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I am pretty sure that when people talk about the need to retrain our older workers, they are talking about me, or at least people like me.  After my freshman year of college in 1987 I had a summer job at golf course.  As the summer came to an end they asked me if I wanted to stay on as an irrigation technician, they offered me ten-dollars an hour, which at the time seemed like a lot of money.  I figured I would do it for a year, save up some cash and maybe even transfer from a commuter school, to flagship university.  26 years later I was still working at the golf course,  over the years I have alternated between thinking it was the smartest decision, or luckiest, to the worst decision I ever made.

Especially early on, it was great job, with raises of anywhere from five to ten percent a year, in addition most the members of the course contributed to a Christmas fund that was split among all the employees, it was usually over a thousand dollars.  I think it was the late nineties that the raises stopped and most the new guys didn't believe me that Christmas bonuses used to be in the four figures, in fact I doubt they would believe they were in the three figures.  About two years ago all grounds keeping functions were subcontracted out.  I was offered a chance to stay on for eleven dollars and hour and they paid fifty percent of the employees health insurance after six months.  

I decided to go on unemployment and return to school

Returning to the same commuter Campus I left 26 years ago is a bit of a shock.  The school has a mascot, the roadrunners.  If there was a mascot back in the day no one mentioned it, in fact I am pretty sure we didn't have sports teams at all, now there is a division I basketball team and apparently numerous other sports teams, and of course they come with an athletic fee and a stadium bond fee and several other fees that seem related to varsity athletics.  In fairness the college I am attending is still very affordable, with tuition and fees coming in at about five thousand dollars a year if I am figuring it correctly, but it still seems like there are a lot of non education related expenses.

Another change I noticed,  financial aid doesn't mean what it used to mean, when I was in college before, my financial aid "offer" had a pell grant and some possibility of work study, which covered about half the tuition costs.  The aid offer I got this time covers tuition and good amount of living expenses, but it is all in the form of loans.  My net worth could be close to zero at this point in my life, but at least it's not negative, like it could potentially be when I graduate, and I am starting to realize going to school may be a huge financial risk.

I don't know if all older displaced workers are in my situation, but I do know that returning to school for retraining is far scarier than the president makes it sound when he talks about education.  

I just hope at this point I can find my classrooms

Originally posted to Non traditional student on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 09:35 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  good luck and ignore the Millenials' ageism /nt (16+ / 0-)

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 09:50:43 AM PDT

    •  Yep. Feeling old (13+ / 0-)

      I was going to talk about being the oldest person on campus but decided to save that for another diary

    •  Heh (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      worldlotus

      I had a classmate tell me a few months ago that she likes the movies which feature Jude Law as a young man, but she doesn't like his newer movies because he's old now. All I could do was shake my head because I knew Jude Law was born just a couple years before me. Amazing how your perspective on age changes as you age.

      Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

      by moviemeister76 on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 04:15:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  He (or she) will run circles around them... (7+ / 0-)

      I too went back to school at an older age.  I was worried about it until I got there.  All of the connections the professors are trying to get the young 'uns to make, I had already made though living and working in the real world.  

      Whereas most of the kids (I used to call them that and it pissed them right the hell off) were whining about the fact they had to take two years of Gen ed requirements, I understood the value of those courses and strived to draw them together into a more comprehensive understanding of what was going on.  

      I knew how the things I learned in psychology could help me analyze a book, movie or TV show critically.  I understood the bodies of work that the artists were alluding to.  I saw how all the pieces of a liberal arts education fit together.  

      I "got it."  My professors knew it, and the kids knew it.  Eventually the other students came to me when they needed help.  They knew I had the good ideas for projects, they knew I could help them make the connections that the professors were hoping to see.  

      Some probably hated me though.  I learned that the worst day in college is better than the best day at work. LOL  I never complained.  I never whined.  I over-acheived.   I ruined almost every grading curve, including those in the ever-hated "weed-out" classes.  

      I think going to school in your 30s of 40s is the best time to go.  The first time I went to college when I was 18, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  Other people (mostly my dad) were telling me what they thought I was good at, and what I should do.  Most of their ideas were aimed at getting me a paycheck.  My dad hated his job.  Absolutely despised it.  But it paid the bills.  So what do you think he pushed me into?  

      The same thing that made him miserable.  

      By the time you're in your 30s and 40s, you've seen and experienced enough of the world to know who you are, what you like, what you're good at, and where you fit.  That is the time to decide what to study.  You know what you need and want to learn, so you learn it.  You don't see education as the means to an end, you see it for what it should be.  

      The most unfortunate thing about college is that it's mostly wasted on the young.  

      The diarist will do just fine.  He or she will probably shine in class.  

      •  Agreed. I *never* should have gone in my 20s. (0+ / 0-)

        I'd be on fire if I went now.

