I’m going to be terribly open… this subject is very close to home, and I’ve given it a LOT of thought. I’ll try to keep my thoughts conherent, and the rant-factor as low as possible.
College FIRST is a roller coaster.
Ups, and downs.
-There are many awesome moments, incredible positives, and times where you just love your involvement/can’t get enough.
-There are also times where you’re sick of your team, your school, FIRST, and you have a few choice words for Dean “freaking” Kamen and his “every college freshman should get their university involved” speech.
Really, you just have to make sure the ups outnumber the downs.
Everyone’s experiences are unique.
It depends a lot on the team structure, support, and a TON of other factors. Some teams make it easy to be involved, others make it difficult.
I think it is 200% different to be a college student involved on an existing team, than being on a college team. (i.e. DJ being on 45, vs. Me on 229).
So obviously experiences vary with that. It all comes down to responsibility…
I imagine it is waaay easier for DJ to say “I have a big test to study for, I can’t work this week” than it is for someone like Matt Adams (or myself… ;))
Often times, it becomes easy to say things like “my team is counting on me, I NEED to get this done”. In my opinion… this pressure is almost too much.
I remember back in HS, when our mentor would say “That’s it… I’m never doing this again.” We all looked at him with our big HSer “bambi eyes” and said stuff like “You can’t quit… we NEED you”. Inevitably… he’d be back again.
I never thought I’d be one of those people threatening to quit every year, but being dragged back over and over again. (again… the ups and the downs… when you’re down, it’s easy to threaten you’re never coming back). Mentor burnout sucks. It sucks a lot as an engineer, and ohhh baby does it suck as a college student.
Beware. Make sure your involvement is manageble. Make sure the resources are there to make your involvement EASIER on you (and your GPA) instead of HARDER. It can be a slippery slope. When “someone has to step up… it might as well be me”.
Another thing to consider…
As a college mentor, are you in FIRST for the right reasons??
I was not.
It took a couple serious kicks in the butt (thanks man ;)) before I realized that I wasn’t actually a college mentor… more like some over-aged HS student.
There are entire teams of over-aged HS students, and this isn’t a terrible thing… but every team needs a few people who are… (at the risk of sounding terribly arrogant) beyond that.
There is a big difference between being an actual college mentor, and being a college-wannabe-HSer. The amout of effort it took me to bridge the gap is… incredible. (okay… you can all quit snickering… I know I’m still working on it).
Maybe other people have an easier time with this, and maybe I’m just weird but…
I spend every day trying to be a better mentor, and making sure our HS students are having a positive experience. I only hope I can do as well for them, as my mentors did for me.
So… do I regret my involvement in college-FIRST and 229?
Well… yes and no. I would be a very different person… VERY different if the last 3 years of my life had been FIRST-less. A lot of interesting opportunites have opened up for me, I’ve met a lot of VERY interesting people, and been exposed to a lot of interesting things. (Note my choice of adjective ;))
It’s been fun, but I do wish I had stayed a little bit higher up on the slope.
So along with Matt… I’ll proclaim that I’m too involved.
I still wish Dean Kamen would get up on stage and say:
“To all you HS seniors… I have some HW for you… next year, when you go off to your respective institutions of higher learning… I want you to make sure, you do what is best for YOU. Settle in, get comfortable at school, make friends. Make sure you keep your grades respectible… and if you find time to stay involved with FIRST… GREAT. Volunteer at a regional, help a local team, drag some people to the nearest event. Do whatever you can to help this program, but only do what you can, and not more.”
Then again… lots of people warned me and… it didn’t matter.
PS - I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of my thoughts with this post. Feel free to get in touch if you want more ranting, or if you just want to tell me off.
PPS - Matt Adams is my hero. Keep fighting the good fight buddy.