What it's like to go to college in your late 20s
Throughout my school years, I was never that girl who received straight As, or even straight Bs. Thankfully, my parents told me to just do my best and try my hardest, and didn’t make me feel bad about not being a fast reader, or being one of those people with a brain that just does not get mathematical equations.
After high school, I went to college right away. Everyone else was doing it and I felt like that’s what I had to do, despite not wanting to at all. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, what major to even look at, and homework and meeting new people in general seemed very unappealing. Needless to say, I did not do well, and I did not enjoy it at all. I would ditch class to go snowboarding and shopping with my friends, just to feel happy not being at school.
As most of my other high school friends were at private schools or well-known universities, I began to feel, just, dumb. I’m cringing as I type that word out—I can’t believe I ever thought of myself like that. But that is the truth, and throughout all of my school years, I actually kept thinking I wasn’t as “smart” as most of the people in my classes. So, after two years of an on-again/off-again relationship with my community college, I decided to focus on my full-time job working in retail and eventually freelance writing and followed my passion in life through that. It worked out wonderfully for years. I loved what I was doing in the boardsports industry, and I loved trying to prove to people that I was smart and could succeed in life without a college degree. But then, one day, I realized I wanted to do more. And the only way to get there? Getting a bachelor’s degree.
My little sister graduated from college in the spring of 2014, and as I was sitting in the gymnasium at her graduation ceremony, I thought “Wow. I wonder what it would feel like to actually complete a bachelor’s degree. They must all be so hyped. So proud of themselves.” And then it hit me: I wanted to be that proud of myself. I wanted to go back to college.
After my sister’s graduation, I started figuring out if I would even be accepted into the university due to my past grades. I sat down and thought about some of the teachers that stood out to me over the years. The ones who saw potential in me, despite any doubts I had within myself. The ones who gave me positive feedback whenever they could, because they probably knew I needed it. The one’s who truly believed I could do anything I wanted to do.
It was hard, but I knew I had to find one strength of mine that I could use to show this school why they would want me to be a student of theirs. And then it hit me: “I’m a writer.” I wrote an application letter and was just as honest as I could be. I wrote passionately, and from the heart. And it worked. I was accepted.
I jumped back into the school rhythm this past fall, at the age of 27—terrified of course—and I have never done better in school, nor ever been more excited to learn. Older friends of mine had gone back to school in their mid-late twenties too, and said the same thing. When you go back to school on your terms, you connect with people on a different level. After my first semester, I even realized I wanted to pursue a degree I didn’t ever think much about before. All because I finally believed in myself and I wanted to connect with others, and see the possibilities that are out there. I pushed my fears aside and just went for it.
I figured out that you can absolutely go to college and have a social life, while getting good grades and getting enough sleep. Yes, certain classes will be more challenging than others, and you may have to skip a class to give yourself a mental health day with your couch and Netflix – but it is definitely doable as long as you manage your time.
Over the past year, I realized that everyone learns differently, and certain classes are only taught one way. It may not be the best way that helps you learn, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t intelligent. It just means a different way works for you. My astronomy professor this past semester gave us the option of creating a video about any topic involving astronomy, to replace a lower test grade. She had said that she knew some people were more visual learners, and she wanted to be able to help them if they were not as strong with taking tests.
No matter what you think of yourself, no matter how bad you think you are at math or reading or taking tests, no matter how indecisive you are about what you would want to major in, or how scared you are at failing, know that you can do it. You are smart. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that I would be back in school right now, succeeding with good grades and actually feeling happy to be there. But that’s where I am. If you think that it’s right for you to go back, why not? You’ll probably surprise yourself.
[Image via 22 Jump Street]