Returning to school later in life can be a very nerve-wracking experience, but its well worth it. One of the biggest worries I had about returning was the age difference of me and a majority of the other students. Within the first couple of weeks of school I found out that I was more focused on my age than anyone else was. If anything, age was an advantage. I found that students tended to be more respectful and listened to my ideas more. I don't think my ideas were any better than other peoples, but because I was older I was suddenly wiser. Now I wish I could just get them to stop calling me “ma'am”.
Another challenge or worry I faced was trying to balance family, school and work. It has not been an easy task, but I've managed. One thing that has helped is trying to get my kids involved in helping me study, its one way we've managed to spend time together. The kids have enjoyed it, and believe it or not, have learned a little something. When studying for tests I tend to use a lot of flashcards, my kids LOVE to test me with the cards. I've also tried to cut out special one-on-one time for my kids. I figure quality is better than quantity for now. My husband has also tried to help more around the house. Though he does things different than I, I've had to learn to let some things go. As long as all the dishes he tries to cram into the dishwasher come out clean, I have to let it go and let him do it his way.
I think my semester has been successful because of my family and their support. They've helped pick up slack around the house and with the kids so that I've had more time to study and complete projects. My in-laws, parents and siblings have all been a big help. I tend to doubt myself a lot and they are good about reminding me that I'm capable of a lot of things and just have to believe in myself. I've done a lot of things this semester that I didn't think I was capable of; including doing a presentation without freaking out and panicking, learning statistics (and even understanding some of it), writing a couple of research papers in APA format and staying sane and continuing to smile despite the crazy schedule.
Most of my professors have been wonderful and very helpful this semester. They've gone out of their way to help me. My Educational Statistics professor, Prof. Mark Schroeder, went out of his way to help me better understand concepts he was teaching in class. I can't tell you how many emails I sent the poor guy, he always responded and was willing to go the extra step to help me understand something.
Lynn Smith was also a huge help, especially when it came to bouncing ideas off of her. Sometimes you just need a reality check, and she's willing to give it to you. If I'm not sure how to proceed with something I know I can just shoot Lynn an email and she'll have the answer. If she doesn't have the answer, she'll help me find it.
Some important things to know when you first come to campus:
- Find a nice quiet study spot. The second or third floor student study lounges in Hyland Hall and/or the first or third floor of the library are good locations.
- Parking can be difficult sometimes. If you're commuting, plan on getting to campus earlier rather than later.
- Put purple points on your Hawkcard. It comes in handy when you need to make copies, need to get a drink or snack, or just don't want to carry around cash all the time. Know which places in town take purple points; you can use it at some great places throughout Whitewater.
- Don't be afraid to ask your professors questions. They want you to succeed and are often willing to go above and beyond to help you.