Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Long Haul

When I returned to school in the fall of 2006, I fully expected to be able to graduate two years later. Things didn't quite turn out that way. It took me four years - two of going to school part time and two of going to school full time - in order to complete my degree. Sometimes it seemed like I would never graduate. There were times when I would think, "What am I doing here? Am I being realistic? Is it worth it?"

One of the major characteristics of being a nontraditional student that clearly sets us apart from our younger counterparts is that life is happening all around us - aging parents, school-aged children, a mortgage, a job, single parenting, etc. School is just one of the many balls we are juggling. Larry the Laptop, Minnie the Mini and I were best friends for a number of years. Wherever I went - high school and college sporting events, weekend visits to see children out of town, spring break in Phoenix, etc. - Larry or Minnie went, too. Folks got used to seeing Larry or Minnie and me together. I was never without Larry or Minnie, my backpack and books and my flash drive.

Sometimes it seems like the journey will never end - late nights spent studying or writing that paper because you spent the early evening helping your children with homework; weekend afternoons trying to balance time with family and time with the books; scheduling parent-teacher conferences between classes. No one ever said being a nontrad would be easy - and it isn't!! However, there is a whole world of support out there for those of us who have had the courage enough to return to school as an "older" person. Google "Nontraditional Students" and one gets over 770,000 entries! Nontrads are important in many ways, especially as colleges try to reverse the trend of low graduation rates. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/college-inc/post/guest-post-non-traditional-students-key-to-college-completion-goal)

I remember a former classmate of mine - Bob. He was 52 and returning to school to get his degree in History so he could manage a friend's construction company. Bob died of a heart attack in April of 2008 - one month before he was set to graduate. He was always so encouraging - he made cookies for his younger classmates, carried a total of 19 hours, and was an "expert" in many of his history classes because he was more than twice as old as his classmates and had lived through the era they were studying.

You may find yourself asking the same questions I did - "What am I doing here? Am I being realistic? Is this all worth it?" Yes - as a brand new nontrad, a seasoned veteran and an anxious one-semester-away-from-graduation nontrad - it's worth it. By the time you are finished with your degree, whether it's Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's or PhD, you will have accomplished something great. You will have accomplished a huge goal you set for yourself. So hang in there! Yes, it's a long haul but well worth the journey. Stay tuned . .

3 comments:

E. Sheppard said...

I love this inspirational posting. I know that more than one nontraditional student will be inspired by it! thanks for sharing it.

J Kenosky said...

I am definitely at a point where I am wondering if it worth it? What am I doing to, with, myself? When I went back to school at 34, I intended to finish up a degree I started earlier in life, and be done with it in two years. Through some soul-searching, I changed my major and started back at the beginning.

So, I figured that I would finish in four years, then. I got an A.S. degree, and transferred into a four-year. After one year at the new school, I moved out of state. Now, I am "wasting" a semester by not currently being enrolled as I wait for a decision of acceptance into a new school (I have already been accepted into another college near-by, but you know, want to keep my options open).

With the new college, I will have new institutional-related requirements to fulfill, and am more-than-likely going to need another 3 to 4 semesters to complete my undergraduate degree.

If I stayed in my old state, I would graduate this coming May.

Is this worth it? I hope so. It is definitely frustrating, but ironically, I am a better place as a student now than I was when I was in a more traditional college age range.

Bea Amaya said...

Wow. Just stumbled on this blog today and am really enjoying it. I could have used it a couple of years ago, but, thankfully, survived any way.

After many years in the "field" in the petrochemical industry, I went back to school (and yes, it took longer than I thought!) and graduated with my BS in 2007. I began thinking about going a bit further and ended up enrolling in an intensive MS program (University of Texas), graduating in 2008 with my MS. On a roll, I decided to look at going even further and am currently pursuing my PhD at Texas Tech. I am 51.

Thanks for this GREAT blog!