Old Dogs, New Tricks

A blog for non-traditional students

Moving On :(

Well, since I’m no longer officially a non-traditional student, I am looking forward to new things but that means I will be leaving the old behind. Among the many things I will not miss like homework, exams and obnoxious traditional classmates, I am sort of sad to wrap up this blog. Given the complete lack of attention I gave it in my final quarter, I already felt guilty for letting down my readers – now that I’m officially pulling the plug, I really feel like a heel. However, I will be leaving this up for future use, and if someone comes up with a question for me, I’ll do my best to respond promptly and privately. I will be starting a new blog that will be much less targeted but much more post-graduate in theme and content.

Just to cheer up anyone who will really miss me – I’m on Facebook and Twitter and try to update them a couple of times a week. I can usually squeeze a sentence or two out every couple of days ūüôā

Once I have new digs (a new blog that is) set up, I will return to edit this post and add the link. For all the people contemplating returning to college as an “old fart,” I wish you lots of luck, patience and perserverance!!

*** Danielle

Check out the link – I’m up and running!!!

July 3, 2009 Posted by | Maturity, Student Life | 1 Comment

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 Рmeaning 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 Рa site I am beginning to love Рmost 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 Рtry 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

Motherhood Strikes Again

I’m just going to say this upfront – I am so frustrated right now that I’ve contemplated just dropping out for the quarter.¬† With that being said, let me set the stage for what’s set me off tonight.

Thursday, as I was leaving a conference about this very blog, my phone rang.¬† I thought it was my mother calling again to let me know that the bus she had said was late (fifteen minutes earlier) had¬†finally¬†delivered my rambunctious little boy.¬† If only things had gone so smoothly.¬†¬†The call was about my son but it wasn’t my mother – it was the principal at my son’s school.¬†¬†He sort of beat around the bush, sending my blood pressure skyrocketing, as he explained that the school had called the bus back – because three kids had¬†seen my son holding a little tiny screwdriver right before he was called to his bus.¬† When the teacher asked him about it,¬†my boy – in his¬†anxiety to get to the bus before the¬†other kids did and kept him from getting a seat – lied and said he didn’t have it, then ran out the door.¬†¬†She overreacted, or just explained the situation poorly to the¬†teacher monitoring the exit to the busses, because he called the principal and said that my son needed to be pulled off the bus because he¬†had a – wait for it – weapon.¬†

At this point I’m on the verge of screaming, “Where is my son?!¬† What did you knuckleheads do to him?!”¬† I understand that people tend to freak out when kids bring potentially dangerous stuff to school these days, but what was really going on here was a little bit of profiling – my son is smart-off-the-charts and¬†not the most socially successful little guy.¬† I admit it, he’s a little bit of a nerd, and definitely bully-bait.¬† But the administration took that, combined with his furtive behavior, and assumed that there was loose cannon on their bus.¬† The end result of all this, that the principal finally got to after¬†ten minutes of blithering, is that my son is suspended for three days.¬† By the way, for those keeping score, this happened the day after I found out about my apparent-ex having gotten married.

So cut to Friday evening – I’m submitting a paper for one of my Monday evening classes, and added a note asking for permission to bring my son with me, since I don’t have childcare available in time for me to get to school.¬† In the three years I’ve been at UC, every quarter I have had to bring my son with me at least once.¬† I always check with my professors before I bring him, even if it’s a quick email dropped that morning when he turns up sick and unable to go to his own school.¬† In the three years I have been here, I have never had a professor say no –¬†on one occasion, I had to bring him along when we had an¬†exam scheduled; the professor, who was also a parent, said that as long as my son could sit with the¬†TA at the back of the lecture hall, it was fine.¬† Contrary to what my son’s school thinks, he’s a remarkably well-behaved little boy, as my classmates who know him will attest to.¬†¬†

Imagine my surprise – or¬†boiling irritation – when¬†my professor responded and said that since it’s¬†not the department’s responsibility to provide childcare and that the lounges are for student use only, I have to¬†make other arrangements for childcare.¬† He¬†oh-so-kindly suggested that if I couldn’t find a friend or family member to watch him, then I should check with the UC Women’s Services to see if they could help.¬† If I weren’t a responsible student, I would happily skip class Monday and badmouth the professor by name all over campus – but I’m scrambling to figure out¬†what to do with my son and kindly leaving the entire episode anonymous.¬†

The irritation here is two-fold.¬† The obvious part is the completely senseless response of the professor – I¬†mentioned that my son is 11 years old, so it’s¬†not likely that he’ll run around like a toddler and disrupt other classes.¬† But fine, it’s his right to refuse – this is why I always ask ahead of time.¬† What really chaps my hide (I just love that turn of phrase) is that UC offers nothing to help¬†student parents in these types of situations.¬† There is no emergency child care, and the child care that is¬†directly associated with the university a) is expensive, b)¬†has a waiting list¬†and c) is only for preschoolers and younger.¬† Forget about the fact that it’s located closer to University and Children’s Hospitals than west campus.

