Heather Cushman
An Overwhelming Change

            All throughout high school I balanced a difficult schedule; I was a swimmer on a US Swim Team (The Bluefish Swim Club), which practiced about 10 times a week, or about 25-30 hours a week, an hour away from my house. So my schedule went, practice from 5:30-7:30am (the morning practices were thankfully a bit close to my house), school 8-2:35, and then rush home to leave for practice at 3:15, from which I wouldn't get home until after 9pm. Then it was time to start my homework, however, luckily I had always been pretty good at getting away with only doing major projects, while daily assignments that keep most people busy on an average night got done in lunch period before the class started, or not at all.

The weekends were a bit more relaxing, just a 4 hour practice each morning, the rest of the time was spent trying to catch up on sleep. While looking back on this schedule it seems overwhelming, I actually didn’t have too much trouble with it. School had always come pretty easy for me, as long as I showed up to class and paid attention I usually absorbed all the information pretty well and as long as I wasn’t completely sleep deprived, I always remembered it. But then I went to college.


I had been recruited to the swim team, and taking the average four classes per semester. While on paper everything seemed easier; yardage wise, practices at New York University Swim Team were definitely easier, and there were fewer of them, a mere 8 practices a week or about 20 hours a week. Now my schedule looked easy; Tuesday and Thursday I had practice in the morning from 6-8, as well as every afternoon from 5:00-7:30, and Saturday mornings from 9-12. I certainly had less class than ever before, just 9:30-12:15 Monday-Thursday. However, my parents and I had discussed earlier that I needed to get a job, because tuition was already more than my parents could afford. So, in addition to paying for my daily expenses, I also needed to contribute to that.

So after applying to at least 20 jobs and hearing back from only about 3, with about $7.14 left in my bank account, I finally had some success. Suddenly, after what seemed like an eternity with no income, I was offered two jobs in the same afternoon; both of which I took. Now to add to my schedule I had Babysitting in between class and practice most afternoons, and waitressing Friday nights and Sunday mornings.

However, what I learned quickly was that while in college there was significantly less schooling than in high school, teachers more than made up for it in the work they assigned. I had assumed that I'd be able to blow through homework like I had in high school, but classes were set up completely differently than I had grown accustomed. In high school most of the homework either previews or reviews what you discuss in class, so as long as I paid attention in class I knew what was going on. College was different. Because of the lack of class time teachers expected us to know all the reading materials; a lot more than merely what they went over in class. This meant, that for the first time in a long time I had to do my homework, which took up many more hours in my schedule than I had anticipated.

I was no stranger to the wee hours of the morning, but this year I was becoming a whole lot more friendly with them than I had ever hoped to be. Endless reading assignments piled up, then papers on those readings and then we're expected to be alert and energized enough to discuss them fervently in class…it was impossible. In addition to having one of the worst seasons of my life, my grades had slipped significantly.

I have always been someone who thrived on organization, and knowing when I was supposed to be doing what, but the spontaneity of friends and college kind of changed all that. I'd plan to stay in all night and do work, and the next thing I knew there'd be a party going on in my dorm room, so of course I'd end up joining in the festivities, leaving my mounds of work to another day. The excitement that came from no parents and freedom got to me like it does to all college freshmen, perhaps even a bit more because of the tight schedule I had in high school. However, when I got my first D, I knew things had to change. I buckled down, put on my noise canceling headphones and merely did what I knew I needed to. I learned to read faster, write papers more efficiently and before I knew it things were beginning to fall into place.

I finished the year with a B average, two great recommendations from both bosses, and a swim team full of friends. While I know I can always do better (an A average, a season full of best times, and then I'll want even better times, and better jobs, etc). I Learned to be at ease with my own accomplishments and to accept that no task is too much for me to handle when I really set my mind to it. I don't mean to preach the naive proverb "I can do anything I set my mind to," but in some ways I now know that that is a little more realistic.