For the "mature student"
If you are attending college or university after a lapse
of several years, take heart! I did it, and I survived.
Being older than your fellow students can offer advantages,
but also pose stresses and challenges You may call yourself
a "mature" student, although most of the time you
won't feel very mature.
The more neutral term is "non-traditional" or "returning"
student. Whatever you call yourself (or let others call you),
your moods will range from exhilarated to frustrated.
You may feel like running away and never coming back...to
the planet. If you really believe you are taking a crucial
step to career freedom, you'll be glad you did. Later. Much
(1) To get in the right spirit, check out a wonderful book,
The Girls with the Grandmother Faces. The author entered a
college program in her fifties after she was widowed and after
she completed an alcohol rehab program. The best line: After
her children warn her against over-involvement in extracurricular
activities, she promises not to run for prom queen.
(2) Don't expect every professor to be an advisor or mentor.
Your boss might have up to twenty direct reports but your
professor might see two or three hundred students a term.
Build relationships by doing the assigned work before you
attempt more personal interaction.
(3) Need money? If you have a solid employment history, consider
applying for a full-time job at the college. Often you receive
tuition waivers and time to take class during the workday.
(4) Frustrated with life on campus? The best way to get revenge
is to remind the powers-that-be that you will soon be an alum,
and colleges like to ask alums for money. When they do, you
can vent your feelings about parking, crowded classes, and
(5) Being a student is not an idyllic interlude. If you're
taking courses for credit, expect to be busy and pressured.
Courses don't have sick days or parental leave. If you have
a lot of personal and job responsibilities, cut back on your
course load or take a distance education course.
(6) Need a deadline extension because of special circumstances?
Your request may be perfectly reasonable but your professor
has to think about what is fair to everyone -- and the appearance
of fairness as well as the reality. She also hears a lot of
hard luck stories.
(7) If you really want to alienate your professor, call her
up and say, "I had to miss class yesterday. Did you do
anything?" Make friends with other students in your classes.
If you have to miss a class, call your friends to get notes.
Form a study group for your most challenging classes.
(8) If your professor invites questions or comments, offer
yours. When you ask for a recommendation or make a special
request, you wont' be a stranger. But don't monopolize the
floor. Forcing the professor to say, "Let's hear from
someone in the back row," does not earn you points.
(9) Build your own support system. One student chose living
space as support: "I may be a student but I have a grown-up
apartment." Another kept in touch with friends from the
"real world" who supported her. Sometimes you want
to be with people who share your age and life experiences.
(10) While you're in a pressure cooker, your judgments may
be biased. These days your professors will be affected by
your course evaluations.
If someone touches your life while you are studying, don't
send a card, letter or gift to the professor. Write glowing
comments and circle high numbers on your course evaluations.
Write a nice letter to the dean or even the president of the
university. And if, after graduation, you realize that a course
was more valuable than you anticipated, take a moment to thank
the professor and the university. You'll make someone's day
and inspire her for future teaching.
|Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and
speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast
move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com
or call 505-534-4294.