Alma Mater Spotlight: Florida Gulf Coast University

Q&A with Heather Garcia

Florida Gulf Coast University

Public or Private: Public

Admissions rate: 67%

Total student enrollment: 15,000

Total undergraduate programs: 63

Average class size: 33 students

Location: Fort Myers, FL

How prepared did you feel before going to college, and did that change when you got there? 

I felt incredibly prepared to work hard and to organize my time, and I was prepared for the writing in my English courses (having come from the AP program in my high school). What I was NOT prepared for was all the reading―SO much more reading than I EVER had to do in high school. In high school, I rarely had to read an entire science textbook or an entire psychology textbook. In college, I had to read and digest all of it. Alone. In my dorm room. And that was a huge adjustment. 

What is the community like at FGSU?

In my English program, there was a core group of us that traveled the same course circuit, and we were able to form our own nerdy little community within the campus at large. Many of us even went on to get Master’s degrees in English together. Getting into your major- that is when the sense of community becomes incredibly strong.

What kind of things did you do to meet people there?

I kept to myself a lot. I studied and came home many weekends. I am naturally pretty introverted in social situations, so college was a little intimidating for me. I DID, however end up working on campus and making friends with a group of girls who are still my best friends. My advice is, even if you are a shy kid and find it challenging to fit in at your college, get a job on campus. It is the fastest way to make new friends.

Where were your favorite spots to go study?

I studied a lot in my dorm room because it was quiet and I could shut the door, but my FAVORITE place to study was actually in the arts building because the atmosphere was energetic and lively and the hallways were full of color!

What was the food like?

The food was just…fine. I really liked the chicken tenders and fries and found that I ate that for lunch and dinner many days (because CLEARLY I am a five-year-old).

Can I have a job at the same time as being an undergraduate student?

Yes. Some of my favorite jobs were jobs I had while I was in college. I worked part-time, about 25 hours a week, on campus. I worked for admissions for a bit, for the childcare center on-site for a bit, and for parking services for a long time. At parking services, I donned a reflective yellow vest and wrote parking tickets for students who parked illegally. It was NOT fun writing tickets, but it WAS fun going back to the office and working the night shift with my friends where we would process the tickets. The campus was quiet, we could laugh loudly and nobody would hear us or shush us, and we built lifelong bonds. I still see those ladies regularly over 15 years later.  So yes, you can, and most likely should, get a job during your undergraduate years.

What was the best thing about your time in college?

The best part of college was getting to decide how to spend my time. Before college, school and parents dictate your daily schedule. After college, work (and family?) define how your time is spent. But in college, time is relative. You get to make your own schedule. You get to have entire days off in the middle of the week. You get to decide when to study, when to relax, when to eat, and it is SO freeing.

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