        Oh regret and remorse. What can you do? Just hurry past them, I suppose.

        Everybody here comes from somewhere / That they would just as soon forget and disguise.

        by CayceP on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 06:38:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Dear N.T.S.: (34+ / 0-)

    As a professor at a school not unlike yours: Welcome Back! I have to say that I love non-traditional students like you. You bring life experience and an understanding of what your education is worth to you to the classroom. And your writing skills are already better than many of your fellow students, so that can't hurt.

    Second, your observations are correct- loans have replaced grants in a big way. Be careful of them, and even though the Financial Aid office may act like there is a 'formula' - they can, often, give a lot more than they do in their initial offers. Let them know what your situation is, and they may find other scholarships or help for you, possibly specific to your situation. You can also use internet resources to find financial aid. At $5000/year, a few $500 local Optimists or Lions' Club or Armenian Immigrant Fund grants go a long way! Be creative, many of these are 'undersubscribed' you'd think people would compete for the money, often it goes unclaimed.

    Finally, figure out what you like and find a prof in your area of interest who will mentor you- like me, they often want someone who is beyond the (sorry young'uns, it's true) common flakiness of 18-22 year old. Someone who can invite you to into the lab or study group to do something beyond coursework. Be pro-active- tell people what you're interested in and how that fits with their work. My students work on research projects on animal locomotion- very few go on to be professional scientists, but all of them have practical skills (computers, video, animal-wrangling) or just plain cool stuff to talk about in job or professional-school interviews.

    Good luck & study hard!

    My budget-cutting plan: anyone showing up to a government worksite with Confederate images on their truck, gets paid in Confederate dollars.

    by El Sobrante on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 10:24:09 AM PDT

    •  Thanks (16+ / 0-)

      Thanks so much for the advice and encouragement,  I am taking intro to psychology, intro to biology and intro to political science in hopes of finding a major.

      I think I will drop buy the financial aid office and see what else may be available.

      Thanks again

      •  Make sure to ask them about (9+ / 0-)

        Scholarships and state help that might be available specifically for older students.

        They do exist. They can be hard to find, and I'm sure your financial aid office is overworked and undermanned. They all pretty much are.

        So be your obviously nice self. Stop in just to say hi. If you can do it, take goodies (people love treats, and at my school we always say about meetings 'if you feed them, they will come'). Like every customer service worker, they get a lot of flak about things that they don't have any control over. Being nice can help them remember you, so when that great scholarship comes up, they remember YOU and call you to apply.

        •  Treats? (4+ / 0-)

          I'll see what I can do.  Definitely learning a lot of tricks today

          •  Never hurts. (6+ / 0-)

            You have to be subtle though. More of a 'hey, I'll never eat all this, you guys want some?' so it's not seen as a bribe.

            Not often either. Do it too much and it really would look strange.

            But definitely stop by just to say hi. And ask if they have any part time or work study positions. Not likely, but they might know of other offices that do.

            Financial aid handles a lot of personal info and doesn't always have students working there because of that. But they'll know what other offices are looking for people.

            •  Subtlety (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MidwestTreeHugger

              I might have to work on that part, but definitely sounds like a good idea to drop in and see what is available.

              •  scholarships are good.... (7+ / 0-)

                I run one at my school for nontraditional students in science and technology.  The grant came from National Science Foundation and has made a lot of impact.  You should tell everyone you know that you are interested in getting a job on campus or additional scholarships- then when one becomes available they will think of you.

                I love my non-trad students and work closely with them so they can graduate in a timely fashion and find jobs.  

                I would stop by in office hours and visit- often no one comes by.  I wouldn't worry about snacks- just bring your questions and smiling face.  Ask about career prospects if you are stuck for a conversation.  Explain any challenges you have.  This is a link to an online learning styles questionaire.  I have students take it to learn more about how they learn.
                  http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/...

                Make sure to learn the online learning software and participate in class.  The non-trad students bring a LOT to class discussions.  
                Keep us posted on how it is going.  It is a big adventure, and some professors are jerks, but not all!

                You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

                by murrayewv on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 04:28:05 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  This may sound hokey (5+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  El Sobrante, dsb, chimene, kurt, worldlotus

                  I hope all my professors are as nice as the people here.  Many of the comments here have certainly helped to build some enthusiasm for the first day of class

                  •  Professors are generally very nice (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    worldlotus, ladybug53

                      I'm in a very similar situation. I'm a 27th year senior.

                      The issues I've come across have been varied. First, financial aid is a problem because I went to school and failed out in 86-87. From that period I had 56 attempted credits. That has created a problem for me in my last year because those credits from 27 years ago count against the federal 150% max credits attempted. So even though I am nowhere near the lifetime dollar limits I am ineligible for fed finaid. And my state school doesn't allow appeals.

