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Thoughts from a non-traditional student

It's the end of the school year for many of us.  My kids are thrilled about this and keep telling me that they're so excited to have the summer off...they don't yet realize that we'll have a new family chore chart and lessons on being a "contributor" to the family!

For me, the end of the school year is also exciting.  It is also the end of my first year back to school for a new degree in Cyber Operations, a degree that is almost the complete opposite of my other degree in Communication and Advertising.  It also was exciting to realize that you really can start learning something new at any age, no matter how long it's been since your last time in school.  With this in mind, I thought I'd do a recap of some thoughts I had during my nontraditional year.
  1. Going back to school is scary.  There's new technology. Not every teacher uses a textbook. You're *often* older than the teachers. There's no easy way to balance school-work-family life. You've been through it all before but, at the same time, you haven't.
  2. A lot has changed. Not only the new technology to be learned, but subjects are different - updated - with new research and trends.  Communicating with teachers and other students is different.  Research paper requirements are different - and Word can now help you format them (and your works cited/bibliography information!).  It's also apparently very 1990s to include two spaces after a period... have they realized the '90s are coming back in style? 
    Maybe the two spaces should come back, instead of the '90s fashion?
  3. Sometimes you learn that the subject you thought you hated isn't so bad.  You just didn't have a teacher who made that subject come alive.  THANK YOU to these teachers who are excited about the subjects they teach.
  4. For those 100 and 200 level classes, you sometimes have to realize that they are 100 and 200 level classes.  As a nontraditional student, the expectation imposed on yourself and your quality most likely isn't the same as that of a 19 or 20 year old.  Be ok with that and don't stress out when something isn't perfect.
  5. Recognize that you're working with students who are also working to balance their own school-work-family responsibilities.  Not everyone can commit the same amount of time/energy/resources to a group project (just as with real life).  Learning to work together as a group is often more important than the grade you receive on the project.  Also, communicating to the group the needs you have to balance your own responsibilities is imperative so that they understand what you can and cannot do.
  6. Don't be afraid to ask questions.  Yes, no one wants to be "that" student, but not asking the questions leads to not knowing the answers.  Don't be afraid to be "that" student if it means you'll be successful.
  7. However, don't be "that" student just to be "that" student.
  8. Figure out what you need to balance your responsibilities outside of school.  And, COMMUNICATE these needs to your family and co-workers.  Most of the time they will be there to support you and make you a successful student, parent/family member, and colleague.  It's all a part of being on the same team.
  9. Learn the way you need to learn.  Just because everything is online now doesn't mean you have to only do things online.  If you need to write things down in a notebook or print out all those worksheets, then do it.  I also bought groups of legal pads and notecards to use as scrap paper and to organize thoughts for research papers/projects.
  10. Don't forget to enjoy the experience.  Learning is fun.  Enjoy the process.

Ok, so maybe that communications degree did come in handy over the past year.  I hope all of you other nontraditional students had a great year.


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