Chapter 3 – Stuff They Don’t Tell You About

So much about returning to college as an adult is impossible to anticipate. Beyond the basic steps involved in applying to a school, registering for classes, getting your books and so on, you will encounter frustrating situations that will require careful attention and navigation if you want to maintain some measure of inner peace. Here are a few of those situations.

Negativity

As you steer yourself through the steps of going back to school, you won’t have to look far at all for the negativity that can derail you. I read that more than seventy-five percent of a person’s daily thoughts are negative.  That’s pretty profound and sadly curious. Such pervasive negative thinking makes each of us our own worst enemy. Any task or goal we want to accomplish becomes more challenging when we tell ourselves that we can’t or shouldn’t pursue it for whatever reason. Don’t psych yourself out this way—you will be much better off listing reasons why you can and should. The Buddha said we are what we think. So if you think you can’t, then you won’t.

Unfortunately, your own negative thoughts won’t be the only ones you have to contend with. For some reason, some people (perhaps even most people) think it’s helpful to share their own negative thoughts and experiences with others—especially when those others are preparing for a big change or a lofty goal.

When I was pregnant, every person I knew or met who had ever given birth in their life was compelled to describe, in horrifying detail, the terror of their own labor. They thought they were just making a friendly connection with me, but in fact hearing these stories created in me a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. My husband finally put a stop to this. He respectfully proclaimed that we were not listening to anyone’s horror stories any longer because we wanted to look forward to the birth of our child and not be terrified of it.

This technique was remarkably effective, and I have adapted it to fit other areas of my life in which I am forced to deal with negativity. Whenever I am pursuing a goal and people feel compelled to share prophesies of doom, I stop them. I tell them that I can easily succumb to my own self-doubt because the odds are against me, so I need their support to help me stay positive. It really works, and I feel much more confident and in charge when I don’t let them rain on my parade. Sometimes I don’t even have the energy to do all of that explaining, so I just give a sideways grin and say something like, “Do you really think so?” and walk away. Find your own style, but develop it quickly, as you will need all of the personal power you can muster to meet the challenges of college.

You will need to find courage in yourself, because no one else is going to root for you unless you do. Become your own best cheerleader. You must believe in yourself, or fake it until you do. Make it your personal mantra to resist negativity, and resist it from the very beginning of your college considerations. Negativity will serve you no purpose as you strive for personal betterment.

Debt

By now in your life you understand the hazards of debt. You are an adult, and you understand debt on a higher level than your fellow young students. That is why the matter of applying for and accepting student loans may at times give you heart palpitations. In your adult life, you may also have a mortgage, a car payment, a pile of credit card bills, and innumerable other financial obligations. Thinking about incurring more debt in order to return to college is just terrifying.

You must change your ideas about this immediately. In my case, I am about $44,000 in debt with student loans, and I have completed only my bachelor’s degree. This is because I attended a private school where tuition was exorbitant. In this book, I am going to show you how to learn from my mistakes. I will show you how you can make much more economical choices than I did. I could have earned my entire degree for under $12,000 if I had made some different choices. Either way, you must change your attitude about tuition debt and think about it in a new way.

The average American currently has $8,000 – $15,000 in credit card debt. You may be one of these people. Perhaps you used a credit card to purchase this very book. It’s not incomprehensible that so many people have so much debt on their shoulders—just look at the current state of our economy. With unemployment on the rise and bankruptcy laws becoming more stringent, these debt statistics may only worsen as average Americans find themselves having to charge groceries just to get by. I know about this firsthand because I charged groceries as a matter of practice while in school and out of work. I genuinely, truly, deeply understand the anxiety that surrounds debt.

I am here not as the devil on your shoulder, urging you to charge away. I am here as the angel on your other shoulder trying to illuminate the truth about student loans. Think about it this way: in terms of your credit card debt, can you really account for what you purchased to create those balances? Probably a lot of little things you can’t really quantify. A degree is something that you absolutely can quantify. A payment on a student loan is typically about the amount of an average credit card payment. What’s more, you won’t eat a degree, as you did with the groceries you may have charged on your credit cards. You can’t sell it in a garage sale or donate it to Goodwill or forget it at the grocery store. A degree cannot be repossessed. It will only appreciate in value. It will appreciate as it allows you to earn more money in your field and more respect from yourself and others. It will be a constant source of pride and opportunity and potential.

