Mohammad Zaman is entering his senior year at Michigan State University (MSU), working towards a Bachelor of Science in computer science and his dream of becoming a user experience designer. He’s focused, motivated, and doing quite well; but it hasn’t always been like this for Mohammad.
“I was a completely different guy in high school,” explained Mohammad. “If I had an exam, I’d only study the night before, and I’d get a good grade. I wasn’t really challenged much, so I didn’t work hard at all.”
Mohammad was in our program at Warren Mott High School and, now that he’s attending MSU, he’s in our College Success Mentoring (CSM) program. His mentor is our very own Bryan Howard, director of programs.
Mohammad knew college would be more difficult but thought his old high school ways would suffice.
“I took my high school approach with me to college. I thought, ‘I did pretty well in high school. I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing.’”
Mohammad had a lot of success in his first year since the classes were mostly prerequisites. It wasn’t until his second year that he started taking core classes and hit some road bumps.
“Everything changed in my sophomore year. The classes weren’t the get-it-done-the-night-before kind of classes that I was used to. Then COVID hit and things changed even more.”
Mohammad struggled. Classes moved from in-person to virtual and his study-the-night-before approach wasn’t working. He began sleeping in until 1 or 2 p.m., waking up only minutes before a class started and logging in groggy and unprepared. It didn’t take long until his grades started slipping.
“It’s the first time I ever failed a class. I felt terrible. I was disappointed and started questioning everything. I knew my lackadaisical approach had to change. It worked for me when I was 16 or 17 years old, but this was different. Everyone said, ‘You have to work hard and be dedicated.’ I wasn’t working hard or dedicated. I knew I had to do something different.”
He retook the class, but the results were the same. He failed…again.
“I knew I had to do more and work harder. I did a little extra work. But I didn’t realize that a little extra work wasn’t enough. I needed to do way more, but after failing the class again, I was down and really not sure what to do. That’s when I reached out to my Winning Futures mentor, Bryan.”
Bryan worked with Mohammad to get him organized and focused. Together they created a daily schedule, starting with setting an alarm at night and getting out of bed in the morning. The schedule included time for exercise, eating, showering, and of course, doing homework and attending class.
“Bryan helped me realize that I wasn’t being honest and keeping promises to myself. He helped me realize how my procrastination was affecting my life. I’d say that I’d make changes, but I really didn’t. He showed me that, if I put my procrastination aside, and keep consistency and focus in my life, stay on top of my game, I’ll feel better, I’ll do better, and I’ll have a much better mindset.”
The schedule was important for Mohammad, but it was Bryan’s personal touch and coaching that made the real difference.
“He texted me at 9 a.m. to check on me, to see if I got out of bed. I’ll never forget that. No professor, no coach, no one ever really checked on me like that. Bryan helped me realize I can do better, showed me how to do it, then stayed with me, checking in on me and helping me along the way.”
The impact was real. After failing the same class twice, on his third attempt Mohammad aced the class.
“Looking back, I’m glad I failed. I’m glad Bryan and Winning Futures were there for me. I’m glad it happened because it shaped who I am today. I would not have the mindset that I have today. I’m staying disciplined, I’m getting everything done, and I’m getting good grades.”
Mohammad recently won our Winning Futures Alumni Scholarship and is now preparing for his final year at MSU. As part of our College Success Mentoring program, he will continue to meet with Bryan who will coach him through his senior year and maybe even send a few more 9 a.m. text messages.