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When College is Challenging

When College is Challenging

A big mistake most of us make during college is pretending that everything is going well when it isn't. Your life doesn't have to be in complete shambles nor do you have to suffer a tragedy for things to be tough for you. It’s okay to feel like everything is falling apart. In fact, that’s a great time to go over this checklist:

Checklist, Priority #1

  • Are you physically injured? (if yes, see a doctor, if not, that’s one less thing to worry about)

  • Do you have a place to sleep tonight? Somewhere to live right now?

  • Are you physically exhausted, sore, or otherwise tired?

  • How does a shower sound?

  • When did you last eat and was it a real meal?

  • Do you need a good cry? Sometimes that’s all you need to do.

  • When was the last time you called your mom(s) or dad(s)? You know, you can call them just to say hi, you don’t have to tell them what’s got you down.

If you notice something about this list, its that there’s a theme: these questions are about YOU and how you’re doing, not about what is falling apart around you. Not about school, not about work, not about relationship issues, not about friendship problems, just about you. This is priority #1. Address those things on the list first. Then, come back and go over this checklist:

Checklist, Priority #2

  • Do you have something critical that must be done soon?

  • Are you being honest about that answer?

  • Do you have a plan for the week written down on paper?

  • Do you have a plan for today?

  • When did you schedule your me-time today? Don’t skip this.

  • Do you have to get groceries soon? Work that in to your weekly plan.

  • Finally, double check what is due when this semester. Take 30 mins and be thorough about this, then file that knowledge away and don’t worry about it. Just be aware of it.


When I was in college, I worked anywhere from 1-3 jobs depending on the time of year. In the summertime, I was a waitress at a country club in Omaha where we worked outside in the hot & humid pool area serving food and drinks to our guests. During the school year, I was waitressing at that same club but I was serving in the Grill inside the clubhouse. I was also a banquet server at weddings and professional events - like Warren Buffett’s annual shareholder’s meeting brunch.

Sometimes these jobs would overlap like in May and August when the seasons are changing. On top of that, I was teaching the Atmospheric Science Introductory Lab course twice a week. For a time, I was a private tutor for students in the Athletics program where I also taught Meteorology topics. Finally, I spent over three years (freshman - junior) as a Campus Recreation Staff Member where I would do everything from renting out equipment to selling gym passes to cleaning treadmills and tending to injuries.

In other words, I was overtired, stressed-out, and broke for much of college. That’s really the norm for most students these days and probably for you reading this. You can probably relate to this photo of me eating dinner post-shift while finishing up some homework due at midnight:

I certainly wasn’t experiencing the worst of the worst as a working college student, but that’s not to say it was easy. I was working to pay for food, books, electricity, water, travel (usually home), school supplies, utensils… you name it. In the summertime, I worked full-time to afford rent on top of that and to make a little extra to pay off my student loan interest each year.

My saving grace was my dad who paid what he could to tuition. Even the smallest payments add up, and I’m grateful for every cent he paid because it is not part of my student loan debt. I’m grateful to my friends who took me in when I was homeless between moving in one place and moving out of another. I’m thankful for Alex’s family who fed me much of my last year of college, for my roommates who loaned me a box of mac and cheese when I needed it, and for my old friends for lending me their cars and picking me up wherever I was.

I list these things because it’s important for all of us to know our peers, friends, parents, and role models received help all throughout their lives. It is impossible to get through life alone, impossible! What I love about That Girl At NASA is that it enables me to show the world what some work + help will do for a person, with emphasis on the help piece.

I want college students who are looking for a reason behind their work to find this page and think to themselves that this could be what their efforts can produce. I want everyone exploring this site to remember to ask for help when they need it. I hope my story inspires some path to success for you. I implore you to search within yourself to find the space for you to manage all that life has in store for you. Go over the checklists and set aside time for yourself. You will find that work, school, friendships, moving, graduating, failing, and succeeding are all part of a fulfilling life. Don't let it bog you down, and in the words of Karamo Brown, "shit makes the best fertilizer for flowers to grow."

On Failure & Perseverance

On Failure & Perseverance