Linking Up – My Success Recipe

Cerritos Counselor Thu NguyenThu Nguyen is a counselor in the Counseling and Guidance division at Cerritos College.

“Familiarity breeds likeliness,” was a phrase introduced by a psychology instructor at UC Irvine that helped me understand perspectives from an instructor’s point of view. An instructor uses additional factors besides graded assignments and exams to monitor the learning progress of students in the classroom. This revelation helped me change my view about how it is ok to seek help from others. But it wasn’t something I knew at the beginning of my college experience.

In my first quarter at UCI, I went to an instructor’s office hours to inform her that I was struggling and needed help. I didn’t come with specific questions and got flustered when she asked what I really needed help on. By the end of this meeting, the instructor actually suggested that I re-consider my major, because if I couldn’t understand an introductory topic, how would I be able to pass the advanced levels? I left her office feeling hurt, concluded she’s a bad teacher, and contemplated dropping the course. After all, I’d just failed my first midterm, I didn’t feel prepared for my second midterm, and my grade was dependent mainly on the two midterms and the final. I’m no quitter though. I attended tutoring sessions, got myself into a study group, and even paid for private tutoring off campus. I passed the class with a C!

As great as I felt, I had a moment of realization about my role as a student. In high school, I had almost a straight “A” record. In my first quarter at UCI, I had a 2.3 GPA; I was close to being on academic probation. I knew right away that some things had to change, and it was going to be me (it’s not likely that the school or instructors were going to change to make things easier for me).

At that moment in my life, I was very proud of myself for being independent and responsible. I’m the youngest of 8 kids in my family; I always felt I had to prove myself because I would assume that people thought I was spoiled, since I was the baby of the family. Quite the opposite, by the time I was 18 years old, I was the only one left living at home and I had to help my parents with many tasks, since they do not speak English. In addition, of the 8 kids, only one sister, Tiffany, graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree. I would be the second. But I was also determined to be the first to earn a graduate degree.

Although it helped me to have a goal and I felt great about being ambitious, I knew it was not going to be easy. And as great as it was for me to feel independent, I acknowledged the fact that utilizing the help of others kept me from being on academic probation during my first college term. I learned that it was ok to talk to academic advisors about class selection, to tutors when I had difficulty with an assignment, to career counselors about different suitable majors and careers, to mentors or people who I admired, like Tiffany, for advice. Reaching out to other people and resources didn’t mean that I was less capable or independent.

Which brings me back to the phrase “familiarity breeds likeliness” and what that psych instructor was explaining to us.  When an instructor is able to get to know a student more–whether it be through in-class participation, office hours visits, or even sitting in the front row of the class to be more recognizable–this familiarity with a specific student can help the instructor to see the areas that the student is struggling with, and she may be able to help identify strategies that will be most effective. I then realized that as a student, I could help myself by helping the instructor teach me how to learn.

After hearing that, I was less hesitant about going to office hours. I was also less hesitant about making an appointment to meet with advisors, getting into a study group, joining student clubs, and going to different workshops. For me, linking up with my instructors, campus activities, and college staff helped me become more familiar with the campus, and I was actually enjoying my college experience more. I made new friends, I got help exploring majors and careers, and I felt great about playing an active role in my education and career.

As a result, I went to graduate school to earn my Master’s Degree. From personal experience, linking up meant that I was taking initiative to connect myself to people and environments that would help me succeed in college and in life. That’s my success recipe –you should try it!

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