Here’s another reason not to be afraid of student loan debt: the government is a very forgiving creditor. Loan payments are deferred until such time as you graduate, drop below full time, or drop out of school altogether. You may even defer your student loans for up to six months after you graduate, and if at any time in the future you’re not working, you may apply for further deferments. Furthermore, when it is time to make payments, you have options in terms of your payment amount—if you can’t quite afford a big payment yet, you can opt for a smaller one. All of this makes the financial aspect of returning to school a whole lot more palatable.

So if you get hives just thinking about getting deeper in debt, please take my advice and let go of that fear. It is not selfish or frivolous to accept financial aid in order to pursue your education. Student loan debt is, in a way, something to be proud of, because those loans will make it possible for you to get your degree.

Making Excuses

One thing that most of us have in common is our outstanding ability to rationalize bad decisions or bad habits and make excuses for them. I’m no better. I’m the excuse queen. I could teach a course on how to expertly justify practically anything. Many of you could probably do the same.

When you begin contemplating college, you may find yourself concocting reasons why you should wait or not go at all.  These are excuses. If you want to go back to school you will find a way. It is just that simple. Let me repeat: if you want to go back to school, you will find a way.

If you think college will take more effort than you are willing to invest, you will find any number of excuses to abandon the idea. I know this because I created and perfected these excuses for a long time. Remember, in my adult life, I was a college dropout for far longer than I was a student. I used to joke that I was on the twenty-year degree program. I kept putting it off and making excuses for why I didn’t finish. I began to refine, rehearse, and perfect my excuse-making. This had an insidious effect on the rest of my life as I started making excuses for a lot of other things. I came to hate that part of myself.

It was easier to make those excuses as an adult because going back to college as an adult had a host of legitimate challenges. While my fellow students were going to frat parties, I was home with a brand new baby doing laundry. It was very easy to throw my hands up and say, “It’s too hard!”

Finally, during my last stint, I ignored my list of excuses and I just stuck with it. I am overjoyed that I have a degree and happier still about the windows of opportunity it has opened up for me. But this degree represents something bigger still for me. It represents the fact that I am not an excuse-maker anymore. What this says about me is that I can be counted on. Show people that you can be counted on. Throw the excuses away. They aren’t working for you. They are the big roadblocks to your dreams.

The Bottom Line

Even if your situation is ideal and you have a strong support network as you embark upon this journey, you will notice that there are always problems to be dealt with. You probably would have had to deal with some of these problems anyway. They will just become more pronounced when you are going to school, and you (and your family) will now have something more definitive on which to place blame for your troubles.

There are going to be so many times that you are going to want to quit because you think quitting would be easier. Just remember that the problems you’ll face because you’re in college will have been totally worth it when you have your degree in your hand, and if you drop out you will be angry with yourself for not sticking with it. And these “problems” are a small price to pay for the satisfaction and success you will reap when you’ve completed your program. Just get through it in whatever way you can, and remember that dropping out of school because it’s too hard, because of student loans, because your laundry keeps falling behind, because your friend tells you that you are nuts to even consider going back to school, because you didn’t believe in yourself—those are weak excuses indeed, and you won’t be able to live with yourself if you let these excuses derail your dream.

PART I CHEAT SHEET

GETTING THE GUTS

Chapter 1—Why Should I Go Back to College?

  • The only secure, lasting way that you can prove your value to potential employers is with a college degree.
  • College graduates earn 62% more money than non-graduates.
  • The unemployment rate for non-graduates is 400% higher than it is for advanced degree holders.
  • Getting an education actually makes you want to learn more.
  • Getting an education exposes you to perspectives and ideas you may have never considered, and enables you to more deeply appreciate the life you have.
  • Between 2004 and 2014, more than 14 million job openings are projected to be filled by workers who have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Chapter 2—Knowing You’re Doing the Right Thing

  • Signs, signs, everywhere signs. Coincidences, chance meetings, random intuitive thoughts—all of these will be calling to you. Be open to them. They can direct you to your right path.

