Returning to school was an easy decision for me, the hard part was the execution. To go from traveling the country selling medical devices and meeting with CEOs and their various teams of marketers, purchasers, engineers and the like, to sitting in a classroom with today’s generation of South Orange County youth is an enormous life change. It takes courage and confidence. It takes a plan and a commitment to making sure that plan becomes reality.
Traditionally, a high school student graduates and heads straight off to college. A new city, dorm life, a fraternity or sorority rush, and a collection of stories to tell are only a few of the initial experiences that await. A good time is had by all, and four years later you walk out with a degree ready to take the world by storm.
With the economy wallowing in it’s current state, college budgets are being cut, acceptance rates to four-year schools are shrinking, and once you do get in, class cancellations are causing what used to take four years to look more realistically like five and six years.
In fact, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, only 56 percent of students at four-year colleges complete a degree within six years. Couple that with the fact that only 20 percent of first-time students at community colleges get their associate degree or a certificate within three years, and you are most definitely looking at six, even seven years to get that piece of paper.
With that being the case, there has been a major trend of what is being labeled “non-traditional” students. According to NCES, 75 percent of today’s college students are now in the “non-traditional” category. Half of today’s students are financially independent, 49 percent attend college part time, 38 percent work full time, 27 percent have dependants of their own and 12 million are attending two-year community colleges.
What does all of this mean? Where am I going with this information? What it boils down to is that chances are, there is someone in your classroom looking to take your spot. A focused, competitive, and driven student. If you are here at Saddleback without a plan to get out of here, you are going to be here awhile.
With fewer spots available at four-year institutions, those schools are going to accept students they feel are going to succeed. Candidates that have shown they can juggle schedules, handle their responsibilities, and someone who the school feels will add to the culture and environment of their campus life are the students that are going to get in.
Success in college requires the same tools required for success in corporate America. Success requires organization, time management, discipline, teamwork, the ability to finish what you have started, a positive attitude, and an ability to get up after you have been knocked down.
Older students face some challenges when returning to school. Some of the challenges would include relating to a younger generation of students, becoming accustomed to newer technologies, funding their education while maintaining their current lifestyle, daycare (or evening care for night students), and re-training their mind to get into learning mode versus the “task completion” mode the work force demands.
Benefits include an ability to handle a large work load, as likely their day-to-day work load typically is substantial, an eagerness and desire to learn, a clear and focused direction, life experience that can be used in relation to assignments, and an understanding that the money they forked over to attend school means they will make every effort to be in that seat. Because after all, if half the battle is simply showing up, it only makes sense no to waste anyone’s time or money and show up.