                    The other issue I came across was getting research experience. Many schools offer REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduates) but because I am a 'senior' even though only at junior level in my Physics curriculum I was disqualified from most REUs.

                    But I will say all but one of my professors have been great even though I think a couple feel awkward due to being younger than me.

                    I also worry about ageism once I graduate.

                    •  Ageism is real.... (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      worldlotus, ladybug53

                      so to counter it, be crafty.  Take graduation from high school dates off resume and time spent in various jobs that might not be as relevant.  So if you worked 12 years for a bank before studying physics, discuss the things you learned at the job- management, preparing a department budget, training employees, rather than the time you spent working there.  think knowledge skills and abilities for federal jobs.  Knowledge is course work, skills are things like software or you can work a lathe, and abilities are things like management or speaking Spanish.

                      As a physics student, try for internships or research experience.  That will help.  Look for a mentor to help you find a job.  

                      You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

                      by murrayewv on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:33:42 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Financial aid rules (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      worldlotus, ladybug53, Debby

                      I had to explain why I left the first time to be eligible for financial.  Just having to file that appeal almost made me decide it wast worth it to go back. I wonder how many people don't go to college because of all the paperwork to get in

                      •  That is to get back in to your school (0+ / 0-)

                        Financial aid is different criteria. For most schools if you go over 180 credits attempted, including what you did previously, you are disqualified from Fed finaid. Some schools will allow appeal, but it is entirely up to the individual school.

                •  "So they can graduate in a timely fashion" (4+ / 0-)

                  hear hear. This can be a challenge when majors are designed for traditional progressers. Nonetheless, there are profs, advisors, and dept. chairs who DO understand the challenges of non-trad students, transfers, etc. As I mentioned before- what seem like 'hard and fast rules' are rules, but they exist for specific reasons and can often be waived for unusual circumstances. Again, good luck. Lots of good advice has popped up in this thread since I left the screen 5 hours ago!

                  My budget-cutting plan: anyone showing up to a government worksite with Confederate images on their truck, gets paid in Confederate dollars.

                  by El Sobrante on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 04:48:01 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  I'm going to second testing (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  worldlotus

                  If you find you have any learning disabilities (and they don't have to be major) you can talk to the disability specialist on campus and get help.

                  Sometimes it's just more time on a test, but it could be a special test area, more tutoring, etc.

                  If you need special help, they'll give it, but you have to initiate the process and let your professors know what you need.

                  Never hurts. If you don't have any problems at all this semester, then it's not an issue. But if you seem to have problems, you should definitely talk to whoever handles that.

    •  What ES said ^^^^! (8+ / 0-)

      In addition - find what you love. Find what excites you, and the teacher who inspires you. That's the prof you want to approach as a mentor.

      My own mentor at a community college in CA called me up in the summer and told me he and I were having lunch the next day with a prof at our local BFD University, whose research most closely matched my interests. To my panicked reaction, he said, "Just be yourself." At the end of lunch, I had a research internship with that Prof. At the end of 6 years with that Prof, I had a Ph.D. You don't need to have that long term a goal, but just DO follow your heart and find where it leads you.

  •  From what I read and hear, far too many are (7+ / 0-)

    in your situation or one close it.  Many changes and risks in job security and greed on the part of corporatists and indifference on the part of politicians to regulate and protect the average workers.  And the cost of education or any sort of longer term skill training is much higher when you factor in the reduction in aid available and the interest on loans.  But you know that since your school now has a full blown sports program the educational quality is bound to have improved. :)

    I think that you'll get the hang of it again pretty quickly and you'll probably see at least a few others who are more mature.  Most teachers really appreciate getting older students, also, since they're usually more serious about learning.

    Have you decided what areas you plan to concentrate on yet?  I would think that might be a little tough.

  •  Oops. Just saw that you had already talked (8+ / 0-)

    about some of my comments while I was typing.

    I see you're a new user and this is your first diary.  It's a good one and I hope you keep us informed how it's going and join in the discussions also.

  •  pick a major you like (7+ / 0-)

    when picking a major be sure to remember you might actually have to do it for a job.  Don't be like me and go to work in healthcare and discover sick people make you nervous :)

  •  Average age at our County CC is 28 (13+ / 0-)

    I went age 34, now 60.  Took 6.5 years to get 2 year AS/RN, not counting year off to "recalibrate."  Reared 2 kids alone, stitched together part-time jobs.  Started off ZZ/Undeclared, taking 6 credits/semester to qualify for PELL etc.  Now earn $70K+year, union member, civil service w great bennies. Smartest thing I ever did.

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 12:00:10 PM PDT

    •  Healthcare jobs sound great (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NancyWH, NonnyO, Eyesbright, blueoasis, pixxer

      Depending on how biology goes (I am a little nervouse about a hard science class) I hope to wind up in healthcare, maybe pharmacist.  