Chapter 3—Stuff They Don’t Tell You

  • 75% of a person’s daily thoughts are negative. If you think you can’t, then you won’t. Banish negative thinking from your mind.
  • Develop a strategy for deflecting the negative comments of others as you begin your journey back to school. You don’t need their discouragement—even if their intentions are good.
  • Student loan debt seems scary, but incurring debt in order to get a degree is actually a smart decision. Your degree will never decrease in value, and you will have it forever.
  • Student loan payments are easy to manage, and creditors are more flexible with terms for this kind of debt than they are for any other.
  • You may become an excuse-making machine while you are trying to decide whether or not to return to school. Ignore the excuses. They will only derail you.

It doesn’t matter where you start or how you get your motivation. Your reasons are your own. Develop a resolve to go to college, and then just do it. Accept that challenges such as hard work, negativity, and a little debt will be worth it. You know it in your heart already.

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Chapter 2 – Knowing You’re Doing the Right Thing

I don’t believe in the traditional definition of fate: that we are all blindly on the course of a pre-plotted future, just hoping it has a good ending. No. I believe strongly that we are in control of our own destiny. I also believe coincidences are much more than just meaningless chance encounters. Have you ever been thinking of someone you haven’t talked to in a while, and then they call? Crazy and unexplainable things like this happen all the time and I believe they happen for a reason. Coincidences are God’s ways of giving you a little hint or guiding you in life.

When you are at a crossroads contemplating a difficult decision, as you may be doing now about school, look for the little “coincidences” that push you in the direction you are meant to take. You will see things you hadn’t noticed before. You may suddenly feel like everything around you is conspiring to push you in one direction, and this will make you feel great (and perhaps a little crazy).

Let me tell you about one instance when signs helped me to see my own path.  When I became a mother, there was a short period when I became so absorbed in this new role that I defined myself more as Drew’s mom than as the Alicia I had been for thirty-two years. As my son started to get a little older and more independent, I began to re-adjust and think about what my future held for me. I decided that I wanted to take a shot at the wild notion of my youth—becoming a writer.

When I went into the market that afternoon, I was paging through a magazine and saw an advertisement for a writing school. I purchased the magazine and clipped the ad. Shortly thereafter, I saw an advertisement on the news about a writing contest in our town. On my very next shopping trip, I saw a flyer advertising the services of a children’s literature talent agent who was inviting writers to send samples for evaluation. Then, on my next trip to the bookstore, I noticed an advertisement for a workshop that appealed to aspiring authors.

I was amazed that all of this was just popping out at me. I’m certain all these “signs” were there all along, but now I was open to noticing them, and it felt great. I now know that opportunities are around us all the time, but we must be prepared to look for them.

The Bottom Line

Whether you are contemplating writing a book or starting a business or going back to college, you may start seeing signs or having intuitions that are prompting you to go in that direction. Be open to them. They are positive and energizing, and they can validate for you that you’re on the right path.

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Chapter 1 – Why Should I Go Back to College

We all know the traditional answers to the question of going back to college: you will earn more money, you can get a better job, etc., etc. But let’s talk about some of the other compelling reasons.

Consider this: life is crazy, and dreadfully unpredictable. Pick up today’s paper and what do you see? Headlines about frightening unemployment numbers, companies going under, disasters that have left people homeless, family members dying unexpectedly and tragically. Life happens. And since we usually think the disaster or tragedy will happen to someone else, we are vastly unprepared for the future, no matter how predictable it may seem.

Take me, for example. The reality that life can be unpredictable and scary became very clear to me at the end of my tenure in that lofty HR job that I described above. As the economy began to take a downturn, I watched others in my community being laid off. I found that the main component of my job in human resources shifted from hiring, education, training, and career development to laying off great employees and counseling them on how to receive their unemployment benefits.

