Non Traditional Students

In July 2010, I finished my Bachelor’s Degree. This in itself is not notable until you realize that in July 2008 I celebrated my 20th high school reunion. I have six children, and my oldest is only a few years shy of the college selection process herself.

I’ve lived most of my life thinking of a college degree as being “just a piece of paper”. And as I near graduation, that perspective hasn’t changed. It IS just a piece of paper. But it’s a reminder of a story that goes much deeper.

Five years ago in August I decided to return to our local community college. I did well, earned my Associate’s degree In December 2007 and formally received it in May 2008. In January 2008, I moved on to a four year college to work on my Bachelor’s. We moved up in the middle of a blizzard and things only went downhill from there. When we made the final move, we arrived at our home at 10:00PM to the sound of rushing water. The pipes had burst! It was a Friday night, and I would spend my first full day in town driving back and forth to the hardware store to buy parts.

In the course of the move, I had to change jobs. In between paychecks, the savings dwindled, and three days before my first paycheck with the new job, I counted our money: $18 in cash, $16 in checking. $34 to our name, and a whole host of bills unpaid.

We would be greeted that winter with natural gas bills of $450 and $350. At the end of the semester, I moved again, to go back to my old job with a significant raise (but the downside of a 10 mile commute to school). I spent the summer living out of a trailer with no utilities and driving back to see my family on Wednesdays and on weekends until I was able to find a suitable rental to move my family back. $4 a gallon gas led us to pawning everything we had of value and, at one low point, resorting to a payday “cash advance” loan just to be able to get by.

After a long journey and a lot of late nights and short weekends, I finally received my degree. But that piece of paper tells a story that goes far deeper than “Bachelor of Business Administration in Computer Science”. It will tell a story that my children can tell to their grandkids to understand what I went through to get wherever I finally end up.

If the lack of a college degree haunts you, go back. Take night school, take online courses, take correspondence courses. But get it done. You have nothing to lose and the world to gain!