My college experience started like most of yours — I spent my later years of high school fervently visiting and touring college campuses, trying to figure my life out and figure out where I saw myself after high school. I knew one thing — what I wanted to study — but beyond that, I knew almost nothing. My only knowledge of what college was really like came from exaggerated stories of older friends. I was so lost by it all.
Eventually, though, I settled on the school that seemed to check all the boxes. It was not K-State, nor was it even in the state of Kansas, but I thought I had finally found my place there. I spent all of the summer after my senior year preparing for the first day of the rest of my life — freshman move-in. It was a lot of things — it was freedom, it was new chances, but most importantly, it was fun. A lot of fun. I was finally here. I had made it.
I absolutely loved being a "traditional" college kid. Adjusting to life away from home was a challenge, and trying to balance freedom with responsibility was even more difficult, but a few months in, it was all beginning to come together. I made some great friends, I was doing well in my classes, and there was very little that I would have changed.
As it happened, though, it was not meant to be. Many of the successes I had come to know quickly began to erode, my grades began to slip, and over Christmas Break I really contemplated whether or not I wanted to return. On a whim, I put in a few job applications in my hometown and hoped for the best. I had no idea how I would handle hearing back from them, but I figured it was worth the chance.
I suppose the stars aligned, and rather quickly I found myself back at home, 19 credits in hand, with a tough decision — jump into the working world or resume my full-time education elsewhere. I have never been someone to turn down an opportunity, so I accepted the offer. I have been with my company for a year and a half now, and I would not want to be anywhere else. The only thing I would change? Not having a degree.
One of the best offerings at K-State is the Polytechnic/Online program. Not everyone can or wants to follow the "traditional" path to a degree. For me, KSU Online is giving me the opportunity to chase my goal of a degree while working full time. I have long been told that a big part of college is the experience, and while my life now is definitely less eventful than when I was a full-time student, working full time allows me to have an entirely different experience — life after college. Instead of cramming for mid-terms or worrying about things my "traditional" friends have to worry about, I have an entirely different set of responsibilities.
There are still tests and homework, but being "non-traditional" and working has taught me lessons that no classroom or lecture hall ever can. It has taught me how to conduct myself professionally, how to maintain my composure, and how to deal with the bigger picture. Lessons that "traditional" college are not great at teaching, but are absolutely vital in the working world.
When I am asked about college, I am always proud to call myself a "Wildcat." I believe strongly in the benefits of "non-traditional" education, and while it does not work for everyone, it might at least be worth a try.