From Big Fish to Small Fish
When I graduated high school I was at the top of my class and had a reputation for being smart and an overachiever. I was confident in my academic abilities, considered myself to be “a genius”, and had plans of becoming a psychiatrist. I’m not sure if I can be considered a first generation college student, because both of my parents have associates degrees, but I am a first generation bachelor’s and graduate degree student; so it was a really exciting time for me to be the first in my family to be pursuing a four-year degree. Since I had never had to study, received a 29 on my ACT test the first try without studying, and was doing pretty well in my post-secondary classes on top of being a cheerleader and involved in as many extra-curricular activities I could, I figured I would be fine in college. I only applied to one school for undergrad, The Ohio State University, partly because I only knew of two big colleges in Ohio (OSU and OU) and partly because I was totally sure I was going to get in, so I didn’t need a back-up plan. Luckily, I was accepted, and even luckier, I was awarded a scholarship to cover tuition and enough smaller scholarships to cover housing my first year. There were three other girls from my ~70 person graduating class going to OSU in the fall as well, so we all moved in together in August of 2010 to start our collegiate journeys.
I started at OSU as a Psychology and Pre-Med double major. My first quarter (because we had quarters not semesters still) I was in a freshmen survey class, an abnormal psychology class, a pop culture class, and an intro math class. I spent most of the day sleeping or goofing off with friends, never studied, and ended the quarter with a D+ in the math class and a 2.66 GPA. I was embarrassed, but blamed my failure on the professor. I would say he had a heavy accent and I couldn’t understand him, and he wasn’t very good at teaching. It would be fine the next time. My “next time” came in Spring of my freshman year and Autumn of my sophomore year when I started taking chemistry classes to meet my pre-med requirements. In Spring I got a D in a Chemistry 101 course, and in Autumn I got a D+ in a Chemistry 121 course, with a term GPA of 2.10. If I continued on the course I was on, I was going to continue to ruin my GPA, lose my academic scholarship, and certainly wasn’t going to get into med school. I had to have a lot of hard talks with friends, my parents, advisors, and a woman who eventually became my mentor, about what I wanted my career track to be, what my back-up plan was, and how I was going to improve. This was extremely difficult because I had never had to ask for help before. I came from a school that didn’t challenge me, so there was never a need to ask for help, and to ask for help meant that you were incapable and I certainly wasn’t going to admit that I couldn’t do something. But, very quickly, I had to accept the fact that I either had to ask for and learn to accept help and change my plan a bit, or fail. After researching careers in psychology, I realized I could get a PhD in psychology and be a psychologist instead of getting an MD and being a psychiatrist. I ended up dropping my pre-med major and picking up a forensic science minor to become a forensic psychologist. I remember telling my roommate, Jessica, how disappointed I was that I was giving up my dream of being a medical doctor and she said something along the lines of it sucks that you have to give up that dream, but now you get to pick a new dream, and that’s actually really exciting when you think about it. It wasn’t meant to be super deep, life-changing advice, but it’s stuck with me since she said it.
After changing my major and picking up a minor, the rest of my undergrad career went okay. My grades got better for the most part, I never really recovered from having two years of D’s, but I graduated with a 2.67 cumulative GPA and was the first in my family to get a bachelor’s degree. After taking a gap year, I chose a new dream again, and gave up on being a psychologist in exchange for being a social worker by pursuing an MSW. I planned on being a trauma therapist social worker, but, through a scholarship/job opportunity I was offered, I ended up working with kids during my two years of my master’s program and decided then I wanted to work with kids in after-school and program-based settings, not therapy. I completed my MSW with a 3.8 GPA, and, overall, a lot happier and more confident than completing my bachelor’s. After another gap year, I am back in school working on a PhD, which I thought I would use to do research on girls’ leadership program development, but it turns out my dream has shifted again to multiracial identity development. We’ll see where I end up after this.
I’ve titled my story From Big Fish to Small Fish for the obvious reasons – I was a big fish in a small pond at my high school, and coming to college I became the small fish in a big ocean. It was a difficult transition going from top of my class to being the average (sometimes below average) student, but I made it through. The maybe not so obvious reason I chose this title is because of the important lessons I learned becoming the small fish. I chose new dreams because I saw new paths that I’d never seen before in my small pond, I learned to glean lessons from the bigger fish on how to reach my goals instead of see them as competition, and probably most importantly, I learned how to embrace being afraid and uncomfortable in order to reach my goals and grow. So, for any students making the transition out of their pond and into the big ocean, you can do this! Embrace the discomfort, do it afraid and unsure, and understand the only way to reach new heights is to do things you’ve never done.
Raven is a social work doctoral student in the 2018 cohort at The Ohio State University, where she also graduated with her BA in 2014 and her MSW in 2017. Raven’s social work career has been focused on creating curriculum and working with low-income youth on leadership and workforce development in after-school programming and out of school case management settings. Raven has also been involved with an interdisciplinary, qualitative research team since 2011 exploring Appalachian Ohio students’ transitions to higher education. Raven has presented at two Appalachian Studies Association National Conferences, competed in two research forums, developed First Year Success Series sessions on Identity and Positionality, co-taught a course on social movements for incarcerated youth, and acted as a teaching assistant for a women’s leadership and civic engagement course. Raven currently assists Ohio State College of Social Work faculty members with their research endeavors related to human trafficking as a Graduate Research Assistant, and her current interests beyond human trafficking include multiracial adolescents and racial identity development.
Raven’s Educational History:
2010 – HS Graduate, Paint Valley Local Schools
2014 – BA in psychology, The Ohio State University
2017 – Master’s of Social Work, The Ohio State University
In progress – Ph.D in social work, The Ohio State University
Connect with Raven:
Raven Lynch (LinkedIn)