      •  It was (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NonnyO, blueoasis, pixxer

        easier than I remembered it from HS.  Even "hard math"!  I assume my brain worked better with more pathways at age 34 than 17.  You will do fine.  

        "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

        by NancyWH on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 12:47:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  pharmacy is chemistry more than biology.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chimene, kurt

        but still a good profession.

        This is one of my favorite biology resources- http://webcast.berkeley.edu/

        You can take a podcast of all the classes like biology and chemistry, from UC Berkley.  Then if your professor goes too fast or skips over something, you can listen to a lecture on the same topic.  If you are a verbal learner, the podcasts are great.  And if your lecturer isn't great, hearing a better lecturer can help- these UC profs are quite good.

        I recommend reading the book before class and taking notes as you read.  Take notes in lecture.  Then go home and rewrite your notes.  Sit at the front of class- research shows those students get better grades, possibly because prof remembers them from class.  Make vocabulary flashcards- biology is hard because of all the vocabulary.  Greek and latin roots are helpful for learning the terms.  Here is another useful resource- http://frankshospitalworkshop.com/....

        Your text should have practice CD associated with it.  Definitely use it.  Also, my favorite trick is to get another text (used or an earlier edition, which are cheap!) and read both.  If your biology text has Campbell as one of the authors, try another one.  About half of colleges use Campbell.  If your school doesn't use Campbell, get a copy.  Go over the chapter questions or google practice multiple choice questions for those chapters.  Multiple choice questions can be an issue for returning students, which is why studying with those as a guide is good for you.  

        You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

        by murrayewv on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 04:47:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  My mom's best friend in college (ca. 1943) was a (0+ / 0-)

          pharmacy major, Mom said she was the smartest person she ever knew (including my Dad).

          "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

          by chimene on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 09:29:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  same with me, I went to CC when I was 36 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt

      took 4 years to get the AAS in CS. First year I had loans and grants, but I was broke all the time. Decided to work during the day, and take classes at night, and it took 3 years to get the second year done. Got a few part time and consulting gigs to get started, laid off a few times, but finally landed a full time job that had tuition assistance after a year. Went on to get my BS, and never looked back. It was hard, but well worth it. No kids, so I cannot even imagine the extra work/stress/time you went through. Congratulations!

      "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

      by pickandshovel on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 04:31:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  please, please read this article (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NancyWH, jck, NonnyO, Eyesbright, angelajean, pixxer

    by Matt Taibbi published Aug 29 in the Rolling Stone. One of the only really good investigative reporters out there...:

    the College Loan Scandal.

    "Only a Vulcan mind meld will help with this congress." Leonard Nimoy, 3/1/13

    by nzanne on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 12:01:56 PM PDT

  •  I predict you're going to love it! (9+ / 0-)

    I went back to college at age 40 to get my teaching certification.  I had spent the previous 15 years as a corporate drone, and couldn't wait to get out of the cubicle.

    I enjoyed all of my classes, I enjoyed learning the material, and I loved the classroom discussions.  I found that the professors all appreciated having non-traditional, (old!), students in the classroom, as we brought life experience to the discussions.

    Going back to school was the best decision I ever made.  I've been teaching for 10+ years now, and I love it!

    Stand Up! Keep Fighting! Paul Wellstone

    by RuralLiberal on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 12:58:56 PM PDT

  •  I'm in school again after 31 years. (13+ / 0-)

    My market timing has been somewhat problematic. I graduated with a BA in Geology in 1982, shortly after OPEC collapsed and a huge job market for geologists vanished. After a few years of drifting I ended up in the printing business, which was fine for awhile, but it too is disappearing and I have to find a new career at 53.

    After getting laid off in October, I got some funding to attend the local JC, which has a good reputation and is within walking distance from my house. I already took a couple of classes this summer and will be starting full-time on Monday.

    Don't be surprised to see a lot of gray hair in your classes.

  •  Welcome back to school (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright, NonnyO, pixxer, murrayewv, kurt, hbp

    and do your best to enjoy it AND wring every bit of experience you can from it.

    I've had a couple of wonderful "non-trads" either my age or older than I in the past few years (I'm 50+). One was a displaced worker and got "retraining" costs covered. Not sure if the education was free or just partly paid-for by Uncle Sam, but it was a nice thing for this student to get up-and-running on all the technological shifts that had happened since first finishing college.

  •  GOOD FOR YOU!!!! I am so happy to hear (8+ / 0-)

    you are able to continue your education. My campus has a lot of returning, older students. One advantage you have is that you did not arrive at the campus on a conveyor belt you boarded in kindergarten; instead, you chose to be there, and have an idea why you're there and what the stakes are. Older students tend to be stronger students, and serve as role models for those fresh out of high school. Good luck to you as you return - I hope you find it exciting to delve into and master your new major subject, as well as all the cool stuff around the edges.

