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The Barron Perspective

Teachers on College: Mr. McLaughlin

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by Brandon Bhajan

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United States History teacher Mr. McLaughlin attended Middlesex County College and Rutgers University during his formative years. (Credit: Brandon Bhajan)

Mr. McLaughlin is a member of the History Department at Woodbridge High School, where he has primarily taught American History since 1992. He attended college multiple times, over the course of decades, and completed his associate’s degree at Middlesex County College, later transferring to Rutgers University where he completed his bachelor’s degree. In this latest installment of Teachers on College, Mr. McLaughlin discusses his unique college experiences at a number of institutions.

Barron Perspective: When you went to college, how did you decide that’s where you wanted to go?
Mr. McLaughlin: That was something that had been impressed upon me by my parents. Since my immigrant parents were here, their goal was to get one of their kids to college, and I’d be the first one in family history to do that. I was the eldest male, so that was always my responsibility.

BP: Was there anything specific you looked for in a college?
MM: Affordability: I had to pay for it myself.

BP: Did you visit college campuses?
MM: I did, I visited one campus, a school I was supposed to attend, but housing fell through the last week before classes, so I ended up not attending there and went to community college instead.

BP: What type of degrees did you attain?
MM: I have an associates degree in Liberal Arts, a bachelor’s degree in History, and I have a masters degree in Administration and Education.

BP: What did you enjoy in college and what classes did you enjoy?
MM: I was a constitutional law guy, so those classes I focused on when I was an undergraduate. So I guess it would be fair to say I enjoyed those classes the most.

BP: Were you around family when you went to college?
MM: Yeah, I lived at home, I couldn’t afford to live at campus. So yes, I stayed with family, my immediate family.

BP: Was choosing your major difficult?
MM: I changed my major numerous times. I changed it while I was at Middlesex several times, when I was at Rutgers I even changed it after I graduated when I knew what my intentions were. I was supposed to go to law school and didn’t go. That’s pretty much changing it at the last minute.

BP: Do you have any tips for students who don’t know what they want to major in?
MM: Yeah, don’t stress over it, to be honest. There’s no need to stress, once you go there, the first year or so is similar, so you won’t be wasting credits. Give yourself a chance, try it, listen to other kids, see what’s around, maybe sit in on some classes that sound interesting to you that you’re not signed up for and then you start discovering. Discover a little bit about yourself and you’ll see what your future could entail, what it has in store for you. Don’t stress if you don’t know what you’re doing, my goodness you’re only in high school.

BP: How big was the workload of college compared to high school?
MM: It’s sizable, you have to manage your time, it’s a big deal. That’s the thing I emphasize with the higher level classes here is managing your time properly because, I had no choice because I was also working while I was in school because I had to pay for it. I had to figure out how to manage all my time and try to maintain some sort of social life at the same time. Time management, because of the workload, if you can find down time to do your readings that’s always a positive, and days you can sleep, try to get that in, or rather during the week, sleep late rather than do a job or be a substitute if you have enough credits.

BP: Was college an overall good experience for you?
MM: Sure, absolutely, it turned out to be quite beneficial for me. After all, I graduated with a degree, I was able to have a career with something I am able to enjoy doing. Can’t argue with enjoying what you do for a living. What is it they say? “If you like what you do, you don’t work a day in your life.”

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Teachers on College: Mr. McLaughlin