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Winning Essay


Malte Strauss
Seminole Community College
Sanford, FL
(Instructor: Deborah Gabriel-Warfield)


What is a Master Student?

What does a master student look like? I always pictured the master student with scotch taped glasses, an array of pens in the shirt pocket, and with a copy of the latest Popular Mechanics or the Wall Street Journal under his arm. Equipped with a sky-high IQ and supportive parents, he would be bound to find his way into the NASA space program or the supreme court. Not fitting that stereotype and unable to excel beyond average, I've never considered myself a master student. After 10th grade I left a dreary school career in Germany to take on life's adventures. My journey led me through different professions with their high's and low's into a new life in the United States. As a 37 year-old immigrant, I went back to school to learn the English language and to get my college diploma. But this time something was different. I soon realized that I was not subject to invisible powers anymore. I was not held back by my self-image which used to limit my progress in school. My studies became meaningful, enriched by a defined purpose and inspired by my teachers. I've learned through experience that my attitude indeed can change my world.

Not only the attitude but also the way we approach challenges determine how we master them. The ancient writer Bhagavad Gita asserts in the Hindu epic Mahabharata that "the well-resolved mind is single and one-pointed." The state of mind and the ability to focus determines how deep our involvement with our tasks can be. The power process "Be here now," described in Dave Ellis' book, allows the master student to take control and participate in class, rather than to endure the studies. He or she knows how to take notes effectively and to use memory techniques. The master student participates in study groups. Experimenting with different learning techniques he or she finds the ones who work best. The master student realizes that it is time saving to review more often and right after class rather than to initiate a marathon study session the night before a test. In general, the master student is in control of his time, his tasks and his resources. Does he or she never relax or enjoy a reward for his or her efforts? Not necessarily, because a master student is aware that body and mind have to be in balance in order to develop the highest potential.

Am I a master student by nature? Certainly not! But I am an active student by choice, committed to overcoming difficulties in the pursuit of knowledge. I've learned about the world we live in as much as I've learned about myself. I acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses, and embrace them as a part of my personality. I've enjoyed the experience and the challenge so much that I decided to continue my studies beyond my initial goals. I am currently enrolled in the Honors Seminar in Seminole Community College pursuing an AA degree.

Is it easy? Is it comfortable? Will I succeed in everything I do? The answer is not always yes. It takes will power to overcome obstacles. It will take patience and determination to reach long term goals and there is certainly no magical master-student-spell that protects me from occasional failure. Working and studying, both full time, can be an overwhelming task. To break the work load down I focus on short term goals. Every day I master one little piece of a big puzzle, knowing that time will be on my side. The British author Oscar Wilde agrees that "Anything is good that stimulates through at any age." I am convinced that success can be learned.

Just who is the master student? The former Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Neru observes that "Success often comes to those who dare and act; it seldom goes to the timid who are ever afraid of the consequences." Where do we find this inspired, determined and persistent student? We do not have to look too far. Every single student has the potential to become a master in his or her quest. It is upon our own determination to discover the master student in us. It is our own responsibility to take on the fascinating journey of a higher education. Feel free to join us on a trip worthwhile. You don't even have to wear scotch taped glasses.


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