Advice from a Nighthawk: Find Your Passion!

January 12, 2024

Attending college wasn’t at the top of his list when Jacob Clasen graduated from high school. He had no idea what he wanted to do with his life, but his future started to come into focus at NOVA. Now, Jacob shares advice for other new students who are trying to figure things out.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I grew up in Springfield, Va., and graduated in 2020 from Thomas Edison High School in Fairfax County. I didn't go to college right after high school because I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. So I decided to work for a bit. I just worked and made money. Eventually, I thought it would be good for me to get some type of degree.

I started at NOVA in Spring 2022. After thinking about different degree paths, I decided on cybersecurity. I took several classes, but cybersecurity wasn't my thing, so I shifted gears.

What are you studying at NOVA?
I'm a General Studies major with a Health Sciences specialization. My goal is to get my associate degree and then transfer to George Mason University to study kinesiology. I love athletics and have always loved working out;  it has always been a talent of mine. You need to find something you're passionate about. I feel like this is a gift I have and that I can help others with it.

I'm 21, and there is a lot of restlessness among my generation. You know, drifting from here to there to there … I feel like we don't have an anchor. If we don't have an anchor, we're just going to drift, and that's why it seems to me that there's great sadness in my generation.

I've recently come back to my faith, and it's made every bit of difference in my life. Now I'm doing whatever I can to help people, using the talents that I've been given to bring joy to others.

Tell us about your experience at NOVA (i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met). 
People can have this perception that community college isn’t real college. That’s completely incorrect. NOVA is amazing! You pay a lot less, but you get the same level of education as those students who go to a four-year college.

One of my professors, Lucy Holsonbake, always made coming to class fun and never dull, which is a good thing. She’s amazing!

When I got into her communications class (CST-110, Intro to Human Communications), I quickly realized this class was very different. She’s truly a gifted educator and an awesome human being.

Professor Holsonbake’s class focused on how we relate to and interact with each other as humans: how we communicate, possible roadblocks to communication and how we all have unique stories to share. We may have grown up knowing we have a story, but maybe we didn’t know how to express it. My communications class taught me how to effectively share my message. By doing that, you’re actually helping others, because we all have something valuable and important to share with each other.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?
Figure out your passions and what you like because you want to find a field you really enjoy.

Try your best to love your classes and try your hardest to get your work done. Realize the work you put in now will set you up to be more fulfilled later. It’s all about figuring things out, your degree and career path, and putting in the effort. Also, realizing that you’re doing it all for a reason will help you push through fear, anxiety and sometimes feeling a little overwhelmed.

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?
I don’t know when I will finish all my classes at NOVA, within the next year to a year and a half. Then I plan to transfer to Mason for its kinesiology program. My whole life, this is what I’ve been moving toward — being athletic and helping others. With kinesiology, you can go into fields like physical therapy and sports medicine. After Mason, I may pursue a master’s or doctorate. But right now, this is the path for me.

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