Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Should You Go Back to School? Part One

Notice the title of this post is a question. That's because the answer isn't always yes. The fact is, going back to school as an adult -- defined here as anyone 30 or older -- isn't for everybody.

Is going back to college for you?

That's a question only you can answer. However, perhaps I can provide some guidance by relating my own experiences. To do that, I need to go back to my first try at college.

Like many people, I went to college right out of high school. I lasted two years at the University of Florida as an English major, with a focus on Creative Writing. Among other reasons, I wasn't all that interested in school or in getting a degree.

Why I dropped out of college the first time.

All I wanted to do was write fiction. It was my all-consuming passion. My dream. I dropped out to pursue a "career" as a creative writer while working odd jobs.

I wanted to be a famous writer, like this guy.

(Ernest Hemingway at Finca Vigia, Cuba. By Unknown or not provided
 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) 
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I pursued my dream, but dreams don't always come true.

As it happened, I was unable to make a living as a fiction writer. Those odd jobs eventually turned into full-time positions at small technology companies. Over time, I used my writing skills to make forays into marketing and sales.

I decided to go back to college in my early thirties while working for a software company in metro Atlanta. This was the late 1990s and the dot-com boom was just getting underway. Programmers acquired the mystique of rock stars. I thought maybe I could become a rock star -- I mean, a programmer -- myself.

This image shows the stock market during the dot-com boom and bust.

(By Lalala666 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons)

I decided to go back to school.

I took courses in Visual Basic at Gwinnett Technical College. I quickly realized that I didn't like writing programs, even though I got straight A's. But I did like being in school.

I decided to transfer to the local community college, Georgia Perimeter College (GPC), which has campuses all around metro Atlanta. I decided to go part-time and focus on math. This was, in part, because I had suffered from severe math anxiety at UF, which was one of the reasons why I had dropped out. I  wanted to see if I could get past it.

After getting straight A's through Trigonometry, I tackled Calculus I. I got a C in the class. 

Yes, I could have done better, but I was happy with that grade. It was my only C. I continued to take classes at GPC part-time. Sometimes I took only one class in a whole year. Sometimes I had a full schedule of classes.

I knew I had to make a decision about a major.

This went on for more than ten years. I wasn't getting younger, either. And I still didn't know what degree I wanted. 

But I really wanted a degree. It was just taking me longer than most to answer the question: A degree in what?

More on that next time, in Should You Go Back to School? Part Two.

In the meantime, you can read an article that I wrote, called 5 Reasons to Go Back to College After 50.

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