Old Dogs, New Tricks

A blog for non-traditional students

Making It Work

Recently on the non-traditional student email list I belong to, some of my fellow non-trads were discussing how best to financially support themselves while attending college full time.  The conversation was started when Loren joined the list and asked for advice on how to support herself and balance a work/school schedule successfully.  While there were only a couple of answers on the list, I did a little poking around on the net and found some additional suggestions.

Another list member, Rane, is currently in a similar situation to myself – living with her parents, which is a valid option for very few of us non-trads.  Not everyone has parents who are happy to support them as they return to college.  Even Rane is facing the end of such support when she transfers schools shortly.   To help make living on her own easier, she takes at least one of her classes online each semester and works on-campus part-time to make ends meet.  She does caution that it can affect the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on the FAFSA, which can lessen the amount of financial aid available.  In response to Loren’s underlying concern, the amount of debt she’d have to incur to complete a degree, Rane explained:

“College is an investment. You are young enough that by the time you finish school you will still have 20 – 30 years of career left in you. Just make sure you do something you will love. The only time I think people should worry about the cost is when they are going into saturated markets like early childhood education.”

Edward, another non-trad list member, suggested scheduling classes on the same days – like all on Tuesdays and Thursdays – so that you have a more set schedule and can offer your employer a better idea of your availability.  While you’re talking to your employer about adjusting your work schedule to accomodate your classes, it wouldn’t hurt to check on whether or not the company offers any sort of tuition reimbursement.  The last suggestion Edward offered may seem obvious, but it bears repeating:

 “Every little bit helps as far as saving money. I cut my grocery budget by 1/3, 90% of my eating out, and started brewing my own coffee in the morning.”

As far as balancing work and school, a number of websites offer good advice.  Over at The Digerati Life (check out the link for more tips), guest blogger Studenomist had a lot of good suggestions, including prioritizing your activities – meaning that you should concentrate on your school work, making it the first priority, particularly during exam weeks and when you have big projects that require a lot of time.  Over at E-How.com – a site I am beginning to love – most of their balancing tips seem more geared towards traditional students but one excellent piece of advice is that you should take your homework to your job and work on it during breaks and lunches. 

Steve Thompson, in a piece on Associated Content, had lots of good advice to offer.  He pointed out that class choice can make a huge difference in balancing your schedule – try not to take all of the more difficult courses at once.  For those non-trads who are returning to school after a long break, he suggests that transferring credits may make the degree process quicker and easier by eliminating extra classes that could burden your already stretched-to-the-limit schedule.

One of the things that everyone overlooked is that it’s vital to develop friendships with your classmates, both traditional and your fellow “old farts.”  The logical benefit of such relationships is that you can get notes when you miss class or have someone to study with.  But it’s more than just class help that a little camaraderie offers – just having someone to vent to about the insanity of college professors, the cruel twists of fate that give you three major projects and two exams all in one week or simply the trouble finding a decent parking spot can make surviving the college experience a real possibility.

Hope this helps anyone thinking about returning to school and those of us who are already back in the mix.

*** Danielle


March 11, 2009 Posted by | Maturity, Student Life | 1 Comment

Preparing a Non-traditional Resume

Alright, the end of the quarter is coming and that means I’m down to a measly three months to put together a kick-ass resume and find a job.  Of course I’m in a total state of panic.  So I’ve been surfing around looking for tips on resume building – I found this video and I’ll be adding to this post as I find more useful tidbits.  I already applied this tip to my own resume – it certainly helped shorten the resume.

*** Danielle

March 11, 2009 Posted by | Generation Gap, Job Search, Maturity | 3 Comments