So, here’s a lovely example of being a non-traditional student biting me in the … well, you know.¬† I’ve got to go corral my little pseudo-felon into bed.

*** Danielle

February 28, 2009 Posted by | Generation Gap, Maturity, Student Life, University Policies | 1 Comment

Working Vacation

I have to stop apologizing for my extended absences – maybe by not having them.¬† Fall quarter ramped up during the last three weeks and I ended up working on projects every day for ten hours at minimum and barely made my deadlines.¬† I’m truly beginning to appreciate the difference in being a senior from previous years – turns out higher level classes involve a lot more work than I remember. ūüôā

Speaking of work, here I sit during my winter break posting to this blog – as a way of avoiding doing work around my house.¬† I passed up the annual family trip to Florida with my parents and son, in theory because someone had to take care of our pets – can you board goldfish?¬† In actuality, I stayed here to a) enjoy the solitude of a house without my mother barking orders or my son popping his head into my room every fifteen minutes to tell me he’s bored and b) to catch up on all the household chores that I had to ignore this past quarter.

So far, I’ve mostly tried to relax and played a lot of video games, but I have managed to get my own laundry done, unpacked a few boxes from the recent clearing of my storage unit and even do a little homework – yeah, that’s right, I’ve got so much reading for the next quarter that I needed to start during my supposed vacation.¬† Here’s the thing that very few traditional students can truly appreciate about being an older student with family obligations and homes to take care of:¬† The world doesn’t bend to your needs simply because you’re busy and have other obligations.

So while my younger classmates are winging off to family vacations or traveling to Miami to root for our Bearcats (more on that later), I’m at home trying to simultaneously relax and catch up on three months worth of chores AND get started on homework for next quarter.¬† Part of what I’m doing during these three weeks isn’t just for me – my son’s bedroom is beginning to overflow with stuff because he has boxes of school papers going all the way back to first grade; he’s in fifth now.¬† The remnants of my former domestic life are no longer costing me $80 a month; instead they are cluttering up my parents’ already-full garage.¬†

I consider my awareness of the impact of my actions on other people as a sign of maturity; four years ago, I probably would have felt picked on if someone fussed at me for inconveniencing them.¬† I freely confess that I retained my youthful obliviousness of the needs of others well past the time when it was age-appropriate.¬† So when I see signs of this “me, me, me” attitude in my younger peers, I both empathize and worry for them.¬†

One thing that has surprised me about these youngins is how often they really put forth the effort for assignments in classes that they view as important.¬† While it would be great if they appreciated the importance of all their classes, I actually think it’s admirable that they increase the amount of energy they expend on something other than partying and text-messaging each other.¬† Maybe that’s a sign of impending maturity in them – maybe five years from now, they’ll be forgoing some long-awaited vacation in order to fulfill their responsibilities.¬† Hey, a mom can dream right?¬† After all, I view my younger classmates as a window into the future for my own child, and any indication that they aren’t complete hedonists makes me feel a little better about sending my boy off to college someday.

*** Danielle

January 10, 2009 Posted by | Generation Gap, Maturity | Leave a comment

‘Tis the Season

Finally, the end of the quarter is in sight – I’m looking forward to being able to take a breather from the non-stop work I’ve had this fall.¬† And who doesn’t look forward to the holidays – family, food, presents… Of course, that’s the downside too, especially for we student parents – where do we get the money in this nutty economy to put some boxes of fun under our trees for the little ones?

¬†I’ve been desperately trying to avoid thinking about this, but with the biggest shopping day of the year less than a week away, I’m out of time.¬† A shaky economy does have it’s perks – like a tank of gas for less than $15 – but it makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be better to skip the brightly colored baubles and instead stick my money in my mattress or some equally crafty financial plan.¬† I feel guilty spending $10 on a prescription – what will it be like if I drop $50 on a video game?

