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As far back as I can remember, I have always dreamed of going to college. Neither of my parents were college graduates nor was anyone else in my family that I can recall, but I always had that drive to go. Even though I did not start my college experience directly out of high school, it was something that was always in the back of my mind, nagging at me, like that itch you cannot scratch.
My College Experience: Why It’s Never Too Late To Go To College
At 23, I finally started college. I took a class here and there at the local community colleges where I lived – I moved around a good bit in my 20s. At around 30, I decided to get serious and finish my degree. I think I had about 45 credits at that time that I had accumulated throughout my 20s. So, I enrolled in Surry Community College in Dobson, NC. I graduated in 2008 [age 31] with an Associates in Arts and an Associates in General Education. I regularly made the Dean’s List and was also a member of Phi Theta Kappa.
I started Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, in the spring of 2009 and graduated in the fall of 2010 with a BS in Psychology, just shy of my 34th birthday. I was the oldest person in all of my classes and was constantly mistaken for a professor. But age differences can be fun. They give you a new perspective. I made several friends at Appalachian State University that I cherish to this day, especially Amanda Bacon and Alyssa Clement.
Freshman: Here is my best advice as you set out on your college path. Enjoy it. I drove back and forth 2 hours each way just to attend Appalachian State University. I am definitely not saying you need to do that, but you need to do what makes the experience enjoyable for you. I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer and take classes online. I get enough of the computer blogging. I wanted to meet people, make friends, eat the food, attend the functions on campus – especially the games. Appalachian State University has an awesome football team. Go Mountaineers!
Also, take classes that might be outside of your comfort zone or ones that you might not think you are necessarily interested in. I feel like you really can’t say whether you are interested in something or not unless you have really tried it out. Two of my absolute favorite classes at Appalachian State University were Gerontology [taught by Lee Ann Steffen Ferguson] and Criminology [taught by Dr. Trina Seitz-Mook]. My major was Psychology, but both of these are Sociology classes. These two majors are not really all that different, but I always seemed to enjoy the Sociology classes just a bit more. I enjoyed both of these professors so much that I think I ended up taking another class under each of them.
Another reason that I chose to start my college experience later in life was to set an example for my daughter. Just because my parents and grandparents didn’t go to college didn’t mean that I couldn’t. You can do whatever you want, and I wanted to make sure that my daughter was fully aware of that. Now, I am happy to say that she, too, is a college graduate. She has an Associate Degree and also just took her State Board for Cosmetology licensure. Most jobs will require some sort of postsecondary credential, not necessarily a 4-year degree, but training or certificates from a community college or university.
I’m so glad that I didn’t let, “I am too old to go back to school” get in my head. I thoroughly enjoyed my college experience and I highly value education in general. I live in a rural community where many people live below the poverty line [as I did as a child]. Higher education changes lives. North Carolina schools are some of the best in the nation, and we must keep them well-funded, affordable and accessible so that North Carolinians can continue to get valuable higher education credentials to ensure their upward mobility.
Don’t let the cost of a college education dissuade you. There is a unique North Carolina constitutional mandate that requires the North Carolina General Assembly to provide all citizens with affordable higher education. We are one of only three states to do so.
North Carolina Higher Ed Works. It is a strong economic driver. We must keep North Carolina higher education systems well-funded, affordable and accessible so that North Carolinians can get valuable higher education credentials. We must be diligent in our efforts because our systems are at risk.
Our education system is unique and is an asset to our state. There are also opportunities for North Carolinians in rural counties. Higher education can improve economic mobility and change lives.
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