Published on 2013/04/10
The Role Adult Students Play on Campus
Participating in extracurricular activities can be the key to applying the knowledge being learned in the classroom and can provide adult students with access to opportunities to find out what truly stokes their passion.

At first I didn’t know where to begin, telling my story, but those before me have said, “Start at the beginning.” So I will.

I was unhappy with my career and the lack of support or training from the company I was working for. I decided to make a big life change … of course, saying I put lots of thought into a big decision to go back to school would be a lie. I knew in my gut it was the right decision and made it in about 20 seconds. I was enrolled in college within the month. I stepped down at work, gave up full-time pay, moved home and swallowed some pride about going back as a mature student. I turned 30 my freshman year. My first year in marketing was uneventful; I worked a lot and made sure to maintain a high GPA to get into the cooperative class. This is where the true education began. The cooperative class was highly competitive, each of us pushing each other to earn a better grade, a better assignment and to be better overall. The competitiveness made me a superior student and, surprisingly, I made lifelong friends. Being the oldest in the class, the professors looked to me to help reel in the class when they were getting to be too much, or just to set an example. I enjoyed the role as I was able to also build great relationships with the instructors and they trusted me and my opinions.

I enjoyed the contest to be the best in the class but I wanted more out of my education. At the end of my first year, a student came into my marketing class and introduced us to the marketing competition team. I made the team and competed in two events in my first year on the team. I competed on a two-person team in the categories of retail marketing, in which we won silver, and international marketing, in which we won gold. The level the instructors lead us to and their level of dedication made me that much more committed to putting in 100-percent effort to the task. I was on the team for another two years competing in another three events. Because of my experience of being on the team for three years, I was asked to be a part of a three-member team for a national competition at Vanier College in Montreal. I can honestly say we were not prepared to present in front of a crowd of 120 of our peers, but I tried to make the best of it. I had nothing to lose! I made some jokes and got a laugh and was complimented by more than one of the coaches and judges on my ability to think on my feet. Even without placing in the top three, it was a great learning experience and worth the stories we got out of it.

Whether being an individual competitor or part of the team, being on the marketing team was fun; it sharpened my public speaking skills and I built great relationships with the professors and fellow students and gained confidence in my marketing abilities. My extracurricular involvement didn’t end there. I had built a great friendship with one of my teachers who was my coach my first year on the marketing team. She saw the initiative I took with my classmates, getting lunch time intermural teams together and arranging study groups for the classes. She saw my leadership abilities and asked if I wanted to be a part of the school’s business council. Wanting to give back to the school that had given me so much, and desiring to work with a beloved teacher, I agreed. After a year on the council I realized I loved the “political life” and was voted in as president. We ran different business networking events and even partnered with Scotiabank to raise money for the Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital. We participated in the annual “Bank Bed Challenge Race” where we raced old hospital beds down Toronto’s Lakeshore Road. We also ran an activity day for the students that included throwing pies in the faces of many of our favourite teachers. The money raised also went towards the Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital. I think the students gained more satisfaction from throwing pies at the teachers they felt they had personal vendettas against. It was all in good fun and we raised a lot of money for a great cause. I gained a lot of satisfaction by raising money, bringing the business students together and utilizing my business council.

With all of this activity — the marketing team, the Vanier competition, intermural teams and the business council — I still maintained my GPA, worked part time and volunteered. It sounds busy, but I was able to build relationships with teachers I still keep in touch with and I made friends with teammates I talk to daily. My experience with college as a mature student was amazing because I participated. I made the effort to be a part of the community, to contribute to it, to help mould it. I graduated from school with honours, a great resume and awesome experiences I will remember forever. I also gained some of my best friends and built relationships with the best mentors. College could have been just an experience. I made sure it was an amazing one.

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Readers Comments

Anthony Day 2013/04/10 at 7:29 am

It’s great that this writer was able to get so involved in her program, both academically and outside of the classroom. I agree that it is important to be an active participant in your school, but I can also think of barriers to that participation. For example, she doesn’t say, but this article didn’t give me the sense that she has kids, which might have made it more difficult for her to participate in so many extracurricular activities. Institutions could be doing more to support student-parents, not only in their studies but also in their activities outside the classroom.

Kristine Harris 2013/04/10 at 2:33 pm

This article highlights the importance of taking the initiative to get involved in your school in order to enhance your experience. I, too, was a mature student and have to admit that I struggled with feelings of isolation and inadequacy my first two years of my undergraduate program, which prevented me from participating in extracurricular activities. (Of course, my non-participation only enhanced those feelings.) It was only in my third year, when I was ‘forced’ by a caring professor to represent my school in a competition, that I realized what I had been missing. Extracurricular activities are an incredible way to build up your skill sets and confidence, and develop closer bonds with your peers. I highly encourage everyone to get involved, like this article says.

Erika 2013/04/17 at 9:09 am

I am the author and no, I don’t have kids. A majority of the activities where during school time and flexible with my school and work schedule. I am also the kind of person who relaxes through activity so it being so full was good for me. It doesn’t work for most people though! Good point about the children, schools should have a parent support system in place to increase participation. I actually think my school has a daycare on site which did help some students go back to school full time. Supporting all mature students in any situation is important to get participation and a different perspectives in all activities. Whether we decide on our own to participate or are introduce by professors, it is helpful for a more enjoyable experience.

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