It was a depressing shift. I became the person no one liked to see. Terrified souls came to my office to receive their fate, and some of them fell apart right before me. I witnessed how job loss wreaked havoc in their lives. And soon it was my turn.

I remember my call so well. The vice president of the company called me out of the blue. After a nonchalant conversation regarding the weather, she gave me my two-week notice. The office was closing, so not only was I losing my job, but it was now my responsibility to deliver this news to the remaining staff. Admittedly, I had known this was coming. I had planned on it. Still, I was thoroughly devastated. I literally broke down, just as I had watched so many of my employees do when I delivered the same news to them.

When I told my husband that I had lost my job, he tenderly comforted me, but he was confused. How could I be so upset? I had prepared myself for this. But I just couldn’t comprehend that this company could function one day without me. I had given it so much of myself. I panicked—really panicked—for a very long time. What was I going to do? Suddenly, we were totally dependent on my husband’s income. Did I mention I was nine months pregnant at the time? How would we raise our baby? I really worried that we would lose our house, and then what would we do?

My only comfort during this scary time was the fact that I had already completed more than half of my education. Soon I would have a degree, and I could begin looking for a job. Without this foresight and the preparation I had already done by continuing my education, I don’t believe my son’s birth would have been such a joyous one. Without this working plan, I would have worried, taken a job for substantially less money just to get by, and the vicious cycle would have begun all over again.

Perhaps you can relate to some of this story, but even if you can’t, I’m sure you understand its message. It is up to you to rely on you. You are interested in going back to school to better yourself and your life. You will be able to look yourself squarely in the eye and know that you are creating a life that you can manage, no matter what hardships may arise.

If the sheer terror of being left jobless and under qualified in an unstable economy is not enough to get you back into school, here are some specific, no-nonsense reasons for pursuing higher education as an adult:

Prove Your Worth

The only secure, lasting way you can prove your value to a faceless potential employer is that precious sheet of paper—your degree. The value that our society places on this is immeasurable, and I am sure that you have witnessed this for yourself. No matter how valuable your experience, no matter how you have managed to enhance your résumé, it will always be overshadowed by your missing degree. Countless doors will be closed to you.

Show Me the Money

I mentioned a higher salary in passing at the beginning of this chapter, and in times like these, making more money is a huge concern for a lot of people. It’s a fact that college-educated workers make more money than people who have less education. In 2003, employees with bachelor’s degrees had median weekly earnings of $900, compared with $554 a week for high school graduates—that’s a difference of $346 per week, or a sixty-two percent jump in median earnings—just by getting a degree. For workers with master’s, doctoral, or professional degrees, the median earnings were even higher.

Staying Power

In addition to earning more money, workers who had more education were also less likely to be unemployed. According to statistics, the unemployment rate for people with less than a high school diploma is 8.8 percent. For those with a high school education, the rate is 5.5 percent. But for those with a bachelor’s degree, the unemployment rate decreases to 3.3 percent. With a master’s, the rate is 2.9 percent; with a doctorate, it’s a mere 2.1 percent. In other words, the unemployment rate for people with less than a high school diploma is more than 400 percent higher than it is for people with a graduate degree. The numbers don’t lie. Earning a college degree earns you job security.

In today’s economy, unemployment is a growing and terrifying problem. In October 2009 alone, 558,000 people lost their jobs. That’s over half a million people laid off. In one month. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons has grown to 15.7. Those are not promising figures. Economists are predicting that it will get much worse before it gets better.  Do yourself a favor…get a degree! Your position will be much more secure. If you don’t believe me, believe the statistics.

Get Smart

When I first started this journey, I only wanted the piece of paper. At the time, I wished I could have somehow just purchased the diploma and moved on with my life. I was ignorant about the beauty of the educational experience. I wanted to just get it over with already.

As I navigated my curriculum, I found myself exposed to philosophy and science, government and history. I was particularly fascinated with history. As a child I had found it so dull—just a boring list of facts. But as an adult, I couldn’t get enough. What fascinated me the most were the contradictions between what I was taught as a child and what the actual events were. I began to understand biases in what I read and to learn the invaluable skill of critical thinking. My conventional thoughts were challenged, and I became acutely aware of my own inadequacies.

