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!!!

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

Smarty Pants

I know, I know.¬† I said I’d have an interview thingy up here with my bud Melissa Kramer, another non-traditional student in the journalism program at UC whose first book has just been published.¬† But she and I are so busy, it’s¬†almost impossible to find time to meet.¬† So for now, I’ve got to toot my own horn, because I’m so excited I’m about to explode.¬†

This morning I received an email that fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine: I’ve been invited to join Phi Beta Kappa¬†Society!!¬† For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about,¬†Phi Beta Kappa¬†is probably the most prestigious collegiate honor society, and also the oldest such organization.¬† Because I’m so giddy, I’ll probably not explain it very well, so I’ll just give you the Wikipedia link for the fraternity.

Okay, back to the grind – I swear I’ll have something more substantial up before the month is out!

*** Danielle

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | 3 Comments

Congrats to the News Record!

I wanted to acknowledge the great job the News Record (the student paper at the University of Cincinnati for which this blog was originally created) has done this year.¬† The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) “selected The News Record as second-best overall among all non-daily collegiate student newspapers in its multi-state region as part of the organization’s annual Mark of Excellence Awards,” said Leonard Penix, director of student media, in an email sent to our program list-serv.¬† The paper also took first place in the sport photography category.¬† So I just want to say way to go to my colleagues and classmates for all their hard work, and in particular congratulate our editor-in-chief Kristy Conlin, a fellow non-traditional (check out her blog).

And for those who have been waiting impatiently for my return, just a word of warning: I’m fairly overloaded for my last quarter, so posts will be coming, but may be a bit slow.¬† I’m planning on getting together with the non-trad author/mom/full-time student/intern for lunch soon, so I’ll have that up ASAP.

*** Danielle

April 4, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | Leave a comment

Break Time

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I’ll be taking a short break for finals week and possibly into Spring Break.¬† I have a handful of interesting topics to discuss, including a profile of a fabulous non-traditional student who juggles school, family life and publishing her own book.¬† So stay tuned and cross your fingers that I don’t meltdown before I finish all my finals and papers.

*** Danielle

A quick addendum: I am putting a PowerPoint Presentation¬†up here for my business writing class, because our wiki won’t hold it, lol.

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | 2 Comments

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

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

Sound Off!!

I’m going to try a simpler way to do this – I hope.¬† Take part in this poll – and if you think I missed an answer, feel free to let me know in the comments area.¬† I’ll post some results after the poll closes on March 8th.

*** Danielle

And here are the results: 

  • 33% Said that group work was their biggest pet peeve
  • 33% Said that younger classmates who don’t have respect for the professor and the rest of the class was their biggest pet peeve
  • 33% Said that an administration that ignores the needs of non-traditional students was their biggest pet peeve

Yeah, I know – that’s only 99% but that’s what PollDaddy boiled them down to.¬†

I’m going to link back to a couple of earlier posts that focus on these issues so everyone who’s new to the blog can see what I’ve already had to say on these fun subjects – except for any particular observations on traditional students, which I guess¬†I will post about this week.¬† Can’t believe I forgot to cover that topic in more than just passing.

Group Work

Administration woes: here and here

*** Danielle

February 27, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | 1 Comment

Don’t Waste Your Time Breathing Exhaust Fumes!

Not everyone has a long commute to school, but a lot of non-traditionals are commuters and given that we are already under a time crunch having all those extra responsibilities, it seems like a shame to waste the drive time twiddling our thumbs.¬† So I poked around on the web and found a few ideas about how to be more productive while you’re sitting in gridlock.¬† Some of them I’m sure you’ve thought of, or maybe even do, but there were some interesting twists on the tried-and-true activities that I thought might help.

