My Unconventional Path to Grad School: How Maturity and Athletics Gave Me a Second Chance

Written by: Matthew Cohen, MSBA ‘24

When I was in elementary school, I was in those gifted programs where they would pull you out of normal class to learn about things that were a little more interesting. In first grade, my program was learning about Helen Keller. I remember being 7 years old and the program instructor coming to my classroom to get me for that day’s session. When she asked for me, my teacher told her no. I had been goofing around and was not doing my classwork, so my teacher made me stay. That was the day I was taken out of the gifted program. 

Fast forward to middle and high school. I did my classwork, but I never did my homework. I never studied for tests. I was very smart, as I was in advanced math and foreign language programs, but my grades plummeted due to a lack of academic responsibility. I had a grade of 2 in my freshman English class at the 5-week mark of the second quarter. It was not because of an absence of intelligence, but more so because I did not care about homework.  

I was an “athletic brain.” I played hockey (still do), baseball, soccer, and football. To me, after-school meant sports and sports only. I was dishonest with my parents about homework, usually telling them I did it in school or that I did not have any. As any parent should, they let me deal with the consequences of my actions. I never made the Honor Roll in middle or high school, but you would never guess that if you knew me now. 

After graduating high school, I went to Canisius College, (now Canisius University). The basis of my college decision was not about academics; it was about hockey. I flunked my first two semesters, registering a 1.57 GPA and a 1.97 GPA, respectively. I failed a class and dropped a class both semesters, registering only 12 credits per semester, but failing brought it down to 9. I was officially on Academic Probation following the conclusion of my freshman year. I decided to leave school; the best decision of my life thus far. 

After taking a few years off, I enrolled at SUNY Erie to complete my general education requirements, a community college just down the road from UB. In my first semester I got a 3.5 GPA, which opened my eyes wider than ever before. I finished my third, and final, semester with a 4.0 and as the Vice President of Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society. 

I came to UB in the Fall 2021 semester as a highly responsible student. I made the Dean’s List multiple times, received another 4.0, and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Communication.  

During my senior year, I joined the UB hockey team after being retired for 6 years. I attribute that as being the main reason (besides my stellar grades) as to how I ended up in the MS in Business Analytics program. Because of my high grades, I received a provisional acceptance into the MSBA program. But honestly, I was not planning on going to graduate school just yet. The acceptance into MSBA and the chance to play hockey, and win a national championship as team captain, one final time, made it make sense. 

My path to the MSBA program is unconventional, but isn’t that how life should be? Everyone has different journeys and there is no right or wrong way. Take it from me: a former irresponsible middle school, high school, and first year college student, who is finally starting to figure it out. I would not have it any other way.

Matt Cohen
Photo credit: Matt Cohen
Matt Cohen and teammates
Matt with his teammates. Photo credit: Matt Cohen
Matt Cohen
Photo credit: Matt Cohen

Bio: Matt was born and raised here in Buffalo, NY. He graduated with his associate’s degree from SUNY Erie in 2020 with a concentration in General Studies. In 2023, he graduated magna cum laude with his bachelor’s degree from the University at Buffalo with a major in Communications. In his free time, Matt enjoys filling up his days and keeping busy. He loves to play hockey, ice and inline, and often can be found taking his 2 Cavapoos, Nash and Harper, to the dog park. When not doing these two activities, he is probably either at work or at home building a LEGO masterpiece.

Photo credit: Tom Wolf

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