College Made Me A Nerd—And I Love It

So here’s the deal: I worked my butt off in school to get where I am today. I spent hours on end studying and took AP classes when I could. I put in a lot of effort to excel academically. Truth be told, school was hard for me. It wasn’t until college that I began to love learning.

Photo from Rachel Hernandez

When I came to the University of Illinois, I began seeing a change in the way I viewed academics. Rather than dreading my next paper, I saw an opportunity to challenge myself. Studying became a great way to meet new people (and a great excuse to buy a pricey latte from Espresso Royale), while walking to class served as a form of exercise. The ironic part, though, was that my classes were harder than they had ever been, and my grades were better than they had ever been.

There are a few different factors that contribute to the academic success I have found at the University of Illinois.

First, I began studying topics that I wanted right off the bat. My freshman year was loaded with education courses, psychology, and writing workshop courses—three things I loved. General Education courses have a bad reputation, but at the University of Illinois, students are able to fulfill general education requirements from a multitude of classes.

Second, my work ethic changed drastically. In high school, my days featured eight 50-minute classes followed by three hours of lacrosse practice. I was constantly over-extending myself, and my grades (and sleep schedule) suffered. Now, I masterfully juggle student teaching, my coursework, and two part time jobs. Why? There is finally enough time in my day to do all of these things. Most students have only two or three classes each day, which allows students the flexibility to explore other interests.

Photo from Rachel Hernandez

Last, but certainly not least, I have the support I need in all aspects of my academic life. I am lucky enough to have professors willing to go the extra mile to assist me, peers to bounce ideas off of, and an academic advisor who is unimaginably accessible. Seriously, how many college students have an advisor that knows them by name?

This post is primarily for those of you who think you are not “smart enough” to attend the University of Illinois: get that silly idea out of your head. Anyone who is willing to put in the effort can excel here. Whoever you were in high school, leave it behind and take advantage of an opportunity to better your academic self. I did and believe me, I don’t regret a thing.

Rachel

Rachel

Class of 2020
I am studying Middle Grades Education with concentrations in Social Sciences and Literacy in the College of Education. Although I now reside in Champaign, I am originally from Vernon Hills, a Northwest suburb of Chicago.

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