  •  I entered college at age 41 (8+ / 0-)

    As an insomniac I read when I couldn't sleep.  Every time a new subject took my fancy I read everything I could get my hands on about it, so I was a full immersion student before I discovered there was a term for it.  By the time I applied for college I already had a large private library and used some of those books as sources for research papers or essays.

    My entry tests put me in Honors English (my major), and I was assigned an adviser.  I was complaining about having to take PE.  "I'm here to educate my brain, not my body.  If someone wants to go through my scrapbooks and give me credit for the dancing I did in theatre, they're welcome to do so, but I see absolutely no logic to taking PE at the college level unless someone is going to become a PE teacher."  My adviser looked at my resume, said "Well, you certainly have a wide variety of interests and varied background, so why don't you join the Honors Program.  All you have to do is maintain a 3.2 GPA and you don't have to take PE."  "Done!"

    I'm happy to report I was never off the Dean's List the entire time I was in college (and, of course, never had to take PE).  I decided on Art History as my minor after a slide show by the prof in one of the Honors classes.  I attended summer school as well, but decided I needed a fun class amidst the heavier subjects, so took ceramics and fell in love with porcelain and working with the smooth clay.  I had enough credits for an emphasis in ceramics by the time I left college after starting in on an Art degree as well.

    While I was there a new sports complex was built and finished.  We were charged student fees for the stadium and attending events..., and there were so few students who used the sports complex that they were begging us, especially the non-traditional students, to come to use it.  I never stepped one foot inside that monstrosity that I saw as useless.  The money spent on it would have been much better spent on upgrading or building a new library and a new science building, but certainly not a stupid sports complex that very few students chose to use.

    The profs loved the non-traditional students, BTW.  We had experience, so we could ask logical questions and didn't sit there like sponges expecting someone to shower us with knowledge while giving nothing in return.  We sought knowledge and - more importantly - asked questions.  We were engaged in the topics, did our reading and homework, could intelligently talk about the subjects.  I got an A on a book review for an Am Lit class from a prof who had a reputation for never, ever giving anyone an A (I shredded Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises; hated the book).  The next quarter I took another class from the same prof on World Lit, ancient texts, got another A.  My adviser's eyebrows dang near hit the ceiling in surprise.  "Wow, you must be a good writer!  I've never known him to give anyone an A in all the years I've been here!  Never!"  Yet another prof gave me an A+ on a compare and contrast essay on two poems about WWI, and I saved the essay with his comments (this was before the first Iraq war, BTW, but by the last year and the Honors Seminar, the first night of class was just after the vote to invade Iraq, and the topic we chose was "media manipulation" so it ties in with deconstructing present political speeches and pundits).  I learned early on that if the syllabus said "Final: Essay" that I could probably ace the course.

    If you're a "natural student" and thoroughly enjoy learning and asking questions and doing research, you will love college as much as I did.  If I had my 'druthers, I'd do nothing but hopscotch around and attend college clear up until I die someday.  Health issues I've acquired since then would now keep me off campus - but now I have the internet and communicate with people around the world for my genealogy research, so I have yet another avenue of learning experiences.  :-)  It's all fun!

    Best wishes for your college life!  :-)

    I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

    by NonnyO on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 03:09:33 PM PDT

  •  I have a friend who is... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    murrayewv, El Sobrante, kurt

    a junior this year.  He is 67--  :-)

    He was scared to death the first week... and then he really got into it!

    I wish you a great first semester back!

    Our country can survive war, disease, and poverty... what it cannot do without is justice.

    by mommyof3 on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 04:08:13 PM PDT

  •  Don't worry... (0+ / 0-)

    its just like riding a bike. Or flying a plane. Unless you've never flown a plane...in which case it'll be more crash and burn. But I'm sure you'll be fine.

    I kid

    I was nervous when I went back too, but it all came back. Actually, wish I'd been able to go for a master's but...oh, well.

  •  Make friends with your library/library website! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsb, kurt

    OK, this could be considered a little self interested since I'm a librarian at a college.  But really and truly (imho), when you are doing college assignments and need sources, don't just google, check out the library website and the physical library.  Finding resources is soooo much easier than it was back in the days of paper only, and libraries get you to stuff that isn't out there for free.  And ask the librarians for help if you need it; we can usually get you to good sources.  Plus, if your library is anything like mine, it has a cafe and is a great place to study.  

  •  I just want to reinforce (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sue B, dsb, kurt

    what has been said upthread.  I teach at a university that has a very substantial percentage of returning students, and as a group they tend to be fantastic -- they are more focused, ask more penetrating questions, and are better able to see the big picture.  They are better at simply following the course rules and directions laid out in the course syllabus.  Sometimes I think to myself that college is wasted on the young....

