As someone who has been taking college classes since 2004, it feels unreal to be graduating and leaving college. It’s a bittersweet feeling somewhere between accomplishment and sadness. The reality is that I am now an official grown up. The spaceship that I have been living on that has been orbiting earth for the last 9 years is finally landing in the real world. Typically it would now be time to go and find a “big boy” job. Fortunately for me, I already have my dream job. Actually two of them. Running my two companies. So it’s time to finally dive in headfirst and take both of them to the next level.

Choosing A School

When I was in high school I was quite the overachiever. I took AP classes along with evening classes at the community college. I thought I was something special and the most brilliant person ever. I was sure that I would end up at Harvard or another Ivy League school. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life: major in Biochemistry and then go to medical school. It’s funny how much things change and how different reality is from high school fantasy.

Of all the Universities that I applied to, I got into all of them, including Emory in Atlanta, Georgia. Among the schools that I applied to, the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona flew me out to Tucson and gave me the royal three-day treatment. I got to see the campus, meet lots of people and go to a college party at just 18. Naturally I signed on the dotted line before really thinking it through. When I returned home, reality set in a bit more. I talked to my Mom and my “second Mom” (high school biology teacher) and we discussed the numbers. Even with a full academic ride, a bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona, if completed in four years, would cost me $20, 000 per year. That’s $120,000 if, by some miracle, I actually finished in four years. No one finishes in four years.

Also I had no job lined up in Tucson while I had a pretty good one in San Diego. At the last minute, literally a few weeks before I was supposed to leave for Tucson, I changed my mind, withdrew my admission and decided to attend Southwestern Community College here in San Diego instead. At first I regretted it but looking back I think it is one of the best decisions that I ever made, especially considering I graduated from high school in 2007 and am just now graduating from SDSU. It would not have made good sense to go $80,000+ in debt for the same degree that I can get in-state for a fraction of the cost. Plus a part of me knew that my Mom would have lived on ramen for four years to help me pay and it’s time for her to enjoy her life. She had to pinch pennies for my entire childhood.

Community College

Since I had been attending classes at Southwestern College since I was a sophomore in high school, I was pretty comfortable there. In a lot of cases, the coursework at Southwestern was easier than it was in high school. Despite being “thirteenth grade” I have a lot of very fond memories from Southwestern. I started out as a Biochemistry major, changed to a Computer Science major and finally decided on a Business Administration major. In terms of fun experiences, the year that I was a Computer Science major stands out in particular as a really happy time in my life. I was working a part time job in real estate which paid pretty well and had a car for the first time in my life. The car allowed me to have a pretty good social life. I spent a lot of time with these two guys Josh and Leo who were also Computer Science majors. Fun parties, fun all-nighters writing code and great coming-of-age experiences. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to get to know them.

After changing my major two times, I felt like I was going to be in college for the rest of my life. So I finally decided on Business Administration because business is what people do when they don’t know what they want to do. Once I started taking business classes, I found out that I was actually really good at it. I especially loved Marketing. I have a lot of really fond memories and I’m especially thankful to have met my best friend Alyssa along with some other good friends in Astronomy class.

Looking back, life was so much easier in community college. The classes were easier, working part time as an employee was easier and life in general just seemed more innocent. I don’t necessarily miss those days because I wouldn’t be where I am today without having gone through some trials and tribulations related to growing up, but the “good ol’ days” are fun to reflect on. Oh, nostalgia.

Going to community college was also rather humbling. When I was in high school I looked down on people who went to community college and people who went to SDSU. At the time, SDSU would take any student from my school district with a 3.0 GPA or higher, so I used to make comments like “SDSU will take anyone who can breathe”. And community college really will take anyone who can breathe. Yet even at the community college, I was no longer the smartest kid. There are a lot of REALLY smart kids who go to community college, who, like me, want to save money.

