The transition to college can be a rough one, and it’s not unusual for students to end up on academic probation after their freshman year.
Government senior Kelley Doll took time away after her tough first year to regroup. She worked full time and use online courses at a community college to reestablish a good academic record. When she returned to UT Austin, the UTurn program was there for her and Doll was able to make the Dean’s List, get into graduate school and become a mentor to students who faced the same problems she did.
Read more about Doll’s path from mentee to mentor in the Q&A below.
What has your higher education journey been like?
My higher education journey so far has not been what I expected it to be, although it brought me to a better place than I could have hoped for. My freshman year at UT did not go at all as I had hoped. I wasn’t going to my classes, I didn’t have a good study skillset or knowledge of campus resources, and I felt very isolated. Due to this, I ended up on probation and took a period of time off from UT following that first year
When I first transferred back to UT in the spring of 2014, I had many mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was so thrilled that I had made it back to the only university I’ve ever wanted to go to. On the other hand, I felt as if I barely knew anyone at the school, that I was behind my peers, and that I still had a lot of catching up to do. Joining UTurn and participating in the program played an integral part in turning my academic performance around.
Since becoming involved in UTurn, I’ve managed not just to get off of probation, but also to make the Dean’s List, achieve a 4.0 semester and get accepted to 3 great political science doctoral programs. My journey has been extremely difficult at times and has definitely surprised me, but looking back now on all that I have accomplished it has made me incredibly proud and determined to keep working hard in the future.
How has your transition from mentee to mentor been?
When I first transitioned from mentee to mentor I was a bit nervous because I wanted to set a good example for my mentees and provide them with meaningful advice. I have found that my mentees are typically very engaged and enthusiastic about changing their performance and meeting their goals. I have been fortunate enough to have had three very diverse mentor groups, and I have learned so much from each one. Wanting to ‘practice what I preach’ as far as the advice that I give my mentees also helps to keep me on track with habits, such as always going to class and getting work done early. The transition to mentor has definitely been a rewarding one.
What makes UTurn such a helpful program?
The sense of community that it provides. Many students who are experiencing academic struggles are being impacted by factors outside of just school, whether it be problems with work, relationships, stress, etc. Trying to cope with outside difficulties as well as turning one’s academic performance around can be an incredibly isolating feeling. UTurn gives students a place to connect with others who are sharing similar experiences and to ask for and receive advice.
UTurn also provides students with accountability. Ben Burnett as an academic advisor and myself and my coworkers as peer mentors are here to help members of the program meet their goals, whatever those may be, and whatever that may take. Although it might sometimes be annoying to have someone check on you to see if you’re being productive and utilizing your time well while you’re spending time in the CLASS center, it really is an effective way of showing that UTurn does truly care about the success of its members.
What are your goals for after graduation?
After graduation I plan to pursue a doctoral degree in political science. My interest is American politics, and I would specifically like to focus on political participation and public policy. I would love the opportunity post-grad to participate in research and explore potentially revolutionary studies in political science.
What advice would you give to incoming students?
One piece of advice is to be honest with yourself. Recognize when you are struggling and learn to reach out for help when you need it. This might involve going to talk to professors in office hours, utilizing campus resources such as the Sanger Learning Center and Undergraduate Writing Center or identifying factors outside of school that are causing you difficulties.
Another important piece of advice that I have is to be forgiving with yourself. I hear the phrases ‘I should have’ or ‘I was supposed to have’ a lot from my mentees, and they’re things that I have definitely thought in the past. That’s not a good mindset to have though. I think it is so much better when we can accept and learn from our mistakes, than when we let the guilt of not accomplishing exactly what we wanted, when we wanted, inhibit us. I say this a lot in regard to graduating college: it’s not how you do it, when you do it or how long it took you that matters; all that matters is that you got it done. And that’s a huge accomplishment.
For more information on UTurn, visit its webpage.