    Regarding money: I agree that it is a dangerous and exploitative environment for all degree-seekers these days. As you are starting the Fall term this week, you might have passed some deadlines by, but if you do very well (say, 3.75 gpa or better) in your first term, please please investigate any internal scholarships (universities want to keep good students around) or see if you can get into any state-funded high-gpa scholarships.

    Way, way too much of the cost of college is foisted off on the students -- something directly attributable to the falling off of state support over the past couple of anti-New Deal decades.

    Last point: like Amazon reviews, reviews on RateMyProfessor.com should be read with a grain or two of salt.  However, if I were a student, I would use it, but I wouldn't treat it as gospel. Stopping by and saying hello to your professors before you sign up for their class is a VERY GOOD idea. If a professor seems scatterbrained, stressed out, or rude, then take that information seriously. At the very least, e-mail any potential professor about any old thing (the reading list, exam requirements, whatever) in order to see if he or she can respond in a timely and welcoming manner to your inquiry. Good luck.

    •  Thx (0+ / 0-)

      This is great advice.  I guess I just need to get a 3.75

      •  Actually it is more important..... (0+ / 0-)

        not to drop classes and be a finisher.  High grades are great, but getting your degree will really open the doors for you.

        Consider seeing if there is an entrepreneurs club or a business plan competition.  Some of my best students were not academic superstars because they started a company that employs them and others.  Read those bulletin boards!

        You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

        by murrayewv on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:50:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  On rate my professor.... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kurt, dsb

          if everyone thinks you are an asshole, you probably are.  Returning students should avoid assholes, because those folks undermine their confidence.  You can learn from a strict, organized asshole with high standards who is fair.  They are there to teach you, not be your friend.  So if everyone uses language like that in their reviews, struggle on with them.  But if they are arbitrary and don't follow syllabus, abuse and insult students and generally act like jerks, you should consider who get better reviews.  Some subjects are difficult, so reviews can be deceiving.  Look for fair and good communication.

          I should add, read the syllabus.  Think of it as a contract.  

          You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

          by murrayewv on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:58:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  You'll be fine. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt

    I returned to college after 20 years away. I loved it, so. You'll love it too.

    "You get out of it what you put into it," applies.

    Good luck!

    What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. SAM HARRIS

    by Cpqemp on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 08:47:08 PM PDT

  •  I took a break for 25 years or so. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt

    Nontraditional students are so much more motivated to get educated; there was a world of difference in my attitude. It was totally worth it, loans and all --just paid them all off recently -- but having some kind of job on or near campus is definitely the way to go if you can pull it off. There's bound to be a student employment center. I work in a university myself now and hire student assistants, and believe me, smart students with solid work ethics are in high demand.

    Congratulations! You're going to love the mental stimulation. There's lots of good advice above so you're off to a great start.

  •  Good luck (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, dsb

    I am also a nontraditional student finally set to graduate this fall. It's been nearly twenty years since my first semester of college.

    I pretty much wanted to echo what everyone else has already written. Speak up in class if the professor allows it. Ask questions. Go talk with your professors during their office hours. I can't tell you how many B+ got turned into A- or flat out A because I did this. I've even gotten a couple of A+ because of it.

    Out of all the classes I've taken, I've had maybe two professors who wanted nothing to do with the students. All the rest seemed to genuinely love teaching and genuinely loved their specialization. Many of them get frustrated if they are stuck with students who won't interact with them.

    One other note: in my experience, the introductory classes for a lot of fields tend to be very bland and not a good indication of whether or not you will like the field. I took intro to psych and bio, and found both of them boring, but absolutely loved intro to chemistry. Thing is, I love both biology and psychology. It was just that the two classes were massive and was nothing but me memorizing power point slides. Chemistry at least required me to be more interactive.

    When I took the biology lab, I talked with the TAs there, and they all told me that the intro bio classes are nothing like what you get later, which are way more fun. This is why going to speak with the professors becomes really important. They will usually talk about more in-depth, interesting stuff during office hours than they are willing to share in class. You will have a better understanding then if you actually like the subject or not.

    Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

    by moviemeister76 on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 04:13:07 AM PDT

  •  I too am joining the club (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gfv6800, dsb, northcountry21st

    First day back for me will be Thursday and BTW it has been 38 years - holy smoke! Bought the books, smiled for the ID and timed my travel from work to home to classroom. Met with the adviser earlier this summer and will keep up with her throughout the year. Good luck to all the other non-traditional travelers out there.

  •  The best decision I ever made (6+ / 0-)

    was to leave a soul-crushing job and go back to school. Not only did I finish what I'd started in my early 20s, but I took it even further, and I actually found my (pipe) dream job.

