The College Year is Gearing Up- Are You? Advice For Non-Traditional Students


The College Year is Gearing Up- Are You?, Kevin Maxwell Soini Many people who have taken time off or had a career, without attending college are now making the decision to become non-traditional students. It’s not for everyone, but as they say, it’s never too late to go back to school. Right now, community colleges, and many other institutions with rolling admissions, particularly online/distance learning extensions of state universities are currently enrolling. Registering with a community college is often very easy. These schools offer a variety of technical/ vocational programs, and can be your gateway to a four year degree. While going to a community college may not feel to the student like a true college experience, different from high school, it need not feel like anything less than the real thing. It’s all about how you use your time. If you live near campus, and participate in student groups that interest you, you will quickly find that the course work is equivalent to what you would do in a larger college. The teachers are just as good, and the grades and credits can easily be transferred toward your bachelor’s degree. The community college route is the one I’ve chosen myself. It has gotten me to where I am now, less than a year from completion of my baccalaureate, in the major of my choosing, at a public university in Maine. When people trash-talk the value of education, they’re not talking about the education you’d receive going this route. Even an associate’s degree or certificate in a technical field can be very valuable to you. While I don’t recommend a two-year degree in a liberal arts field, meaning anything that is not a specific trade for which the credential could be an associate’s degree, they can be very suitable for certain medical, manufacturing, or technical occupations, and in this case, a six-month certificate will often provide the essential qualifications for a job. You can also benefit from just taking whatever courses appeal to you, without looking for a degree. Eventually, you could find your passion this way, and decide on a degree plan, or pursue your new-found interests without further study. Maybe you’ve taken some classes in the past, and for whatever reason, moved on, but if you’re reading this, you’ve probably passed-up on the chance to go back to school for a while. That’s fine if you enjoy the life the way it is. The decision is 100% yours to make. No one knows what’s right for you, better than yourself. With that said, I’ll add that, although I was a long time rebel toward college, and had no intentions of going back to school, the path I gradually found myself in of doing so, has provided much growth and improvement of my life. It’s a form of enrichment that will show you what you’re capable of, and what you’ve “been missing.” It can introduce you to who you really are, and help you draw your finest skills out to the surface. If you’re already aware of some creative interests/ talents, you may be able to side-step college. For example, attending as a Creative Writing major, I find my greatest gain from my current studies comes in the form of increased confidence in my writing, particularly fiction, and in my essential knowledge of marketing and publishing. However, there are obviously other ways to get that edge. The more you read, write and share, the more prepared you’ll be to succeed in your art. The decision to go to school probably won’t come automatically. Believe me, I understand if you don’t feel like sitting at a desk, and writing papers, for however long. For me, the catalyst to making this decision was completing a certificate program, offered free-of-charge when I was down. After this, I realized I’d earned a good amount of credit toward an associate’s degree in business information technology, but also discovered that the local community college offered a bachelor’s degree in Applied Behavioral Sciences. It clicked that I wanted to be a social worker, and could get there this way, and suddenly, I was taking classes. Things since evolved to the realization that I was interest in novel-writing and wanted to make it work as a career, seeing no reason why it shouldn’t. And there isn’t any reason, by the way, why your dreams shouldn’t be attainable. If you’ve never taken college courses, consider enrolling right about now. Within a couple weeks to a month, you could be studying things of interest, learning from the best in your chosen field, and on the way to a new life. It’s certainly worth thinking about. Check out programs available in your area. Maybe other areas if you don’t mind moving. Don’t let finances keep you out of the game. You may be surprised at the amount of student aid you can receive. That’s all my advice for now. Hope you think about it. Just the process of considering more education is enough to start making positive changes in your life, even if you never end up going. *Kevin Maxwell Soini is in his Junior year at The University of Maine at Farmington. What Kevin likes the most about his school is the “opportunity for growth.”  Kevin on Unigo

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