How Did I Get Here – How Can You

Me and my bestie – – both going for the golden degree!

So orientation was actually quite nice; I have a new label in my life…”adult learner”.  I guess I have been called worse, and someday perhaps I will called better but now that’s my label when I step foot on the campus grounds and put my shiny new college ID in my pocket.  (PS, my photo is so bad that I wont dare show it to you – is it a crime to give some soft lighting and an angled lense when they take these ID pictures!).  I digress, during orientation, we were treated to hot pizza, cold soda and water, a bevy of raffles and a host of speakers who thanked us for choosing UCONN and told us how important we “adult learners” are to the college community because we provide a nice balance to their “traditional age” students.  How’s that for another neat euphemism teenage freshmen all of a sudden become “traditional age student”.  Gotta love academia!

So to be perfectly honest, this is my third attempt at going back to finish my degree.  I was embarrassed by that at first, but listening to the others who were gathered around the stark classroom, perched in uncomfortable stacking chairs and sipping college emblazoned bottled waters, I realized I was in like company – – and it felt good.  From what appeared to be people from ages 60 all the way down to mid-twenties, I heard similar stories about multiple attempts to gain the coveted college degree.  Life, for better or worse, had gotten in their way, much like me and so here we all sat, feeling nervous but excited about giving it another chance.

For those of you who are embarrassed, fearful or ashamed, yes ashamed, to admit you haven’t gotten your degree yet, don’t be – as soon as you walk into that “adult learner” social club, you will be a part of a new group that you don’t have to do anything different to fit into, because just being you, has already given you a ranking position.  And what other organization can you get that – certainly not the local Rotary Club or Chamber meeting!

For me this journey is a little easier because this time around I am going through it with one of my very best friends.  She and I began this journey last March.  We knew we wanted to get our bachelors degree but how to do it.  For those of you who don’t  know, to be admitted to a bachelor’s program as a returning adult student, you have to already have an associates degree or (60 credits).  But my friend and I didn’t have an Associate Degree completed.  Like I said, I had started and stopped several times over the years but was sure I didn’t have enough credits for my Associates and she had never taken any college classes at all.  We started by taking a course at our local community college called an APL Class.  This is a class that gives you  college credit for life , work and prior college experience.  This is a wonderful program that can jump start your progress immediately and it did for us.  As part of this 10 week, 3 credit course, my friend went from zero college credits to 73 and I went added an additional 43 credits to the prior college courses I had already taken.  We were back in the game, we didn’t have to spend the extra time (or money) to pursue an Associates Degree first and then enroll in a Bachelor’s program.   For us we both held great positions with our current employers and they weren’t looking for Associates, they were looking for Bachelors and higher.

My suggestion to anyone reading this that wants to try the same, is to go online and look at your local community colleges.  Most of them offer 2 year Associate degrees but part of that will likely be an APL class, which stands for ASSESSMENT OF PRIOR LEARNING.  Look for it and take it and at the same time make an appointment with the four year college you are interested in getting your degree from.  Most cases they have staff members who are dedicated to us “adult learners”; make  an appointment, tell them what you are planning and see if they will take the credit from your community college – many of them have partnerships.   If all you really want is the Associates Degree, then no worries, still take the APL class because it will be a great benefit at the 2 year campus – saving you time and money.  I know some people who took the APL class and received 60 credits and were able to obtain their Associates Degree immediately!  Not bad at all.

I can’t speak highly enough about the APL program, its the only reason I was able to fully register again as a degree seeking student at UCONN and the first time since leaving as a disappointed and dejected drop-out 25 years ago that I truly felt like I was making this dream come true – watch out Wonder Woman, I’m on your heels!


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4 thoughts on “How Did I Get Here – How Can You

  1. Pingback: The Gift of Gratitude | chasingwonderwoman

  2. My story is the message all of America needs to hear. Back in 2008 during the campaign, then senator Obama inspired me to return to school. I had dropped out of college in the early 90s fully expecting to return but I just needed some time. I wasn’t applying myself and my mother was still trying to recover from the real estate collapse in the late 80s. So some 20 years later I was out on maternity leave with my second child and I heard Obama call for more women in science. I at first chuckled at the thought of me entering the field of science… I had always been more of a theater person. But, I knew I was chronically unhappy in my work. My 20 years since college had been metered by jumping from one sales field to another. Cars, jewelry, real estate, mortgages, insurance… you name it, I sold it. But, I was always struggling. Always under pressure to make more calls, sell more goods, invest more time. I hated every minute of it. The thought of returning to the same job after maternity leave made me ill. So, I approached the subject with my husband. We began working through the idea. How would we pay for it? What would I study? How long would it take? Would it lead to a job? We began by filling out the FAFSA. I was surprised to find I qualified for full financial assistance. I then started looking through the course catalog and soon found my self enrolling in the geology program at the University Of Southern Maine. When I found out I was accepted I remember crying. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been so hopeful. When I left my job I had such a sense of promise and as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. As my job was the one that provided us with insurance we decided we needed to ask for help. We went to the state Department of Human Services and applied for Medicaid. While there we found out we also qualified for food stamps. I am so grateful for these provisions as there is no way we would have survived without them. As my studies progressed I found I had a knack for this science thing. I developed such a passion that by the time I graduated with a 3.93 GPA I realized I wasn’t done. We moved to Texas to continue on to my Master’s at the University of Texas at El Paso. A teaching assistance position provided me with in-state tuition and a small salary. My husband became so inspired he too began working towards his Bachelor’s in geology. Once in Texas we again signed up for food stamps, medicaid, and WIC. These public services have carried us through. I am about to graduate a semester early (in spite of the fact that my third child was born during mid-terms my first semester). I have accepted a job with a major oil company and will be earning a six figure salary. My signing bonus was more than my husband earned working full time. Republicans want to shut down the very support system that not only helped me to survive, but allowed me to succeed. Universities, student loans, food stamps, medicaid and WIC are essential programs. Please don’t loose this election President Obama. Please stop the republican attack on families in need. Those who need assistance may just become something great with the right network. I will be in a much higher tax bracket come next January and I will gladly sign my 1040! I voted for Obama in 2008 and I will vote for him again. I only wish I would already be in my new home state of PA so that it might do some good. Thank you!

    • How ironic that your name is the same as my mother’s. A woman that inspires me every day and who I gratefully say to anyone that will listen, is the only reason I have any good qualities. I thank you for your message and please know that it inspires me to keep going forward and to pursue my dreams. I am sure your husband and family and your kids have told you (and will tell you over the years) how proud they are of you; but in case you haven’t heard it enough already today, “Atta Girl”! I never knew I would meet so many women who’ve already caught Wonder Woman. Thank you again for sharing!

  3. Bonnie Pezzolesi on said:

    You’re already my hero! Thank you for giving me the swift kick the pants I needed to finally start to my college years. (better late than never!)
    I know the amount of commitment may seem overwhelming at times, but the years will pass quickly regardless of our actions and I’m glad that we’re walking/running this path together.

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