Go back to school, they said.
It will be fun, they said.
You can do it, they said.
As a 39-year-old, single mom of two teenage girls and a full-time worker at a medical clinic, I was terrified to say the least. Terrified but determined. There are numerous women in this world who never get the chance to even learn to read. Knowledge is power and I couldn’t pass up the chance to finish the art associates degree I started over 20 years ago. Thank you financial aid!
In Winter term 2016, I started at Clark College as a part-time, online-only student. I worked full-time and, as a single parent, I was only able to take one class each quarter. So that’s what I did; slowly grinding away at what was left of my required classes. The flexibility of online classes worked well with the exception of about a hundred sleepless nights spent trying to remember how to do algebra and writing essays with correct grammar.
Flash forward about two years and I found myself facing a huge decision. I lost my job of 12 years in March 2018, the day before spring registration.
I had a choice to make.
Do I find a new full-time job and continue as I have been, one class a quarter for the rest of forever? Or do I just dive in, living off of savings and unemployment and busting out the rest of my classes as quickly as I can?
The registration clock was ticking.
I chose to go to school full-time and thus my new journey began. My mind was being flooded with anxiety about school supplies, books, finding my classrooms and, of course, being the oldest student in every class. Before my first day as a full-time, on-campus student, I had never been out of Gaiser Hall. I only knew where the bookstore, financial aid and advising were.
My mom, who has never been a Clark student, informed me that we have an awesome cafeteria and culinary program. Note to self: always look around the corner because you never know what you might find.
I am usually the oldest student in my classes, which can be awkward, but I’ve learned quickly to partner up with younger students right out of high school because they are an invaluable resource. For example, with only eight weeks to pass chemistry during Summer quarter, finding a lab partner who was right out of high school was one of my better decisions. He remembered the periodic table since he had just learned it, as opposed to my leftover knowledge of it from 1993. Like I said; invaluable.
I’ve learned that our mothers still have an abundance of school supplies and backpacks regardless of your age, so you should always check with them first before buying anything. I’m graduating in less than a month, yet my mom just dropped off six packages of college ruled notebook paper and three pencil pouches for school.
I’ve learned that parking at Clark can be extremely challenging and almost more difficult than putting together a dresser from IKEA.
We have a student government, numerous clubs, spirit week, international days, study abroad programs and so many more resources available. In most cases, assistance is available immediately.
Did someone say free food and family movie nights?
For me, the Career Center and Advising have offered the most help. Because I held the same job for so long it never occurred to me that I had no idea how to write a cover letter. Cue the career center. They spent an hour with me showing me the basics and helping me write one.
As hard as getting back into the groove of being a full-time student has been for me these past three quarters, I wouldn’t change my decision at all. I have learned more being on campus, beyond what my instructors have taught me. I have made friends, found a student job and attended numerous free workshops to help me with the next chapter of my life.
Most importantly, I have shown my two high schoolers that no matter what your age, you are never too old to make a change and go back to school. As long as you have the willpower and dedication to stick with it.