How Did I Get Here – How Can You
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!