First Things FirstDavid Smith | Graduate, Oglethorpe University
I remember the old saying about the West “come prepared or not at all.” I thought I was ready, so I left my southern city and headed for the mountains of the far West. Every day, I would wake up to the sunshine and delight of coastal living. It was like any normal day for me, the year was 2008 and I had been hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains when it occurred to me, that it was time for a change. As I made my way back down to reality and life, I made a decision to go back to school. I had no idea as to what that looked like for me but I knew that if I did not get off the track I was on, I would never meet me.
We as humans are creatures of habit. We take the same route to work or go to the same coffee shop each day or we eat the same kind of lunch during the week. The track we are on is safe and familiar but getting off of it causes us to become fearful and doubtful; initially.
Like so many of you reading this article, going back to school is a daunting idea and a challenge to say the least. Whether it is your first time in a college class room or a return after being away for some time, going to college is no easy task. Let me give you some solace, you are not alone. According to the Department of Education adult learners make up over 25% of all college students and the number is growing. Adults retention is at an all time high as well, we unlike traditional students complete our degrees and go on to graduate schools, law school and medical schools. Adults are passionate about their dreams and aspirations.
However before we get to cross the stage and hear our names called at commencement, we have to consider so much before taking that leap. The road to graduation has changed over the years. We live in a time where you can complete your degree without leaving your living room or you can be in one city and attend a college in another state. In other words, the traditional ways of getting a degree has changed and the options are plentiful.
I knew going back school would be a tough but where should I go and what do I want to study were some of the things I had to consider. One of the difficult decisions to navigate was deciding how I would learn and what my learning style as a student was. I’m sure most of you were educated in the classroom with a teacher, a chalk board and wooden desks. Those kinds of classrooms are still available but there are other learning options like online or distance learning as well. So, think about how you learn; do you need to be in a live interactive classroom or are you okay with being taught online with very little interaction with your peers or the instructor. These are just some of the important things to think about before you decide which school or program to attend. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- How do I learn the best?
- Do I need a traditional style education?
- Can I manage an online education?
- Do they offer flexible hours like nights or weekends?
- How many days a week would I be attending?
- Is it an “adult program” or is it just evening classes?
As you can see, it is going to take some introspection on your part but it can be achieved. I would suggest you take the time to think about these very important steps and allow yourself time to get clear as to what you really would like to experience.
If, you are wondering what choices, I made, I took the traditional route in an accelerated adult program. The journey to graduation was fun but tough and well worth the hard work.