Theresa Greenshields The Signal
Whenever I step foot into a classroom, I can hear the echoing voices of my parents telling me that if I didn’t go to college right out of high school and stick with it, I was likely to never finish my education. The likelihood of my parents’ warning may be a statistical fact, but I am living proof that it can be done.
Even though I am confident that I can conquer this task, I still strongly recommend going to college when you are young and have a fresh mind. To paraphrase a quote from a favorite movie from my teen years, “Fear,” a father explains to his daughter that “It just takes longer to sort through 33 years of data than it does 18.’”
When I graduated with my associate’s degree I was excited that I was finally moving on to an upper-level university. I assumed all the rumors about the large amount of older students at UHCL were true, so as I sat outside my first class on campus, I conversed with a guy I assumed to be a student who looked about my age.
The fact that he looked surprisingly similar to a handsome character from one of my favorite TV shows didn’t hurt my desire to talk to him. Imagine my surprise when I took my seat and the gentleman in question didn’t follow my lead but instead took his place at the head of the class and introduced himself as the professor.
One problem I didn’t expect when I returned to college was the enormous amount of studying necessary to be successful. When I was in high school I was one of the students that my classmates loved to hate. I rarely had to study and seemed to get straight A’s, which made my social life my main priority.
Boy, was I in for a rude awakening! After my first year at college, a social life was something that was a distant memory. The link to my old life were the weekly phone calls I received from my best friend. She was the human version of Twitter, keeping me up to date on all the gossip in our circle of friends. On the rare occasion I was able to attend a social gathering or party, I was usually too distracted by exams to fully enjoy myself.
Studying did not just take away from my social life. It also tested my memory skills, which I had apparently lost in the 15 years between high school and college. Sadly, even after days of going over flashcards at home, all the information seemed to trickle out my ear during the short trip to UHCL to take an exam.
In the last part of the quote from “Fear” I mentioned earlier, the young girl responds to her father’s unexpected statement with, “maybe you should consider upgrading to a faster chip.” If this were possible, I guarantee I would be the first in line for that chip. Then maybe I would lose the test anxiety I’ve developed and finally be able to have a little more of a social life.
I realize now that I have painted a grim picture of life as an older college student. Don’t lose heart; there are some perks. For instance, I was no longer required to put down my parents income when I applied for financial aid, which made it all that much easier to get the help I needed to pay for school. Also, being closer in age to professors can be a good thing. I am able to talk with them as an equal MOST of the time.
On a more personal note, there is one reason I am happy I made these life choices in regard to my education. I will be receiving my diploma from UHCL at the same age my mother did 34 years ago. When she received her degree she was 8 months pregnant with an adorable blue-eyed, blonde baby girl. This is the same girl now working on her college newspaper passing on her knowledge to others. Even though my mom won’t be there to see it, I will carry a picture of her in her cap and gown looking as happy as I will be that I am FINALLY getting my degree.
Now the real challenge is whether I decide to torture myself and go for a graduate degree!