Starting Over – The Drive to Succeed

A Former Student's Outlook on Pursuing Your Dreams

For some students, getting kicked out of college marks the end of their academic careers – but not for 20-year-old former Montclair State University student Brandon Davis-Thompson.

A year and a half and almost 2,500 miles later, Davis-Thompson plans to start fresh in just a few short weeks. The former business major at Montclair State University is returning to school at Arizona State University in Tempe as a computer science and engineering major, starting on October 12th.

Just around the end of his sophomore year at Montclair State, Davis-Thompson was suspended for a semester from the University for violating the school’s alcohol policy more than once. Davis-Thompson says he had plans to return to MSU eventually, but something was holding him back.

Rather than getting discouraged by his suspension from the University in 2015, Davis-Thompson turned the negative situation into a positive one, and used the time to reflect on his personal goals.

According to College Atlas, less than two-thirds of college students actually earn a degree, despite the large percentage of Americans that attend four-year universities.

Despite the statistics, leaving Montclair State never deterred his drive to succeed – Davis-Thompson says that throughout the time he spent out of school, he was constantly thinking about what his next move would be. Davis-Thompson says if you would’ve asked him a year ago if he’d ever expect to be making a change like this, he would’ve said yes.

“I would have told you I’m getting out of New Jersey. I don’t know where, but the plan was always to leave. I didn’t know ta the time it would be to Arizona, though.” Davis-Thompson says it wasn’t that he was disappointed, depressed, or miserable – it just wasn’t the right fit. “Something was missing. That’s how I knew I needed to go to a different school,” says Davis-Thompson.

“Before I got suspended, I was planning on taking a break from school already – I took the suspension as a time to figure out what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to be,” says Davis-Thompson, who later made the decision to leave his NJ roots and start fresh at Arizona State University. Davis-Thompson says the desire to take some time off stemmed from the idea of changing his major from business, which he felt “wasn’t right” for him, as well as his desire to finally get out of New Jersey.

Davis-Thompson says he wasn’t so much looking for an entirely new experience from his at Montclair State – rather, a change of pace and scenery. Davis Thompson was born in Livingston, and moved to Southern New Jersey at the age of 2. While he returned back north to attend school at MSU, he had spent his entire life in New Jersey. Davis-Thompson says that the larger campus at ASU alone will be a completely new and different atmosphere, as well as the different types of people there.

When asked about the difficulties that came with taking time off from his education, Davis-Thompson said that the only struggle he faced was filling out college applications and starting the process all over again. “But as I did it, I felt like a freshman all over again. It actually made me excited. In the back of my head, I always had it in me that I need my degree. My mom always said if something ever happened to her, to promise I’d finish school and get my high school diploma and graduate college and get my degree. Even though she’s still around, I’m going to make that promise to her. Dead or alive.”

Davis-Thompson says his mother, Sabrina Davis, played a key role in his motivation to return to school. “My mom raised me as a single mother basically,” says Davis-Thompson. “Everything I needed to do, she was always behind me 110 percent — mentally and financially. I want to be successful because the way she’s looked out for me the past 20 years, I want to look out for her like that.”

Along with his mother, another motivating factor was financial stability. As a young adult, Davis-Thompson says he doesn’t have much experience in the work force. According to Davis-Thompson, everyone should have a degree to fall back on even if it’s not ultimately what he or she wants to do.

In Davis-Thompson’s eyes, a degree is what will ultimately earn you the financial stability to support yourself and eventually the possibility of a family in the future. Statistics listed on College Atlas also showed that people without college degrees are twice as likely to be unemployed, which proves Davis-Thompson’s outlook to be crucial to his success.

Davis-Thompson says his family wasn’t initially happy about his choice to transfer to Arizona State this upcoming fall, being that he comes from a close-knit family that tends to stick together. “We always stick together, and I’m kind of the one to break that by leaving. But they’re excited for me and hope I do well, and that’s all I can really ask for,” says Davis-Thompson.

Davis-Thompson’s mother works for American Airlines, so he’s able to fly anywhere in the country, and essentially has the advantage of being able to just jump on a plane and come home at any given time. Because of this, Davis-Thompson says he isn’t too worried about missing home. The distance doesn’t bother him.

Davis-Thompson says that people need to realize that they can’t have too much regard for others’ feelings when making this type of decision, because everyone will have their own opinion. “If you let everyone else’s input affect or change your decision, you’re not going to find what you’re looking for.” Davis-Thompson plans to find just that in his pursuit to a new university, where he will completely change his educational path.

“It’s never too late to change your path,” says Davis-Thompson. “We have a long life to live, and there’s no reason anyone should spend their life unhappy.” Davis-Thompson says he always loved computers and technology, learning about them, dealing with them, and while he doesn’t know exactly where it will lead him, he knows it’s something that will motivate him to work hard.

In 5 years, Davis-Thompson sees himself earning his degree at ASU, and hopes to be on the path to eventually opening up his own company. “I guess you can say that I want to chase my dreams, because mainly my mindset is that I want to be successful and happy in life. And I’m not going to get there by listening to other people and what they want me to do.”

While Davis-Thompson is excited for what the near future will hold for him and his educational path, he is going to miss the memories made at Montclair State University. “I made a home at Montclair in the past 2 years,” says Davis-Thompson. “When I did attend, I loved it. The people I was around were great people. There’s no one I won’t keep in contact with. I’ll check up on my close friends. I know I could come back to visit, and nothing will change.”

Davis-Thompson’s friends have no doubt that he will be successful on his endeavors at Arizona State. “Brandon is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Since I’ve known him, he’s always doing something crazy. You never know what his next move will be, in a good way,” says Montclair State University student Amy Randazzo. “He’s been there for me whenever I needed him, in a second. He’s a great person who’s going to do great things, despite what might’ve set him back in the past.”

Davis-Thompson says he’d encourage any students who have gone through situations similar as him to return back to school. “In college, you get to pick what you want to learn. In high school, we didn’t have a choice,” says Davis-Thompson. “If you’re not happy, if you’re not motivated, if you feel like something’s not right, try looking around. Do research on different majors, find what you’re actually interested in and you’ll find your true calling. Don’t be afraid. Don’t let people’s judgment stop you from exploring what you want to explore.”

Davis-Thompson says he would advise students to steer clear of negative comments that may discourage them from pursuing what they really want.

Davis-Thompson joked that while he is most looking forward to the new scenery and the year-round warm weather in Arizona, he’s also excited about the lack of wind tunnels on campus. He is also prepared to work part-time during the school year once he leaves. Davis-Thompson, who works at Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Secaucus, already has plans to transfer to the chain close to his new school and work through the duration of his studies.

Since the incident that got him kicked out of Montclair State for a semester, Davis-Thompson says he feels like he’s matured a lot since then. According to Davis-Thompson, success is his main focus right now.

Montclair State | New Jersey

Krista Cerminaro

Biographies are a lot of pressure, don't you think?