What I Learned From Being a Non-traditional Student!

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(Me in my dorky looking graduation cap after receiving my diploma.)

Saturday, May 2, I graduated summa cum laude with an associate of science degree in Early Childhood Education. My degree took three years to complete, but the journey was a valuable process I will never forget.

When I graduated from high school, I went to college the following August and attended for three semesters, but turmoil and financial setbacks in my personal life prevented me from obtaining my degree. In the meantime, I married a sexy Marine, had two boys, and worked at raising my family. I wanted to finish my college education at some point.

That God-given opportunity occurred in 2006 when I attended a training for my profession and learned an in-state university was offering an early childhood education program. Graduates could earn their A.S. in ECE in four years since it was a part-time program. I was accepted into the program and enrolled in the Fall 2006 semester. Many of my credits from my previous college experience transferred, so I completed the program in less time.

Here’s what I learned from being a non-traditional student:

1. God opens doors. My return to college was definitely a God thing. He provided the finances, the study time, my cries for wisdom when assignments seemed too difficult, and friends and family who supported and encouraged me.

2. Family support is essential. Without my family’s support, albeit somewhat grudgingly at times, I would not have been able to obtain my degree. After working all day, making dinner was one of my least favorite tasks. Many times my family stepped in to help with dinner, the laundry, and other household chores when I needed to take a test or finish an assignment.

3. Study buddies are essential. I could not have gotten through my classes without the support of my friends. One of my very good friends enrolled when I did, so we had many of the same classes. We were able to work together on projects from time to time, but we were able to help each other out when one of us didn’t understand something. I had colleagues who encouraged and cheered me on. I had online friends who listened to me whine while I did homework.

4. Online classes are the way to go. Prior to returning back to school, I had no experience with taking online classes, so I wasn’t sure how that would work out. I gotta tell ya–it rocked! I loved the ability to do homework and participate in class discussions in my pajamas. I worked around my schedule and spent a couple of hours each evening doing homework. If I didn’t feel like doing homework that night, I didn’t. On campus, you’re committed to a set schedule of classes. My exams and assignments were due by a specific date, and I always turned them in on time.

If you’re considering going back for your degree, I encourage you to check out local universities and see if they have online programs. There’s a certain thrill in hearing your name being announced and walking across the stage to receive your diploma. I worked full-time, raised a family, and wrote the rough draft of two novels while working toward my degree. I’m looking forward to using study/homework time with writing time now!

Woo hooo!! I’m done! I’m done! I’m done!

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