I was inspired to attend the University of North Florida after discovering they had a degree program in my chosen field, Athletic Training. I had spoken with a person within the athletic training profession and was given advice on which schools I could attend within the state of Florida. I was interested in going to a smaller school in hopes of getting a more intimate learning experience. My college was also close to my family, but far enough away to get out on my own for the first time.
My GPA transferred over into college at a much higher level due to the weighting system. This afforded me many more scholarship opportunities. I attribute the heavy weighting of my GPA to dual enrollment courses at the local community college as well as other more advanced classes I chose to take while still in high school. I wanted to work as hard as I could in high school in hopes that it would pay off in college, and it did.
I was proud to attend UNF because there were many organizations that students could participate in based on their different interests and beliefs. The university encouraged us to identify unique qualities in ourselves and develop them among our peers. I felt so independent and free to explore anything I wanted as a student in college. I met a lot of interesting people with different life experiences and perspectives. I felt like a true intellectual. We frequently had casual debates if we weren’t laughing and having a good time watching movies or scraping pennies together for pizza or ice cream. It was such a wonderful experience and I grew more during my years in college than any other time in my life. I learned a lot about myself and how to be a better friend and person. I learned that I could easily get involved the with the “wrong crowd” and float under the radar through college, but I did not. I truly enjoyed learning so I surrounded myself with others who were serious about school and were intent on becoming a professional some day.
After I completed college at UNF with a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training, I went on to be a graduate assistant so I could attend The University of Central Florida and got my Master of Science in Health Services Administration. I became a full-time athletic trainer and now I work as an industrial athletic trainer for The Injury Prevention Specialists in Jacksonville, FL. It took me a little while to get where I am, but I never gave up and could not be happier with my professional accomplishments.
The college experience will be as big or as small as you make it. I would suggest that you make yourselves available in college as much as you can. Spend time kicking a ball around on “The Green” and hanging out in common areas. The freshman class, especially, is so eager to meet new people and have new experiences. The opportunities are endless and you just have to go and find them. Surround yourself with positive people. They will become your friends for life. Speak your mind often. Everyone else is doing it anyways, so don’t be afraid to make your voice heard.
College is possible for almost anyone. If you don’t know how to accomplish a goal or a task, just ask! Teachers and professors are particularly helpful. Not every student is focused on performing well in school, so teachers and professors love an eager student. There are so many scholarship opportunities if you look hard enough. The internet can be a wealth of information. There are also tutoring classes, student loans, and many other means of assistance for college students. The best thing you can do for yourself is impress admissions with excellent grades and with proof on paper of your intention to succeed. Clock a ton of volunteering hours before you graduate high school in your chosen profession or something close to it. That demonstrates your willingness to sacrifice for the sake of learning.
I once took an internship while in high school where I needed to log a certain number of hours each month. I exceeded those hours way beyond expectations because I loved doing it and when you are in high school all you have is time and energy. You might as well use it wisely! Don’t be afraid to hold down a part-time job as soon as you are able. My resume was chosen out of a stack of 20 other resumes one time just based on instant appearances. Their reason: I had a job history. Thank you Publix shoppers for allowing me to bag your groceries for all those years. I never knew how beneficial my high school job would become as a college student.
I always said, I worked hard in high school so that I wouldn’t have to work so hard in college. This paid off more than I hoped it would because I had more time to hang out with friends, meet new people, study, hold my part-time job, and explore something wonderful-myself.
Valerie Lisiecki, MS, ATC, LAT Head Athletic Trainer The Injury Prevention Specialists