Prior to this, I had thought I was so smart and had so many things figured out. I really didn’t think I needed an education. Then, as I started to learn more and more, I realized that my knowledge about life (to borrow a phrase from Professor Carter) “…could fit in a thimble and there would still be room.” You would think that this would have intimidated me, but rather it inspired me. I developed a thirst to learn more. The crazy thing is that whereas I initially approached college as a means to an end, now my “dream job” was to be a lifelong student / writer.

Expand Your Mind

Education is the way we pass down what we have learned as humans to the next generation. Education gives you a perspective you would not have otherwise experienced by exposing you to a world of different viewpoints you may have long ago dismissed. In that way, education makes people more empathetic and empowered. By showing us all the possibilities, education also provides the framework by which we may appreciate the life we’ve been given and positively affect it. It gives us a better understanding of the bigger picture by showing us things from other perspectives.

Get Confident

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about the college experience is the opportunity it affords us for a full transformation as a human being. The increased knowledge and brain power, along with the pride of accomplishment and the confidence of self sufficiency, can make you feel like you have superpowers.

The message is this: seek your degree for all your own reasons, but do it also for the experience and the education. Being at college, going to class and doing assignments is a great way to combat depression and make you forget what ails you. You have to forget—you are too busy being challenged! Your mind is being fed in interesting and new ways. You are interacting with new people who are all in the same boat. You are accomplishing things that you never dreamed you would. You are getting out of the house and opening your mind. There are so many reasons to do this, and all of them are so important, that they far outweigh any reason not to.

If you are stuck trying to decide whether college is right for you, take a quiet moment when you are able to think freely. This is not when you are trying to make dinner or when there may be interruptions. This is a time when you are alone and can think objectively and honestly. Make a list of all the reasons you can think of for why you would like to go back to school.

Examine your reasons. How many are your own personal goals? Are there any that involve someone else’s desires or dreams? For example, one of your reasons could be, “To be an example for my children.” That is a great reason, and admirable, but you deserve a better reason than that. It is my deep feeling that people have more success achieving their dreams when they are doing it for themselves. It is good to have secondary reasons that benefit others, but your drive, your fire, comes from doing it for yourself. So if you find that any of your reasons are not self-motivated, make a new list of reasons that have only to do with you. This is your “pro” list.

Next, make a list of cons (use the same form). Some of your cons may include the cost, the time commitment, the loss of sleep, etc. I must tell you that when I did this little exercise, my list of cons outweighed my list of pros. Then I realized two things: first, I was trying to find reasons not to go back because I was scared. Second, I realized that none of the cons were reason enough to abandon my goal.  In either case, having it down on paper will force you to examine your real desires about returning to school.  You will return to this list for motivation numerous times while you are earning your degree.

A college education is priceless. Gone are the days when people graduate from high school and work for the same company until they retire with a pension. By the time he’s forty, the average American has held ten jobs. We are no longer a goods-producing country; we are a service-producing country. Soft skills and education are prized at an all-time high. These are the days of large mergers, failing businesses, and outsourcing of jobs overseas. If your résumé doesn’t list a degree, what’s going to separate you from the competition? Even if a position is tailor-made for you, if the database that’s sifting through the résumés filters for a four year degree, you will simply be overlooked.

Donald Trump is VERY Persuasive

Have you ever watched Donald Trump’s hit show The Apprentice? It’s positively addicting—my husband and I practically rearrange our lives so we don’t miss an episode. On this show, very successful individuals participate in a competition to be chosen as Trump’s next business associate. Candidates are picked from a pool containing hundreds of thousands of applicants. They then compete with one another in various business challenges, and Trump gradually weeds out players when they perform poorly with his famous saying: “You’re fired.”

In the first season of his show, he fired a man by the name of Troy, whom many thought would win. Troy did very well and made it to the final three. One of the reasons Troy was fired was that he did not have a degree. Donald Trump went on record saying that he would pay for Troy’s education wherever Troy chose to attend school.

