Success Stories from Continuing Education Students

After losing her job at a bankrupt recording studio in Nashville three years ago, 28-year-old Genine Murray enrolled at MTSU as a non-traditional student to finally pursue her dream of working with horses.

Like so many young people, Murray did not know what she wanted to do with her life after high school graduation. Choosing a career path seemed like a daunting task, with parents and teachers encouraging her in one field or another none which seemed to fit with her desires. “I just remember everyone telling me that I had better go to law school or medical school,” said Murray. “There’s a lot of pressure on kids during that time of their lives.” 

After attempting college immediately after high school, Murray quickly realized her lack of direction and dropped out. Losing her job at the age of 24 was the perfect catalyst to put her back on track with what she really wanted to do.
Dropping out of college may appear to outsiders to be giving up, but for someone who needs more time to think about what he or she wants, it can be a very liberating decision.

While teenagers are still dealing with the pressures of classes, sports, other school activities and friendships, their futures can seem as distant to them as the next galaxy. And yet, before the cap and gown come off on graduation day, they are often expected to have a plan on how they want to spend the rest of their lives.

But nowadays many young adults are finding that they are as unsure of themselves as ever in the years following college graduation. At a time when people are expected to become stabilized inside a career and start building a family, these graduates are instead feeling lost and confused. Typically the career paths of these twenty-somethings were chosen when they were mere teenagers.

Authors Alexandra Robbins and Abby Winter compiled a collection of tales from young adults in their mid- to late 20s discussing their doubts about career choices after a few years of being in the workforce. Their book, “Quarter-Life Crisis,” published in 2001, was written to address this phenomenon and has given rise to an entire online community of folks who are struggling with these issues and want answers on how to cope. According to Quarterlifecrisis.com, “The average American job-hops eight times before the age of 32, the average college graduate accrues $20,000 in education loan debt and the average age to get married is now 27.” Taking those statistics into account, it appears that people are taking longer to grow up, which means waiting a few years to settle on a career choice may not be such a bad idea in the long run.

A person who chooses to start college later in life may seem at a disadvantage. But that is not necessarily true. The older, non-traditional college student is offered the same level of education as any other student but with more flexibility, which is vital for most adults who also have to work full-time to support themselves through college. And most colleges now offer this route and many additional services to accommodate the adult learner.

At MTSU, adult students are offered services such as academic advising, workshops, support services, scholarships and even opportunities to socialize with others like them. Many adults are finding that, through these means, returning to school for either a change of career or growth in their current role is easier than expected.

For Genine Murray, the satisfaction of finally following her dreams has made taking a slightly longer road worth her while. Though perhaps knowing what she wanted to do as a much younger person might have been easier, she says, “I appreciate my education so much more now than I would have at that age. At least I am being true to myself, and I can say that with absolute certainty now.”