I was in private school, the teachers would call students out and embarrass them whenever they were missing an assignment. This actually motivated me to do everything. On the other hand, when I was in a public high school, I simply felt no pressure or need to complete the work since I didn’t experience the consequences firsthand.

I’m really glad that you’re at a school that you love now, and are continuing to further yourself academically and socially. I can definitely tell that you’re motivated and are going to accomplish your goals. You just seem to have that mentality from your post!

Your story is so great, and continues to show the other ways to be successful and become a happier and more fulfilled person. Best of luck!!

WOW. I am SO glad I found this site and this thread!!! I am a USAFA grad and went all the standard routes to get there. My SON (14) has been homeschooled for six years now, though, and I am starting to stress about getting him into the college of his choice. I thought he should join back into the mainstream to get classroom experience, etc, but when I tried to enroll him in public hs, I got a whole bunch of socialist B.S. brick walls put in front of me. I didn’t have any “coursework” saved from last year for the principal to look at, and I wasn’t willing to have him take a nit-picker socialist test to see if they thought he was “smart enough.” They weren’t willing to take my word for what his strengths, skills, and weaknesses were and what classes he should enroll in. Reading your story has confirmed and tied together a lot of information snippets I’d head of but never seen put into action. I am SO relieved and so very inspired now. I am going to immediately, after posting this, and see where my son can take a GED. After he takes it, I’ll send it to the hs principal just for fun, and let him know we don’t need to get into his “club” after all! By the way, your story was written poignantly. It was concise and not at all wordy or wandering.

Well, scrap that. I just found out that you have to be 19 (or in special circumstances at least 16) to officially take the GED. Sometime I wonder if we all just shouldn’t move to France and give up on true capitalist freedom altogether. Why the HECK would their be an AGE limit on taking a GED test. You pay $75. It’s a service. It isn’t like you are issuing a GUN or selling alcohol.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

you should write a book.

That’s a terrific story. It’s a very different walk from what most students take, but it just goes to show that if you work hard, you will succeed. Best of luck in life!

lol you weren’t wordy at all, at least not by the standards of someone who reads wordy material frequently (mostly my own)

congrats on Berkeley and all your other acceptances!

Yup. Thanks to California’s community college system, one can always repair their academic future.

congratulations on Berkeley! your story inspired me to do my best wherever I am :slight_smile:

uforainier, It’s called a placement test. And if you haven’t any records your the one who has fallen down on the job. Everyone of us knows you have to have records! BTW emilsinclair9 got into UCB through one of the programs pushed through by those “socialists”. It sounds like you really need to chill.

I’m glad to hear about a non-generic way to get into a great school :slight_smile:
Thanks a lot for sharing!

Great story! Love happy endings. Someone we know had a similar experience, attended a ccc and is now a sr. majoring in bio chem at UCLA. He had such a positive experience at the cc that his siblings will also follow that same route and then transfer.

You have my respect. It requires guts to go so deep in personal life, especially failure etc, even if its anonymys. I know I wouldnt be able to. Wow, its just awesome to know people like you exist. Really. Hats off :). I wish you the best for the rest of you life… From where I stand, you’ve been through your fair share of difficult. Time to shine. :D. Kudos.

Great, great, great story. Very kind of you to share it with everyone given that it is not only inspirational, but also very practical, instructive, and sincerely helpful to other kids and their parents. Go you!

I am really jealous you have been introduced to an opportunity like that. For me, I was capable of getting good grades in high school, but I was never interested. I kept telling people high school is such a waste of time, and when I got to community college, I kept thinking how much time I would have saved if I went straight to community college. All I did in high school was be in band and be in the tennis team. Academics was my last priority. But as I think about it, high school was necessary in a sense. I don’t think I would have been mature enough to focus in community college if I skipped high school and just got a GED. Nor would I have known what I want to major in. Then maybe I would have screwed up my chances to transfer with a bad GPA and an uncertainty of what I want to do in life. Though, if I was introduced to an alternative to high school, I would have taken that route. It’s too late now. I’ve learned a lot in the past through lost opportunities. There is always always another solution, another answer, another way to solve a problem. Just like in math, you can always change the way an equation looks or simplify the equation to solve it. And even an answer could look so many different ways, but mean the same thing. The worst thing a person can do is limit themselves when there are so many different ways and opportunities available. I’ve learned to keep looking for new opportunities and not settle for what everyone else is doing.

This is a very good story, and I feel like every student who drops out of high school (or considers it) should read it. I’m in a different situation, but your story inspired me as well. So many people don’t realize the options open to them. Being in California gave you an advantage, yes, but I am certain you could have done something similar in any state. And that’s the message people need to draw from this. No matter what your mistakes were in high school, our educational system (however flawed in some aspects) provides a way to get back on top.