The message that went screaming out to corporate America over national prime time TV was that Donald Trump puts a high value on a college degree. How do you think this influenced the executive hiring staffs of corporations that deal with Trump? People model his behavior daily and hang on to his every word. They do this with the hope that they can benefit from a nugget of his wisdom and somehow emulate his success.

I am grateful to Donald Trump because he was a huge motivator for me in obtaining my college degree.  Use this as another motivator.  It is very effective.

The Bottom Line

Someday you may be sitting across the desk from an executive who is very like-minded to Donald Trump. It won’t matter what credentials you have, how personable you are, or how quickly you think on your feet if you are lacking that one important degree.

Professionals with an education are afforded more opportunities. Period. Donald Trump knows it, and statistics prove it. Between 2004 and 2014, more than 14 million job openings are projected to be filled by workers who have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Make sure one of those jobs is yours.

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Preface to No Adult Left Behind

Around the time I graduated from college as a thirty-four-year-old adult, I was enjoying an expensive cup of coffee and visiting with a friend, unencumbered for an hour—rare luxuries for me at the time. My friend, who was thirty-six years old, was considering returning to college.

She asked me to tell her about some of the challenges I faced as a returning adult student. I laughed. Really hard. My list of “difficulties” went something like this:

A messy house. If the doorbell rang, I hid. I lived in fear of the unannounced drop-in. I didn’t want anyone to see my messy living room. Eventually I learned I could get by if the living room was the only room I focused on when I did clean. During my college years, my vacuum cleaner was on hiatus for weeks at a time.

Disorganization. We never knew where anything was in the house—ever. It seemed I would always find out we were out of shampoo when I was already in the shower. Then I’d find out we were out of clean towels on the very same day. (Did you know you can dry yourself with a washcloth? You should try it sometime. It is a humbling experience.) Or we would run out of underwear because the laundry got so far behind. It was always fun to come home to an irate husband who didn’t think it was funny that he was out of underwear. Oh how I loved the riveting ten-minute lectures about how I should get organized and how it is harder for a guy to be without underwear.

Marital discord. I fought the desire to call a divorce attorney on my nocturnal run to the 24 hour Wal-Mart to buy him some boxer briefs. “Oh, I bought the tighty whities you hate?! Darn, my mistake. You are so right; I do have to get more organized. Oh, they are a size too small? So sorry about that, sweetie.”

Malnourishment. Balanced meals? Are you kidding? If I couldn’t drive through to pick it up, we all went hungry. If Rachael Ray wasn’t personally coming over to prepare it, then I didn’t have the flippin’ thirty minutes.

Gaining weight. I gained ten pounds because all I ate was cafeteria food, Chinese takeout, candy bars from the student store, and drive-thru meals.

Getting discouraged about that weight. I realized fast that ten pounds would be a lot harder to lose now that I wasn’t sixteen years old with a lightning-fast metabolism.

Suddenly becoming a fashion victim. Wearing elastic-waist pants or Mom Jeans while trying to fit in with college twenty-somethings doesn’t help your plight. Neither does trying to fit into your skinny jeans (perhaps I should have been clued in when I had to lie down flat and stick a wire hanger in the zipper to pull it up). Going to the student store to buy the sweatpants you see everyone else wearing will backfire—who wants to put their fat booty in a pair of sweats with writing on the rear end? I mean, I don’t want to draw attention there. I have spent my whole life trying to get people not to look there.

Not fitting in. I felt like a chaperone the first day I arrived at school. I had to constantly remind myself that I was not one of the Golden Girls. There were times when I felt like I would have been better off opening an advice booth in the hall than trying to make friends, thinking thoughts like these:

“Honey, it is twenty degrees below zero outside. Put on a hat.”

“Pull up those hip huggers. It’s only socially acceptable to show the crack of your butt if you’re a plumber.”

“Oh, sweetie, he isn’t going to call you. Yes, I realize that you determined he was your eternal soul mate and hooked up with him all in a two hour timeframe at the frat party last night, but honey, not only is he not going to remember to call you, he isn’t even going to remember you. Now move on, and put the flippin’ cigarette down wouldya—it doesn’t make you more attractive.”