    At 20 I moved to this city to study music at the prestigious music school of a prestigious university. Long story short, I didn't like it. I like to say that I left (which is technically true), but in actual fact I was asked to leave. My drinking had gotten the best of me and I was in full-blown alcoholic mode, making completely irrational decisions like not showing up to classes for an entire semester.

    I got sober shortly thereafter, and got a great job through an agency that turned out to be a permanent gig. A better job came along, and I took it. By this point I was used to having a decent steady income — but I'd never finished my undergraduate degree, and one of my co-workers loved to point that out, since she had an MA. That really hurt.

    Things started going south at this company, and the layoffs began. The thing is, since it was a privately-held company, layoffs were never announced ahead of time. They would happen on Friday mornings, without notice, you'd pack up as much of your stuff as you could, and security would escort you out the door. A culture of paranoia took hold: so-and-so would claim to have inside information from a friend in another department, and would whisper that that Friday, X number of people from whichever department, and X number from another, would be laid off. Friday would come and go and nothing would happen. My group manager never found the courtesy to at least give us any sort of heads up that we were okay (or not). It got to the point that Fridays, I wouldn't pack a lunch in my backpack so it would be empty in case I got canned and needed to pack up my stuff. That's a toxic workplace.

    My husband, five years older than me, had gone back to school in the meantime, and I envied him. Finally I got the nerve to tell him what I wanted to do. I'd have to leave the salary behind, but fortunately, we live in the most socialist province of Canada. Since I have a disability (as does he), provincial student aid would give us our aid as bursaries (grants), not a combination of loans and bursaries as they do "regular" students. It would be tight, but at least neither of us would have any student loan debt. Ain't socialism great?

    I went back to school and did a BA in English literature. Thing is, I knew I wanted to get an MA, but by that point I was tired of English. But with a BA already in hand, I could do a second BA in two years. I went into sociology, where I found my passion, did my BA and then got my MA. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, and I made a new best friend (much younger than me). Having gotten hooked on U.S. politics near the end of the 2008 election campaign, I knew I had found my thesis topic. I anticipated the advent of the Tea Party, and focused my research on what I call the "Hysterical Right." My specialties became political sociology and social psychology (since I posit that right-wing "realishness" — the ontological and phenomenological analogue to the more epistemological "truthiness" — is a shared psychosocial pathology).

    Money-wise, after my husband finished a BA and a graduate diploma, and so stopped receiving student aid, things were tight, often desperate, and occasionally catastrophic. It forced me to become better with money management, but when there's just not enough coming in for what has to be paid out, we'd require intervention in the form of loans from my rather wealthy sister. She and my brother-in-law believed in me.

    I defended my Tea Party/Hysterical Right thesis at the end of April, my MA was conferred in May, convocation was in June, and meanwhile I got to take an extended vacation from eight-and-a-half years of non-stop school. I got to watch the entire Zimmerman trial, which I'd been following since it broke last year. But I had to find a job, of course, as we encountered another financial catastrophe.

    Not only did I find "a" job just in time, it was "the" job I'd always not only dreamed of, but actually envisioned myself doing. I didn't just find work in my own field, which is so often pursued in vain, but doing exactly what I wanted (and trained) to do. I'm now an applied sociologist at a progressive political non-profit. (My thesis topic actually got me a job!) I never thought I'd find this kind of work, because it doesn't come around often; but like magic, it happened — and exactly the way I knew it would.

    The Debbie Downers on all that has to do with university these days, such as useless degrees, a pitiful job market, exploitation of unpaid interns desperate for experience, mountains of student loan debt, and so on are most certainly right. But my story — however rare — demonstrates that positive outcomes are possible. Maybe it's luck, or fate, or my having done exceptional work, or a combination of these and other factors. The key, for me, was to never give up hope, never lose faith, and never let myself believe it couldn't happen.

    I know what it's like to be the "old" (well, "older" is more approrpriate) guy, being 10 to 12 years older than the undergraduates. (I eventually taught them as a TA in grad school, and they were good kids.) Theirs is a different world than mine was in my 20s, and it took me a while to realize that I wasn't their peer, even though I still felt young. But my professors always seemed to like me, and so did a lot of those kids. (Things tend to even out at the graduate level.)

    So, Non traditional student, keep a positive attitude, don't worry about the kids since you're not there to make friends and get invited to keggers, remember that professors have seen many "non traditional students" over their careers and most, I'm sure, have a great respect for them.

    Think of it this way: in general, they (presumably) love the universit environment, and are (presumably) passionate about all what academia entails. Your going back to school clearly shows that you well and truly want to be there, unlike a lot of the kids who are just going through the motions because they're "supposed to" go to college. You and your professors, then, have at least that in common; this brings you closer to them, and opens them up to you in turn. (A little social psychology, ha!)

