Florence-Darlington Technical College
"There are a lot of high expectations set on young people around going to college. Do what is right for you."
My name is Sarah Hill. My major is human services and I graduate in May of next year. After I graduate, I’m going to the bridge program at Coker to get my Bachelor’s in psychology. I came to Tech as a dual-enrollment student in high school in 2017. After high school, I went to Francis Marion for a semester, but didn’t do well there. It was a hard transition from going to high school to college.
I decided that it was best for me to take a step back. Instead of taking a gap year, I enrolled at Tech to do a slower transition into college. I started in the nursing program in 2018. My mom is a nurse and went to Tech, as well as several other family members. I didn’t love the nursing program, so I ended up switching over to the human services program, which focuses on psychology and helping better serve the community.
What did you think you would do after high school?
My high school experience was fairly easy. I felt I wasn’t quite ready for college, but had pressure to go straight to college after graduation. The expectation from my parents was that you can’t get a good job if you don’t go to school. My mom graduated high school early and went to Tech for her nursing degree. My dad went to Tech and got his associates in business management. He also took classes for his air conditioning business at Tech, as well.
It’s hard because you have to pick a major and know what you want to get out of college as soon as you graduate high school. There was a lot of pressure and anxiety riding on every decision I made and how it would impact my future. I felt like I would be disappointing my family if I didn’t go to college, but I also didn’t feel prepared for it.
I went to a private high school and was used to smaller classes, but suddenly I was in a university with 100 people. I needed help, but I was never told about the resources available at Francis Marion. I felt like I was on my own.
When I told my parents that I wanted to go to Tech instead of Francis Marion, they were reluctant. They wanted me to have a plan. They were supportive, but wanted to make sure that I absolutely knew what I was going to do and that I was taking the right steps to make that happen.
What misperceptions do you think people have about technical college and what would you like to tell them?
Everyone I graduated with went to four-year universities. They all talked about Tech as a crutch. Compared to the courses at FMU, I have found the courses at Tech to be more rigorous. It’s not like you’re coming here to have a more relaxed experience. Any college course is challenging. I never thought of Tech as an easy way out; I knew it would better prepare me for a four-year university experience.
What made tech the right option for you?
When I started my human service program, I didn’t know how many resources were available to students until someone from student support services came to talk to us in one of my classes. Tech has so many resources designed to set students up for success while they are here and beyond.
The students here come from all walks of life. I get more perspective from them because they’ve been through more challenges than the younger students at four-year universities. As I have talked to my classmates and professors about my struggles and fears, I have come to realize that I’m not the only one feeling this way. It is a relief to realize I am not alone.
The teachers and professors here are great. They want you to succeed, and they put the time and effort in to make sure that happens. Of course, you have to seek out their help and put the effort in yourself. There is no easy pass.
What obstacles have you overcome on your journey?
I was not in the best mental state at Francis Marion. When Ms. Swinton came in to talk about student support services at Tech, I really needed that. My dad had just hurt his neck and had to have spinal surgery. One of my brothers was in the army and my other brother had taken over my dad’s business, so I was having to help out extra at home. My grades ended up slipping a little bit in the fall of 2018. As a result, I ended up losing my financial aid, but Ms. Swinton was able to talk to them about my situation and I ended up eventually getting it back.
In August, my mom got in a car accident, totaled my car and broke her back. I’ve been helping take care of her. Last month, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It has been a hard semester for me, but I’m able to use the resources at Tech to help me get through it.
What sacrifices have you made along the way?
I had to give up most of my social life because it is more important to me to get my degree than to go out and party. I think I also had to grow up a little bit more because I moved out and have a job. I do work-study at Tech and work as a home health aide on the weekends. I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of free time and devote myself to making good grades and being a good student.
How does it feel to be achieving your goals?
The most exciting part about achieving my goals is the internal satisfaction. Florence Darlington Tech has helped me realize you have to set small goals in order to achieve big goals. The skills that I have learned in work-study and my classes allow me to exceed and excel in my field placement.
How has your parents’ perspective evolved?
I think at first they were disappointed because of the stigma around Tech. I talk to them every day and tell them how happy I am here, and now they’re really proud of me. I’m able to do a lot more at Tech than what I felt I was able to do at Francis Marion. Ultimately, they want me to be happy and get a good job so I can set myself up for success in life and not have to worry about money.
What advice do you have for others on their journey?
Success looks different for different people. There are a lot of high expectations set on young people around going to college. When we fall short of those expectations, it’s easy to get discouraged. Do what is right for you. Everybody is going to go through their own experiences and struggles. Things don’t always turn out perfect, but don’t let that hold you back. Seek out the resources you need. They’re there for you to use.