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Surviving the Last Two Years of College

Updated on August 21, 2015
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Dr. Middlebrook, former university professor, is a fiction/non-fiction author (pen name Beax Rivers), and virtual writing coach and trainer.

Survivor—Can Colleen Outlast, Outwit, and Outplay, to Get Her Degree, with Honors?


Now in her junior year, Colleen has survived both her freshman and sophomore years away from home, as a college student. She is a well-seasoned student now. She knows that even though she has to depend on herself, every day, to do her coursework, to study, and to do well in all her classes, she also must depend on others. So, just as it is on the TV show, Survivor, she realizes it is very important for her to have a strong “social game” because college is a place where students must get along and work well with others. In Survivor—College Island, “others” includes Colleen’s fellow classmates, dorm residents, and other students at the university, as well as professors, administrators, and other employees at the school. It helps a lot that her parents taught her to be polite and courteous when dealing with those in authority. And it is also good that Colleen truly enjoys making new friends. She genuinely likes being around other people, and she makes friends easily.

Teamwork is a vital part of Survivor—College Island. On the television show, tribe members work as teams to find and solve clues to win games or even immunity idols—a thing that, like magic, keeps them on the island to play another day. Learning to work as part of a team is a “make or break” proposition sometimes on Survivor—College Island. In fact, it is so important to students’ academic and social growth and development that colleges and universities usually have hundreds of clubs, or any number of sororities or fraternities that students can join to learn how to be a member of a team. Teams provide a way for students to make friends and bond with others, thereby strengthening their social game.

Colleen decided to major in journalism/broadcasting and has found that the ability to be a good and contributing member of a team helps her tremendously. Many students learn that it helps a lot when, in classes, they are assigned projects that must be completed by teams. Within the project teams, a leader may be chosen by the group or by the professor of the course, and then the various tasks for completing the projects are assigned to members of the group based on what each student brings to the team in terms of knowledge, skills, and talents. Team projects help students learn more about organizing, managing, and getting along with other people in order to reach an agreed upon goal that is usually established by the host/professor of the course. This ability is also critical in many corporate/work environments, and, therefore, is a vital aspect of a well-rounded college education.


Finally, Colleen is a senior in her last year of college. She has almost made it to the end, and in doing so has discovered, like other students, that college is definitely a place where you have to learn ways to “outwit,” “outlast,” and “out play,” to make to the end--to get a degree with honors. The main challenge on Survivor—College Island, Colleen found, is always keeping a passing grade point average. As a member of the school cheer-leading squad, she had to meet the challenge of balancing practice with her studies. Still, she worked hard in every class, and has excelled in her coursework. And just as she planned from the beginning, Colleen will soon be graduating with honors. She knows that employers look at grades as an indication of potential when they are considering people for jobs, and that's why it was always of vital importance to her to earn good grades in college. With an impressive G.P.A., Colleen knows she will be ready and eager to show her academic transcript, when needed, after her job search begins.

But the challenges on Survivor—College Island did not end for Colleen with grades. Throughout all the years she spent on campus, challenges also included the many situations and problems Colleen and the other students had to face while on the island: Things that all students, eventually, have to face and then figure out how to overcome. There are many things competing for students’ time and that students must learn to handle for themselves; from dating and getting to class on time, to things like whether or not to cheat on papers and exams, deciding whether or not to engage in excessive partying, drinking alcohol, and/or using illegal drugs. Just as dangerous choices exist in the “real world” outside of College Island; it’s all there on College Island too, just waiting for a student to make either the right or the wrong choices.


Surviving contestants on the TV show, every week, must fight to keep from getting voted off by their fellow tribesmen. On Survivor—College Island, students must pay tuition, buy books and school-related supplies, and they have to make passing grades, or they will be voted off by their professors and the university administration. In fact, once financial obligations are met, making passing grades is the only form of immunity students can get on Survivor—College Island. Just like on Survivor, different students have different skills, abilities, and different degrees of determination when it comes to staying and doing well on College Island. Those who choose to stay have to face the challenge of matching their primary interests in life, and their dreams about what they want to do with their lives—with their skills, abilities, and/or talents. They might not have to compete for blankets and food (but sometimes they do!), but they do have to work hard to be a Survivor—College Island.

Colleen Wins!

The Prize

On the TV show, Survivor contestants are competing to win a million dollars. And, in a way, so are those who choose to remain on College Island, to the degree-producing end game. Colleen is now a college graduate. People with college degrees, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, still earn—on the average nearly twice the yearly income of workers with only a high school diploma. And, according to U. S. News & World Reports, based on a report released by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, over a lifetime, a bachelor’s degree is worth about $2.3 million dollars. Those who go on to earn advanced degrees do even better, according to the report. People with masters, doctoral, and professional degrees, respectively, earn $2.67 million, $3.25 million, and $3.65 million in lifetime averages.

There are many variables that must be considered when it comes to annual and lifetime earnings, and not all degree areas, or people with a degree in a certain area, will earn the same. Still, the end game—a college degree—I believe is worth much more than money. Like Colleen, earning your degree will give you a great sense of accomplishment, you will develop valuable critical thinking abilities, and you'll make lifelong connections with friends and acquaintances that you will treasure for life.

Be sure to read:

Colleen Goes to College: Freshman Year

Colleen Continues Her First Year at College

And if you like this story about a college student, you might also like:

Beax Rivers’ novel, Silver—Currents of Change, Zarah, who finished high school three years earlier than most, is a very young college student. After struggling and fighting to fit in, in high school, she went to college and discovered she had to find a way to fit in there too. As a senior, after winning her “dream internship” working in publishing at a magazine, her life changes dramatically, and once again, she finds herself having to take on, yet again, an extremely tough set of challenges.

© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD


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