[Gateway Student Voice] What It’s Like to Come Back to School After 4 ½ Years

Thursday, August 04, 2016

During the spring of my 7th grade year, I decided that I did not want to go to school anymore. 

A seemingly tactless and unrealistic decision, I know, but I hoped it would make me happy after years of struggling with what seemed to be an unexplainable, perpetual sadness that worsened with each year I ignored it. After nearly a decade of jumping from school to school and transforming myself to fit each new social environment I was placed into, I grew tired of my “new girl” status and wanted space from everyone and everything I had once so desperately tried to become. 

By the end of my 7th grade year, I was enrolled into an online academy that held the promise of a new beginning away from the people and places that felt toxic to my wellbeing. 

By the time I turned 17, I was a despondent teenage catastrophe who had spent the last 5 years secluding myself from family, friends, and anything that bared a reminder of the life I gave up. By that time, I had withdrawn myself from academics completely. I felt like a disappointment. I couldn’t even bring myself to wake up in the morning for fear of remembering who I had let down and wondering why I never asked for help.

Upon acceptance to the Gateway to College program, my initial reaction was to jump with joy over the fact that someone saw something in me worthy of this second chance I so desperately needed. My second reaction was to stop jumping and allow my nerves to sink in over the fact I felt wildly unprepared for the college environment. I had been out of formal academic practice for nearly 4 ½ years (over a quarter of my life at the time), and now I was going to be a full-time college student? Was I crazy?

I felt anxious. Not the sort of anxious that is all-encompassing and debilitating to the point of dysfunction, but anxious in the sense that I was suddenly continuously aware of a dull yet very present ache in the pit of my stomach and forefront of my head whenever I imagined myself sitting in a classroom. I had this recurring dream where I failed every course in my first semester, which always resulted in my waking up in a nervous panic. At the time, failure seemed like an extremely likely possibility. 

A year has passed since the day I was accepted into the program.

I’d like to be frank in saying that my academic experiences in Gateway thus far have been extremely difficult. 

I would also like to be frank in saying that despite these difficulties, I have managed to maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA, head multiple student-clubs, and am now even employed in a student leadership position on my college campus. 

For so long, the idea of attending college was a terrifying reality I never wanted to face. Not because I feared the prospects of education, but because I feared the prospects of failing to measure up to everyone around me.

But I was able to defy the odds, and you can too.

I can’t speak on your behalf, but I can speak based on what I have learned from my own experiences: if you spend all of your time worrying about what could have or should have happened in the past, you will miss out on the life you have been given to live at this very moment. It’s never too late.

Don’t give up on yourself. 


Eden Shaveet is a Gateway to College student from Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Massachusetts. She is an LAS major looking to pursue further degrees in psychology and neuroscience, and currently works as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement out of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.

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