    Listen to the advice of the good people in this thread, and I hope my story can inspire you in some way. I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your studies — but you're going to have to do some hard work as well.

    Puck

    P.S. to all: This is my first DKos post, but I've been lurking for a very long time, so I know the ins and outs of this place — so you guys won't have to suffer a clueless n00b.

    •  ...I'm glad it worked out for you... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, llywrch

      ...and I'm glad you realize you did "luck out." And apparently, since you're Canadian, you country helps you out more than ours does. Plus you were only 1/2 of a generation older that the undergrads...meaning you were still plenty "young" enough to be hired.

      One of the saddest things going on in the States is the incredibly high number of 50-somethings that lost their jobs since the Great Recession. NO body will hire them now because of their age. I personally know people who have ph.D's and can't get a job...I know people who were at the peak of the folks in their profession, but can't get a job...even though their skills are superior to 20-somethings...all because of their 50-something age.

      For many reasons, you're situation is unique...and worked for you...congratulations...

      Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.

      Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences. -7.38; -3.44

      by paradise50 on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 01:36:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  more accurately (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ladybug53

        15 years older than the undergrads. I got my MA this spring and am 41, and there's a huge gap in my employment history (TA and RA gigs aside). Yes, I was lucky, but I also worked hard to build up a stellar CV. The question was, would my CV (and academic CV) count for anything? Again, I was lucky in that I found a job posting for an academic-oriented position in my specialties. That's so incredibly rare, and I am grateful for that.

        I find the ageism in employment absolutely abhorrent, along with the trend of job listings saying "no unemployed" outright. The ageism in university is more subtle, but it's there. My main goal here is to offer my experience and support to the diarist.

  •  I just went back to school too (0+ / 0-)

    Based on when you started college the first time, you are only a couple of years older than me. I have an undergrad and a Masters degree, then got a corporate job in a field that paid the bills, but didn't excite me. Then I got sick and everyone, except my husband turned their back on me. I hid from the world for years.

    There's a second masters degree I want, but it requires a lot a of science that I don't have, so I'm at a community college with a bunch of 18 and 19 year olds getting prereqs. My experience has been mostly positive.

    I dipped my toe in, starting with an online class, not only did I need to get used to studying again, I needed to get used to being out among people again. (I had a few false starts to taking classes in person, but that involved health issues.)

    This past summer I took Biology. The lecturer was fantastic. But I'll still never take another summer science class, it's just too much information for me to take in that fast, but I still made it through.

    The other students were mostly nice to me, even though I'm clearly not of their age group. They get nicer when they realize you have great notes and do well on tests too.

    One of the hard parts for me is trying not to mother/help these kids not make the same mistakes I made when I was their age. So I really just kick my filter into overdrive and keep my mouth shut. I wouldn't have listened to me at their age either. :)

    I'm a significantly better student now than I was 20 years ago. And when I start worry that I can't keep up or start stressing, I just keep telling myself that I'm just going to show up and do the work and see what happens.

  •  Welcome back and not all us (0+ / 0-)

    Millennials are ageist. I say 'us' kind of sparingly as I'm on the border year and Pew tells me I'm Gen X.

    The culture shock is normal, but it will pass.

    The library will be much different than you remember. We're still there to help, so come say hello and we'll get you started!

    Everybody here comes from somewhere / That they would just as soon forget and disguise.

    by CayceP on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 06:37:49 AM PDT

  •  I too went back after years away (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llywrch

    I ended up with a second masters degree, 27 years after getting my first one. I've done some stints as a Teaching Assistant and I learned quite a bit from that process as well.

    There were a small group of experienced students that got together to study, I learned later that we were known as "the group that actually did the work". There was an amazing amount of sharing and copying of answers among other students, unfortunately there is a reason for the increased need for electronic plagiarism checkers. Homework is there for a reason, to help you learn :-).

    Anyway, doing the reading & homework on a timely basis and actually attending class (I always figured I was paying for classtime, of course I would attend!), will prepare you for the exams and ensure your questions in class are appropriate. Your teachers will definitely enjoy having you in their classes.

    Enjoy and good luck!

  •  My son went back to school in early August (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Maudlin

    He will be 50 years old in January, and it was pretty scary for him too. But, the one thing that he, and I suspect you, has going for him is that when he was in school before, he learned things. He wasn't being taught to take tests; he was being taught the subject.

    He took his first exam recently and made 92 out of 100. Although there were a couple of 100's, the vast majority of the class scored lower than he did.

    I went back to school at 33, and found that life experience is a good thing to have. It gives you a leg up on lots of other people.

    So, good luck, but don't let the fact that you have been out of the classroom for a while scare you. It is likely to be to your advantage.

    It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. Mark Twain

    by lynneinfla on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 11:08:09 AM PDT

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