Class of 2017
Majors: Criminal Justice & History
“One of the most important lessons I have learned is to take my time… College is not a race.”
Hello, my name is Drew Murphy. I am currently doing well as a senior at UAlbany, but I have had a very difficult time throughout my college and school career. School and life in general can still be quite challenging for me at times, but I have overcome many obstacles and am still working on various issues. I hope that my story may help others in their struggles, both inside and outside of school.
I have struggled with several disabilities in my life, including Asperger’s Syndrome, severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, fine motor skill difficulties (which make it difficult for me to write clearly), misophonia (which causes certain sounds to bother me), claustrophobia, and minor asthma. The medications for these conditions can also cause some rather unpleasant side effects. Throughout much of elementary, middle, and high school, I struggled both academically and socially. I often felt like I didn’t fit in, and I was sometimes bullied by other students. Even some of my teachers didn’t seem to understand me or my disabilities. Nevertheless, I tried my best to do well, as attending college was an important goal for me.
During my senior year of high school, I was accepted by Hudson Valley Community College. Community college was a better choice for me at the time, as the campus was small enough to be manageable, and I could continue to live at home. In the fall of 2008, I began attending Hudson Valley as a criminal justice major. I chose my major due to my interest in laws and the scientific study of crime and punishment, and because I had a vague interest in a career in a criminal justice or legal capacity, possibly as a paralegal. I got in touch with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at Hudson Valley. I took my tests there, and the DRC staff helped me to deal with my issues.
Like most freshmen, many of my courses were requirements that all students are expected to take. At the time, I was taking five classes. After a good start, the stress began to take a toll on me. My anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder worsened to the extent that I could barely function, and I had little choice but to leave. After a brief period of treatment for my issues, I returned at the very end of the semester. Luckily, my professors let me complete my missed work, and I ended up getting good grades that time. My parents allowed me to take the spring semester off, and I returned in the fall of 2009.
I took a similar number of courses that semester, and I ran into similar problems. Upon leaving again, I had to formally withdraw from my courses. It was then that I realized why I was having such difficulty: I was taking too many courses at once. Whereas many students can take four, five, or even more courses at a time and still do well, my disabilities made this too difficult for me. The following semester, I tried working on just three courses at once. This proved to be the perfect number, and I took three courses every subsequent semester. In 2013, I graduated with honors from Hudson Valley with an associate’s degree in criminal justice.
The next step for me was to transfer to a four year school. I knew that nearby UAlbany was (and is) an excellent college. Then, as now, their criminal justice program was considered to be one of the best in the country, which made the school an especially appealing choice for a criminal justice major. I began my studies there in the fall of 2013 as a junior. I made sure to begin working with the Disability Resource Center there, and they have made all the difference with their unwavering help and support.
The school offered many new challenges, including harder courses, a bigger community, and a far larger campus. Some people I know were skeptical that I could handle it; even my therapist had her doubts. Nevertheless, I have succeeded here, and most of my grades have been excellent. I still usually take three courses per semester. I have had to work very hard to do well academically, and I am still quite shy when it comes to making friends. Greater social interaction is an area that I am still working on.
My work at UAlbany led me to new interests and areas of study. I have always loved history, so I chose it as my minor. I have taken many wonderful history courses at UAlbany and Hudson Valley, and in the fall of 2015 I officially declared history my second major. I found that I enjoy writing, and I have begun to ponder a career as a professional author. I am continuing to explore my strengths and weaknesses, as well as what career path I intend to pursue.
As I continued to do well academically, I became interested in extracurricular activities. UAlbany features an almost endless array of these opportunities, for students with almost any interest. Through the Disability Resource Center, I was a member of two panels in which I appeared before audiences last spring. In one of these, I helped answer questions about disabilities as part of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In another, called Recipe For Success, I helped answer college- and disability-related questions from high school students who will be attending college soon (I appeared in that panel again this spring). Becoming involved in extracurricular activities has been an enjoyable and rewarding experience, and I would highly recommend it.
Now, I am officially a senior, and I am due to graduate in the spring of 2017. Looking back, one of the most important lessons I have learned is to take my time, academically speaking. College is not a race, and it is perfectly alright to take a part-time course load or to take a semester off, as I have. Also, it is crucial to ask for help from professors and other staff if you need it. This is especially important for students with special needs (such as myself), as you must advocate for yourself to receive accommodations through the DRC. Almost always, professors and other staff are more than happy to assist you, as long as you are proactive, ask for help, and are willing to work hard. UAlbany also offers a free hotline for all students, called Middle Earth, to talk to students trained in counseling. If you are ever struggling with school or any area of your life, or just want someone to talk to about how you feel or anything that may be bothering you, Middle Earth is an invaluable resource.
It is also important not to be afraid to change your mind as you progress through college. Just as I found that I enjoy writing, you may find that your interests and intended career may change, perhaps multiple times. Changing your major is perfectly acceptable. It is easier to do so earlier in your college career, however, as different majors have different requirements that must be met to receive a degree.
Above all, don’t give up. In my college career, there were many times when I thought I couldn’t continue, that I was done with college forever, and that I would have to drop out, without a degree, and never return. But I found strength within me that I didn’t know I had. No matter what setbacks occur, you are only truly defeated if you allow yourself to be. No matter what happens, do not let it destroy your dreams. There is always hope.
That said, I believe you will have a highly successful college career. UAlbany has much to offer almost any student. I hope you enjoy your studies here, and I wish you the best of luck.