San Diego State University

I feel like the luckiest guy in the world for being accepted to San Diego State University. Despite the budget cuts and really large classes, I feel like I got a world-class education. I am even luckier that I was admitted to SDSU when I was. Because of California budget cuts, SDSU had not offered Spring admission for at least four years. I happened to apply on a year that they got extra funding, so I was one of very few people who were admitted Spring 2010. Not only was I admitted but the extra money that the school had this particular semester allowed them to offer enough classes that I was able to get into every class that I needed. There were enough sections that I was able to structure my schedule so that I only went to school on Tuesday and Thursday.

Even though the classes are much more difficult at SDSU than the community college and took getting used to, there was something absolutely magical about my first semester there, taking classes in a theatre of 300 other students. Not only did I survive the transition, I actually did pretty well where grades are concerned. I also made new friends and rekindled relationships with friends from high school. I literally wouldn’t have been able to survive my first semester without their help. I’m especially thankful for my friends Joey and Carolann.

Between my first and second semesters, I decided to study abroad to Vietnam. At first it was culture shock and I was pretty homesick, but I grew to really love the country. Unfortunately I had to leave early because we thought my Dad had prostate cancer. It turns out that it was a false positive. One of the biggest regrets in my life is leaving Vietnam. I still made a couple of lifelong friends from the trip but I feel lost when I look at all of their pictures because I wasn’t able to participate in a lot of the adventures. Yet, at the same time, I would not be where I am today in terms of business if I had stayed. A lot of my valuable business relationships were developed the summer that I returned home.

The second and third semesters weren’t as exciting as the first, mainly because my classes got much more difficult. I still learned a lot, was challenged and had opportunities that most other students didn’t get. In Summer 2012, the marketing department sent myself and my friend Breanna to New York City for a week. Not only did they pay for everything but we were put up in a five star hotel, got to meet marketing students from all over the US and got to interact with people from Ad Agencies. Even though New York City has miserable weather in August, I will look back fondly on this experience for the rest of my life.

I took the Fall 2012 semester off from school and decided to travel instead. I went with my cousin and his best friend to the Republic of Ireland. Ireland tops all of the experiences that I have had in my life. It is literally the most fun that I have ever had. There hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought about Ireland. I really want to go back. But there are also a lot of other places that I want to travel.

My final semester at SDSU has gone by in a blur. I feel like it just started yesterday yet I am taking my last final on Friday. It’s like, the older that you get, the faster time flies by. It’s crazy. This semester was completely different than my other semesters in that I didn’t have any reading or tests. All three of my classes were project based group projects. For my Small Business Consulting class, my entire grade is based upon a thesis and a final presentation. In my Integrated Marketing Communications class, my entire grade is based upon a large paper. And for Advertising Campaigns my entire grade is based upon three presentations that my group had to give. As someone who likes to know where I stand, it was stressful to have such ambiguous classes. It’s a lot easier to memorize a bunch of junk, take a test and then forget it all. Working with real businesses on real problems was much more challenging yet I feel like I learned 100x more than just memorizing theories.

Despite the intense workload, I’ve survived all three classes, presumably with A’s or B’s. In my Advertising Campaigns class I’ve made two life-long friends and have memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Further, I plan to go and visit both of my partners in Europe. One is from Denmark and the other is from Germany. Together we took on a really hard project and came out smiling.

I am very proud of the paper that we wrote in my Small Business Consulting class. I spent many sleepless nights editing and working on the paper, but at 130 pages it is probably the piece of work that I am the most proud of. Hopefully the client company actually implements it.

People can say a lot of things about the California State University and San Diego State. It’s overpopulated. The classes are large. The professors don’t care. There are a lot of frat tools and sorority skanks on campus. Maybe that’s their experience. But my experience was very positive. I made friends that I will have for the rest of my life. I was mentored by professors who literally changed my life. I got to go on two trips that changed me as a person and gave me a global perspective. I found Buddhism and learned about microfinance, two things that radically changed my life and my whole perspective.

Ultimately, despite the size of a school, despite the apathy of certain professors, if you want to learn and if you want to succeed, you will find a way. You might even meet some people along the way who surprise you; people who radically impact you for the better.

I want to say a big thank you to Dr. Olson, Dr. Peter, Dr. Giordano and Dr. Randel. Of all of the professors I had at SDSU, these professors impacted my life the most and I’m thankful that I was able to take their classes.