I've had the opportunity to experience college right out of high school, as well as into my late 20's and 30's. I've also been fortunate enough to start at ECU, take a long break, return to ECU, and hopefully finish up next spring. Sounds like a long, hard road doesn't it? Well, let's just say it hasn't been a walk in the park.
College after high school
This is a stressful transition as we're basically told to stay on top of entrance paperwork, financial aid, and deciding a program to study. Many are still relishing in graduating high school and enjoying summer vacation, to suddenly having to attend college orientation. This is the first shocker. Students are thrown into this situation with new faces, minus a few from high school, told to choose a major, and consider semester schedules. All of this has an eventual deadline.
After that hurdle, school starts. Some students commute, some live off campus, and some are in the dorms. Each semester in college is an interesting experience because we get the opportunity to make new friends, adjust to new professors, work to find a study habit, and learn to do things on our own.
For many, class assignments and exams seemed foreign compared to high school's requirements. Some will suddenly have a hard time keeping up. Unless you have a good advisor, many students will sign up for classes they don't need to graduate, or overload themselves with too many classes in a semester. Many will also now have to work out the best time to study in-between classes, work schedules, sports activities, and free time.
Many students find it overwhelming and eventually drop out. So, if you're currently in college right after high school, my suggestion is to push through, study hard, and don't take unnecessary classes. Hopefully, you'll get a really good advisor. Remember that you have total freedom to ease into adulthood, with the opportunity to focus on school work and free time.
College later in life
We tend to gain more responsibilities as the years pass. Although I don't have kids, I know of so many people that work to build their families during their 20s and early 30s. This leaves little time to focus as much on school work.
Something else that many adults experience when they go to school later is working full-time. I know many students have to juggle jobs right out of high school, but many of those are part-time, even if they have two or more. I work an eight-hour day. Some people work longer shifts. It can be tough to find the extra time after work, or on the weekends to complete class work. It's really hard to concentrate after work if you've spent the whole day on the computer, or have had to deal with people. I've had to spend 2-3 hours in the evening, and sacrificed entire weekends working on school assignments.
Another thing to consider is that many full-time jobs have specific hours. I work an 8-5 job which makes it almost impossible to attend an in-person class. I know some people try to squeeze one in during their lunch break but then stress about getting to class and back to work on time. Something else many colleges, ECU included, doesn't make easy is parking. During peak class periods, many people hope to avoid a parking ticket because there is nowhere to park. Meters are hard to come by, and the parking pass we pay for the year has limited spots.
On a good note, I've noticed that I care more about getting good grades, and comprehending the material than I did fresh out of high school. My first attempt in college, if I didn't get an A, I didn't really care. I understand now that not passing a class costs a lot of money. Through life experiences and a lot of time thinking, I've also settled on a degree path in communications, which is so different than my initial choice with a medical field degree when I was fresh out of high school.
Many people have it even harder, or see the time to attend college differently. Some people are single parents, some have to worry about cooking dinner for larger families, some work full and part-time jobs, the list can go on and on. I think what I'm trying to say is it's better to finish your degree earlier in life so you can get a jump start in your career, and you don't have to juggle as many responsibilities in your later adult years on top of school work. That is unless you had to grow up fast.
Just remember, whether you're right out of high school, or finishing up your degree later in life, the ultimate goal is getting that degree. There is such a sense of pride when you accomplish such a large goal. College is not easy, and there is a lot to get through to graduate. So if you've dropped out of college in the past, or have never attended, definitely re-consider it because it is such a fulfilling endeavor.
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