This week at Let’s Check-in we are talking about all things college. Just like any project or your life in general, it is important to identify where you are starting and where you plan to finish. Even if you place two different points on a map, sometimes the straight line is not the path you will need to take. My journey can be a great example.
For me, getting to that glorious college diploma destination involved many hills and detours that I did not expect or plan. To speak truthfully, I was not the best student in high school. I did great in any class that involved writing, but if a class had numbers, exiting with a “D” was a high honor. At the time, I blamed it on my constant traveling through my childhood. But I had an accounting teacher that noticed I had a habit of switching my numbers around in my answers. I earned an “A” in the class when he started grading my crazy numbers! Not only did I discover my own learning disability, but I had an awesome influence who encouraged me.
Also, family turbulence was the equivalent of major road construction -- everything slowed down and was bumpy. When I graduated high school, I decided to stay in town and take on a part-time waitressing job. I also started at the local community college. After two semesters, I continued the same pattern as high school: great grades in everything but math. That summer, I planned to continue courses at my community college and also hang with my crew of friends who were all attending a larger college.
It was great -- sort of. I partied like a college student and worked as a Nanny. I made a lot of college student mistakes, including never attending any of my community college classes. I was not on the right path, and I needed to readjust my course. It was best to head back home to my Mom.
If you are fortunate enough to have family support, be thankful. I had the chance to make choices that were best for me, including focusing on full time work. I may not have been on the same timeline as my buddies, but I was happy. Eventually, I did return to college with a different attitude. I had matured and now was a serious student. Nothing less than an “A” was an acceptable grade for me. I was on the older side for a daytime community college class but I did make some friends and it was a fantastic experience.
Just as everything seemed on track, I fell in love. College was now on the back burner. We moved and later married. In hindsight, I should have plowed through because some of these classes have a time limit and I would have to repeat some of them.... again.
After a year into marriage, I tried to go back to school and was accepted to a 4-year college. I was 28 at this time. This was a big deal for me! Community college has always been my home base and by that time I had attended 5.
One semester into my classes “happy news” we are pregnant with our first child. The funny thing, is I don’t look my age, so some of the looks I got from other students were quite entertaining! I managed to make it through two semesters and my last final before we delivered our son. College is back to the rear of the stove.
Three children later, I decided to attend online college program and finally complete my degree. At this point, I was in my late 30s and had changed my degree a few times, but settled on nursing. During this time, I worked at a hospital and managed to injure my back to the point that I couldn’t lift patients. To my disappointment, I pulled out of the program.
I then changed course and switched to a business management degree. Sure, I had been in school for many years, but this was perhaps the toughest program because of the self-reliance required: you had to teach yourself. You did the work yourself, and often you had to carry the workload yourself. It’s not a perfect program, but I did learn a lot about teamwork, and business management.
Things I have learned from my Journey:
Make a plan
Go to college when you are ready (not everyone can go right out of high school or needs tool)
I was a dedicated adult student, money was wasted right out of high school.
Not everyone needs a college degree
Vocational school is a solid option
Be aware of the student loans you sign up for (I owe over $50,000) I have a Junior in High School who will be heading for college soon.
If I would have met with a career counselor, I would have had a better vision of what I wanted to do with my future.
Find a mentor
Community college is a great place to start.
Military is another great option.