A Student’s Story: Finding Balance

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Megan Johnson entered into what, for most of us, is unknown territory. We refer to Alabama, a place most of us in the D.C. area know only by its Deep South reputation. In another couple of weeks, Megan, a graduate of Yorktown High School, will be entering her second year at Auburn University (in Auburn, AL), and she couldn’t be happier with her decision to attend.

When Megan began thinking about college, however, she was thinking more about pursuing biology than the institution she would call home for four years. If anything, her focus was more on the University of Rhode Island than Auburn, but her dad shared an important insight with her. Megan was pretty focused on biology, but her dad knew that college often opens new doors that leads to a change in direction and that larger schools, with broader curricula, are better positioned to accommodate mid-course changes. That proved prophetic, but it wasn’t foremost in her mind at that time. What did make an impression were a couple of other things.  One was that two brothers she knew, current Auburn students, talked enthusiastically about their Auburn experience and encouraged her to submit an application. Even so, she was surprised by the enthusiastic reaction she had to her Auburn acceptance letter. A visit to the campus clinched the deal. Megan realized that Auburn had everything she hadn’t been able to articulate but which she had wanted all along. Part of it was the size. Part of it was the campus atmosphere. Part of it was paying heed to her visceral reaction that this was a good fit for her.

Even with confidence in her decision, however, Megan was nervous when she left home. She had the normal pre-freshman jitters about making friends and getting a good start. It turned out that making friends was no issue at all. Early on, she made her way to Auburn’s “game room” and there she found her on-campus home. Megan, you see, is a big time gamer, so when she found a place – and a cadre of other gamers who soon became fast friends – she was set and in her element.

Unfortunately, it took her a little longer to hit her stride academically.  During her first semester, she faced two challenges in particular. One was having to get organized to a level she hadn’t had to meet in high school. Now, however, she records all her assignments and deadlines on a calendar (distributed by Auburn to all its students), and that has enabled her to get on track – and stay on track. There was another first semester issue though. Oddly enough, it was in the form of her biology class. The emphasis in that first semester was on committing to memory dozens and dozens of names and definitions, and she just wasn’t able to conquer it. A poor grade in that class ruined her otherwise good start and even caused her to think about other majors. As a result of that experience, Megan looked outside biology and, naturally, thought about gaming.

Auburn, however, doesn’t have a gaming major, but it does have a communications major, and Megan turned to that. In some ways, the broader focus of the communications major will give Megan a stronger platform than studying gaming itself. Auburn, however, doesn’t have a gaming major, but it does have a communications major, and Megan turned to that. In some ways, the broader focus of the communications major  That may sound odd unless you know Megan. When we say that she is a big-time gamer, we are not exaggerating. She devotes all of her extra time to it. She is into anime. She attends conventions, and participates in tournaments. Oh yes, she has also been asked to host and judge the occasional tournament and has even been asked to sponsor competitions because of the name she has already made for herself in the field. So, studying the broader discipline of communications will have some particular advantages for this young woman who is already climbing the gaming ladder of success. Megan, however, doesn’t consider this a solitary pursuit. She has a group of close friends (gamers all) with whom she spends time. The Auburn gaming room has even reconfigured its table set-up to accommodate this close group of friends who regularly devote time to their favorite pursuit.

Nonetheless, Megan hasn’t lost sight of why she is at college. She uses her calendar to keep her on track academically, and, as she goes into her second year, has a level of confidence that is gratifying and reassuring.  In fact, she says in many ways she is a different person from the freshman who arrived on campus with the jitters. Asked what advice she has for high schoolers who are trying to make their own decisions about college, she offers a few pieces of advice. First, she says, try to go outside your comfort zone. The four years spent in college will the best time you’ll have to explore and spread your wings. Second, she says it’s important to find your own study rhythm, whether it’s long stretches or stretches punctuated by frequent breaks. Whatever it is, figure it out and stick with it. Her third piece of advice is a bit more personal:  Call your mom or dad every day.

No wonder you’re so confident, Megan. We wish you all the best!