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Dwayne Burtin, deputy editor for digital at the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, writes about his decision to complete his degree as an adult student.
I’ve asked myself that question many times. It’s often given me pause and consequently caused several delays in the completion of my degree.
I found myself taking multiple semester breaks off, citing life and work as the reasons. There were always big projects that needed extra attention. Being a single parent didn’t make it easier. There was always a large demand for my time.
Fortunately, I got it together and got back on track. I’ll finish my final three credits in January.
As this part of my journey ends, I thought about a few of the takeaways I’ve gained through my experience. Here are five of them:
1. Setting an example for your kids, or someone else’s
My kids have always seen me work hard. I’ve tried to be a good example of a father, a man and a human being in general. I’ve made many mistakes; I’m human. Sometimes the best lessons we can give are birthed from our mistakes. Through them we learn to be resilient. We learn to rise and follow through.
My kids have seen me study. Complain about homework. And now they can see me walk the stage in my cap and gown knowing that I never gave up. That’s powerful.
2. The ability to apply some lessons to life and work immediately
Being that I’m an adult working professional I’ve had to develop a lot of my soft skills in the real world. Some of what my classes had to offer I admittedly didn’t need.
However, my core studies and many of the other specialized courses I took were invaluable to me immediately. I learned lessons that I could use in real life, at work, at home, even in my personal relationships.
3. Binge drinking is not a factor for you.
My daughter is now a freshman in college. I hear all the horror stories about students barfing all over campus and throughout the dorms. Newfound freedom plus alcohol equals lowered inhibitions — and did I mention barfing?
Those are 20-year-old problems. As a seasoned vet you already know your limits and you shouldn’t be out drinking with 20-year-olds anyway.
4. You can appreciate education in a way you never could as an 18-year-old
Younger me hated being in school. There were so many other things I wanted to do with my time that were way more interesting than sitting in a class.
Older me loves being in class learning new things. Gaining new insight.
College has increased my world view.
I’ve always been considered smart, and I’ve always been good about seeking out information on my own. But there’s only so far you can go on your own without a tour guide.
The directed learning helps give meaning and focus, and a more seasoned student can soak up more than a traditional college undergrad.
5. It’s an accomplishment. A big one.
It’s definitely something to be proud of. If you’re an undergrad in college and you are 40+, it’s likely that you weren’t on an easy path in life. You worked hard. You gained some real-world experience. You’ve seen some things. Done some things, too.
Yet here you are.
In college, finishing your undergraduate degree. Who wouldn’t admire you for that?
It takes guts.
Admiration itself should never be the goal. Realistically, you should always be striving to become a better version of you.
But going back to school and completing a degree at 40 makes you a damn hero, and we all admire heroes.
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