“No, the student store does not sell pregnancy tests, but the pharmacy across the street has a hot sale on them every day—try there.”

Not only did I not fit in with the students…one day a cafeteria worker called me Ma’am. Lovely.

New challenges at work. Maybe you have a Buddha-like boss who will totally accommodate all the scheduling demands that arise when you start school. Or maybe, like most of us, you have a boss who couldn’t care less that you have to leave on time for class or that you can’t work overtime next week because you have a paper due.  Either way, balancing work with school will be an adjustment.

Staying awake. At the end of the day, you will want nothing more than a hot date with your pillow and blanket. But there will be nights when you will have to stay up long past your bedtime doing homework.

Fighting caffeine addiction. Realizing that you cannot get through work, class, homework, folding a load of laundry, or just opening the mail without coffee can be alarming. You can put yourself in counseling after you graduate. “Hi. My name is Alicia and I am a Starbucks-latte-aholic. Britney Spears is my idol.”

Learning to prioritize. In terms of schoolwork, you will just not be able to do it all. You won’t have the same amount of time to devote to schoolwork that your classmates have (and most of them do only a fraction of the work anyway). Determining how much time you can realistically dedicate to schoolwork each week, and fitting your assignments into that timeframe, takes creativity.

Keeping perspective. Sometimes you feel so separated from the college population that you forget you’re actually well-prepared for college. Your age and experience give you a distinct advantage. Your experiences dealing with people, deadlines and work projects have given you critical skills with which to assimilate into the college culture.

Sticking with it. It’s hard to fight the urge to drop out the moment college feels overwhelming. I dropped out so many times I could write a book about that alone. I guess the only way I found to combat that destructive urge was to stop thinking about it so much and just get to work. Pretty soon I was registering for graduation.

After I rambled on about these “difficulties” for a while and my friend and I had a good belly laugh, she looked me dead in the eye with intense seriousness and asked, “Did you enjoy this experience?”

I did not hesitate in my response. “More than you can imagine.”

“Would you do it again?” she asked.

“I intend to.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely. This is the single most rewarding thing I have ever done for myself.”

As she took a sip of coffee and stared wistfully out the window, I smiled. I knew that look. She was scared and excited all at once. She had caught the bug, and I was convinced she would register for classes.

For me, going back to school as an adult was a daunting proposition. There were times when it was deliciously delightful and exhilarating, but conversely, there were times when it was a lonely road. Because my age separated me from the rest of the college population, there were times when the normal challenges of student life felt overwhelming to me. Even though there were other adult returning students at my college, I felt as though I were blazing the trail on my own.

There were many times when I needed guidance and motivation to continue pursuing my college degree. I attended several schools before I finally got my degree, and all of them had an adult learning center or a returning student department to help adult returning students enroll in classes. But this wasn’t the type of support I was seeking. I wanted to talk to people who had done what I was doing or were going through it along with me. I wanted to know how other people dealt with the pressures of adult life while balancing school. I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone in my struggles to juggle it all. I encountered many confusing events, situations and feelings, and I was really in need of guidance beyond what I could find in my school’s catalog or handbook. When I was low and doubtful, I wanted to tap into the energy of people who had done this, because there were so many times when I felt like giving up.

There are tons of adults returning to college. To be precise, between 1992 and 2004, the number of adults twenty-five and older who earned college degrees grew from thirty-five million to fifty-two million. That’s an increase of almost fifty percent. The adult returning population is growing at a remarkable rate, and yet when I returned to college, I never found a support network in my quest for one.

I searched for a book of some sort to provide what I was looking for, but found only instructional guides. I realized that what I was looking for would have to come from inside of me, and that is how this book came about. I know what it’s like to go back to college as a returning adult. Some of the difficulties I faced are the same difficulties you will face if you decide to return to school. Had I been able to find the right book, or a group of people who could share their experiences with me, my time as an adult in college would have been vastly different.

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Sample Chapters

I will be adding sample chapters to this blog.  If you are interested in reading, please take a moment to provide feedback on the chapter.  Please share your thoughts with me.   I would love to hear from you.

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