  1. Learn new skills or a new language by listening to audio CDs/tapes.¬† Considering the amount of time you spend in your car – for me, it’s over an hour each day of class, which this quarter comes out to about five hours a week!
  2. If you can’t bear to add another educational experience, look into books on tape/CD instead.¬† I know that I don’t have nearly enough time to do any pleasure reading and that when I do have a moment to spare, there’s nothing I want less to do than read another book.
  3. Grab a bite to eat!¬† So, I’ll confess that healthy food is low on my list of priorities, but even if it is important to you, there are all sorts of options to consider.¬† Just grabbing a piece of fruit on the way out the door in the morning can ease time crunches, or if you need to grab dinner plenty of fast-food chains offer healthier options, like chicken wraps, that aren’t too messy to eat on the go.¬† Just skip Taco Bell unless you’re feeling really daring – inevitably, the day they put extra filling in your tacos and burritos is the day you’re going to eat on your way to an important conference or presentation – blop!
  4. Of course, there’s always the old stand-by: radio.¬† If you find disc jockeys annoying or run into that mysterious blanket of commercials that manages to cover all the stations you like, try our local NPR – 91.7 FM –¬†or talk radio – 700 AM, 1160 AM, 1230 AM, 550AM – stations.¬† Or instead, you could just scan through the stations, and try a genre you wouldn’t usually listen to – there are plenty of¬†options in Cincinnati.
  5. Get a voice recorder and use it to plan your day.  Reciting your to-do lists or capturing that great idea you get staring at a billboard can be a lifesaver.  Or, if you are a closet karaoke singer, just use the recorder as a microphone while you croon your way through the drive home.
  6. Because fiddling with technical gadgets while you’re driving isn’t always safe, there is an alternative to the recorder.¬† You can use your cell phone and http://jott.com/default.aspx¬†to send voice mails that will then be converted into text messages for you by the site!¬† A personal transcription service, what a novel idea!
  7. Another tech-savvy idea involves using your MP3 player to catch up on podcasts.¬† Download a couple in the morning before you leave your house and you’ll have your own personal talk radio to listen to.¬† Even better, combine this idea with the idea of practicing a foreign language and download a podcast in Spanish, French or your preferred language – just make sure you don’t concentrate so hard on comprehending what’s being said that you lose track of the traffic around you.
  8. While I think it’s sort of futile to try and relax while you are facing bumper-to-bumper traffic, I did come across one fun little suggestion.¬† Splurge and buy yourself a car seat massager, either a battery-powered one or one that plugs into your carjack.

I also found a site¬†that offered some safety tips for commuting.¬† Here’s a few basic suggestions, but for the full list go look at the site.

  1. Plan your route – make sure you take well-traveled, well-lit roads, even if that means adding a little bit of time to your drive.
  2. Keep your vehicle well-maintained.
  3. Have a decent spare tire, extra oil and a gallon of water in your car Рfor me, these are in the trunk.  More importantly, make sure you know how to change a tire, check and add oil and where to add water if your car overheats.
  4. Drive with your doors locked.¬† This might seem like something your mom would say, but given that crime seems to be on the rise around campus, it’s better to be safe than sorry – okay, that was definitely the mother in me. ūüôā
  5. Get gas early in the day at a station that is busy and well-attended.  Make sure you are in line-of-sight of the attendant if you do have to stop after dark.

If you want some more tips, check this wiki, this article¬†or this list¬†– there will be some overlap and some adjustments you might need to make since they are mostly tooled towards work commuters, but it’s a good place to start.

Have any tips of your own?  Feel free to share!

*** Danielle

February 13, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | 1 Comment

Now For a Taste of Things to Come

In addition to the commuting story – which I’m still looking for some input on, by the way ūüėÄ – over the next few weeks, I plan on talking about what job hunting, even with a degree, will be like in this economy.¬† Since I’m graduating in June, this is definitely on my mind, and from conversations I’ve had around campus, I’d say it’s worrying a lot of people.¬† I also want to open the floor for a little venting and ask for non-traditionals to share their top three pet peeves with attending college at this point in their lives.¬† Of course, if you’d like to flip that around and sing the praises of this approach to higher education, feel free.¬† Because I’m a single mom in addition to being a full-time student, I’m also curious how other student parents are coping to balance their own school work and that of their children.¬†¬† Besides all that, I’m open to suggestions.¬† If there’s something you’d like to learn more about, or if you think I’ve overlooked a hot topic for non-trads, please comment or email me at daniellefrink@gmail.com.

*** Danielle

February 9, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | Leave a comment

Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh!!

Quick and dirty – it took me FOUR hours to get home from Clifton tonight, an hour just to get from Stratford Heights to I-75.¬† Thanks a lot to those who make the decisions on closing school at UC – I nearly peed my pants sitting in that nasty mess.¬† And forget about dinner – I’m getting ready to go nuke something right now.¬† Although I’m so hot right now, I might be able to cook my leftovers just by holding them in my hands.

*** Danielle

February 3, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life | Leave a comment