Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Going Back to College
by Frank Brazell
In a previous post, I wrote about the Five Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started College. In this follow-up article I want to share what I wish I knew before I went back to college for Graduate School, this time married with a toddler and another baby on the way.
1) Family comes first.
My second time starting college was quite different from the first: Instead of being 18 and on my own, I was 25, married with kids, and expected to provided for my family at the same time as completing my degree. With all these differences, I had to learn quickly that my family had to be my first priority, they had to receive my best. It’s totally doable to be a college student while taking care of your family, but you have to support them in order for them to support you. Be available for your family, give them the best of you, not the leftovers, and set your priorities early.
2) GPA isn’t everything.
This should probably point 1.2, but it’s been an important enough lesson to necessitate its own section. When you are in college with a family, and often with a job on top of that, something is going to have to give. The safest thing to let go of will be that over-the-top bit of effort in your assignments that separates a 93 from a 100. I’m not saying don’t do your work (excuses are lame), I’m just saying there is about a seven-point gap between excellent and perfect, and striving for perfection is just going to burn you out. I know this from experience, and have had to learn the hard way. So if you are done with the assignment, and its on-time, just turn it in. Don’t waste that extra energy trying to perfect at the cost of your family life and your sanity.
3) Work hard, rest hard.
Oh my goodness if I could only turn back the clock two years, I would have saved myself a lot of headache on this one. You’re not Superwoman/Superman, stop trying to be. Seven days straight of work, school, and taking care of family, week in and week out for sixteen straight weeks— that’s CRAZY! If you aren’t taking one day, or even a half day, to reset yourself and spend time with family (again, point 1), then you will burn out by the midpoint of the semester.
4) Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
As a student in the “nontraditional” (i.e., not 18-24) category, I knew that things would be different from the last time I was in school. For students who have been out of school for ten or twenty years, it can be an even bigger adjustment. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your classmates and instructors for clarification on how to do things, particularly as they pertain to technology, but even for simple things like what professors are looking for in an assignment. In my experience, people don’t get offended when you ask for clarification.
5) Don’t think you know it all.
I’m not talking about course content. Obviously you don’t think you have all that down, otherwise you wouldn’t be taking the class! During my first semester back in school I found myself constantly playing-up the fact that I’d been around the block before, and I’m sure it got pretty annoying to my younger peers. What I found was that while I had gained some life experience over my classmates, by no means did I have it all together. In some areas, my younger peers were leaps and bounds beyond me developmentally. It pays to acknowledge you don’t know everything about life, and to take time to learn from your peers, even as you seek to help them through areas you’ve already mastered.