¬†I’ll admit this may be ageism on my part, but I don’t think that most of my traditional peers comprehend how scary this whole economic turmoil is.¬† Maybe it’s just because they didn’t grow up with grandparents who could remember in detail what it was like to live during the Great Depression – I feel like we more mature learners have a better grasp on the potential disaster that could be coming.¬† Of course, I’m not exactly an economist so maybe I’m blowing the whole thing out of proportion.¬†

¬†I know that one area of common ground I share with my younger classmates is the fear of what this will mean for my future employment opportunities.¬† Although it will depress some of my professors, the primary reason I came back to school was to get that prized piece of parchment that’s the key to more profitable employment.¬† Now I’m left to wonder if I’ll end up having to go back into the dreaded fields of retail and hospitality – that fancy term for restaurants and hotels. The horror!

¬†Compounding my fears for the future, my journalism professors are becoming obsessed with “informing” us about the straits of magazines and newspapers.¬† They say they don’t want to discourage us from continuing on in our chosen field, but they want us to be aware of what we’ll be facing.¬† All we hear is “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”¬† I’m sure other majors aren’t faring much better.

¬†In the end, I really think the non-trads feel the pressure of the wonky economic twists and turns more than our younger peers.¬† We already shoulder a lot of the burdens that college is preparing them for, so, while the current crisis might make them worry about the future, we old farts don’t have the luxury of thinking that far down the road.¬† The potential troubles they might see down the road are knocking on our doors now – so we have the added “fun” of coping with finals and trying to parce out our measly cash reserves for Christmas shopping and our utility bills.

*** Danielle

January 10, 2009 Posted by | Maturity, Student Life | Leave a comment

Feeling Like Methusaleh

For anyone new to the blog, let me say welcome.¬† And on that note, I’m starting to wonder if I’m all alone out here – am I speaking your language or am I totally off base?¬† Speak up – use that snazzy little comment box down there!!!

Here’s a familiar, yet depressing, scene in my classes: the professor is explaining something, perhaps why celebrities don’t normally bother suing tabloids for libel, and after searching for a good example, settles on something that happened over 15 years ago.¬† Midway through describing what happened the professor will toss off a comment like, “Of course, you all are too young to remember that.”¬† At which point, my head bangs on my desk and I choke back a groan.

There are many variations on this theme; I’ve had professors refer to their entire class as young people under the age of 25, I’ve tried to contribute some insight to a class based on my slightly larger body of knowledge (like talking about how interesting Geraldine Ferraro’s comments on Hilary Clinton were in light of Ferraro’s own place in campaign history) only to be faced with blank stares from my classmates or, maybe the worst experience so far, actually having a “professor” who is significantly younger than me – although I imagine this is a far more common occurence for non-trads older than myself.

Of course, I’ve also faced the reverse problem – the professor uses some current event or public figure as an example and I have no idea who or what they are talking about.¬† This is particularly embarrassing for me because I’m a journalism major and should keep up with the news more, but there are only so many hours in the day – ultimately, I sacrifice knowledge of the hottest new hip-hop artist or the most recent escapades of Paris/Britney/Lindsay/etc.

Nothing can make you feel like an old fart as a discussion of your musical interests.¬† While I still manage to have some more up-to-date interests (Nickelback, Daughtry, Staind), the majority of my musical interests run to what is now classic rock – I shudder even as I type those words.¬† I have to resist the urge to smack myself in the forehead and say, “Doh!” when a classmate comments that they like The Police too – their parents used to play them all the time.

And maybe it’s a sign of maturity on my part – rather than becoming an old stick-in-the-mud – that I can’t stifle a groan when someone starts talking about the latest Will Ferrell or Jack Black movie.¬† My comedy interests come in two flavors: stand-up and romantic.¬† Outside of those, I appreciate small doses mixed in with more dramatic material – I’m a West Wing-snarkiness junkie.¬† Of course, my dislike for sexual pie humor or lame single-entendres only further underlines my distance from what is … um … hip? … cool? … happening? – I went too far there, I know that’s out of touch.

But maybe that’s the beauty of mixing non-trads with their younger counterparts – it’s a fairly simple way to mix the two mind sets and possibly lead to a little extracurricular learning.¬† Maybe I’ve encouraged some of my younger peers to broaden their musical horizons (not likely) or opened up a new world of movie entertainment (my answer to the Blades of Glory fans has always been Clue – a far classier movie).¬† And certainly I appreciate the pointers on what’s new in the world of pop culture – it helps me keep a step ahead of my adventurous 11-year-old son – soon to be a teenager.¬† There’s another shudder – better stop before I fall out of my chair.

*** Danielle

January 10, 2009 Posted by | Generation Gap, Maturity | Leave a comment