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Winning Essay

Richard Herbert
South Plains College
Lubbock, TX
(Instructor: Professor Helen Holley)

What is a Master Student?

College is a difficult experience. For many students it is the first true experience of being on their own solely responsible for their actions. No one makes you get out of bed and go to class. More importantly for myself, no one was there to make me put down the beer and study. I believe I am trying to say I drank myself out of college after high school because I had no self–discipline. I always planned on returning to college. I even tried once. That experience also ended in failure. Once again I found myself unprepared for the responsibility of classes, homework, and study. My habits and vices were more important to me than my education. If drinking and drug use had been part of the course material, I would have excelled.

I am now 37 years old and have returned to college for the Fall Semester 1999, I am very apprehensive about this experience. My past experiences with higher education makes me nervous. My past behavior in which have destroyed a number of my finite supply of brain cells, make me nervous. My age and the number of years that have elapsed since I was in a classroom make me nervous. Also, the fact that I knew my way around a bar stool far better than around a desk adds to my nervousness. I am scared.

However, I am not trying to conquer my fear. I am not trying to hide my fear. I am embracing my fear and harnessing it. I am using my fear to fuel my drive for success. And do you want to know something? It is working!

My fear of failing for yet a third time has driven me to seek out a formula for success. What better definition is there for a Master Student? A master student could be someone who can control and organize his or her behavior in a mature fashion. I have become more organized, more diligent in my assignments and homework, and ultimately I have become more responsible. This responsibility and maturity also lends itself to all aspects of my life. A master student not only has to be organized and in control of himself in a classroom, the other area of his life also has to be structured. Before my return to the hallowed halls of academia my confidence in myself had dropped. I was working 60 hours a week as a carpenter with little satisfaction and no recognition. Now I am recognized as one of many "Non–Traditional Students". I am neither the oldest nor the slowest. I found my fear of being too old was unwarranted.

My fear has become my friend. When I embraced my fear it was a moment of enlightenment. I thought I would appear foolish, old, and unsuccessful. By recognizing these feelings and taking away their powers over me, they become harmless. They also became the fuel for my drive for success.

Using fear to motivate oneself is a compelling tool. I position myself in the classroom close to the instructor, partly because I don't see or hear as well as I used to, and partly because that is where successful students sit. A master student must be prepared. I bring my notebooks and textbooks to every class, I bring pens to every class, and I bring a good, receptive attitude to every class. My fear motivated me not to set myself up for failure. If I believe I am going to fail, I will. I will not allow myself to think terms that will enable me to fail. Does that mean if I think I will pass I don't have to study? Of course it doesn't mean that. What it means is that if I set myself up for failure, subconsciously I will sabotage myself.

By being afraid and acknowledging my fear I have grown both as a student and as a person. I am better organized and more diligent in my work. I am setting myself up for success, and all of these things help me to be responsible. These traits make me a master student and consequently, a better person. But, best of all, this master student has a straight A average this semester.