To Go or Not to Go, that is the Question

Many parents like to use the phrase “with age comes wisdom” when they are trying to teach their children about certain life events that may be too hard to explain to them at that moment in time. However, I am a firm believer that wisdom is not a product of schooling, but rather the life experiences it takes to acquire it. I am a nontraditional college student and I can honestly say that the route I took to go back to school was one that benefited me personally. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that waiting a few years to go on to post-secondary school will benefit everyone. I am simply stating that my life circumstances and situation was more ideal for me to be successful, due to me receiving life and workforce experiences before returning to an academic setting.

The pros and cons are always going to play a huge factor for every individual differently. Experience, responsibilities, problem-solving, and defined end goals are all advantages that nontraditional students will have over traditional students. Much of the experience I keep referring to are experiences from working and interacting with co-workers, previous education, and personal life skills. The idiom “you live and learn” could not be used more accurately in this situation. In short, nontraditional students already have a broader base of life experiences that they can relate to and can continue to build upon with new information.

“I feel like the break I took after high school [5 year] helped me gain a great sense of responsibility and multitasking skills. During those years I worked as a bartender and cocktail server and would often have to do a million things at once under pressure, in addition to keeping a smile on my face while serving impatient and sometimes rude customers,” said Alicia St. Denis, a nontraditional student at Eastern New Mexico University in her final year.

St. Denis went on to explain why she decided to wait to go onto a post-secondary education after high school, and how she believes her workforce experience has helped her excel in her college classes.

“I unfortunately dropped out of high school and it took me about 4 years to realize how important having an education is. I would often see many of the higher positions go to individuals that had a college degree, so that made me want to work harder towards a diploma and degree for myself. I have definitely seen the multitasking skills I’ve acquired from my past employments benefit me in my college career, as I am currently taking several classes, working part-time, and monitoring multiple media platforms for the university,” said St. Denis.

When asked if she had any advice for younger individuals contemplating going into college straight after high school, St. Denis said, “I would advise if your circumstances allow it, to go straight into college once you are out of high school. There are many fun activities and organizations that will give young students the full college experience if they go directly after high school. Plus, they can gain some real-world experience through part-time employment while attending school.”

Although it might seem like being a nontraditional student may have quite a few perks and advantages, let’s not forget some of the fun and engaging activities traditional college student get to partake in. Of course, the most obvious difference traditional college students possess is their youth and new-found freedom. Many first-year freshmen do not have the stress and weighted responsibilities of juggling school, work, and family life. Other events that traditional students are more likely to participate in over nontraditional students is homecoming, sporting events, and parties. Activities and events like these help traditional students build comradery and social skills that will help make lifelong friends and possible networking connections later in life.

“I had a lot of life lessons to learn, and I learned just as much, if not more, about life in the classroom. I made friends who are now like family, while also having to become independent and responsible for myself, whether I felt like it or not,” said Rebecca Darrup, a traditional undergrad senior in her final semester at ENMU.

Darrup went on to describe how possibly having more real-world experience could have helped her traverse through college a little easier, but also could have been a hindrance too.

“I think real-world experience would have made me much better at time management, as well as being proficient in other skills. Yet, I can honestly say that I procrastinate like nobody’s business if I have free time. I also believe that if I focused more on real-world experiences rather than my education, I probably would not have stayed in school this long,” said Darrup.

When asked if she had any advice for young adults considering starting college right after high school, Darrup said, “Take the chance because you never know where it might lead you. The doors it will open and the people you meet along the way will be life-changing in ways you can’t imagine. Community colleges, trade schools, tech schools are all beautiful things which are not to be underestimated”.

Traditional, nontraditional, whatever your life situation allows you to pursue, just remember that you are making the decision to better yourself. Knowledge is an endless power that no one can ever take away from you once it is learned. It is yours forever and what you decide to do with it, will dictate the wisdom and experience you share with the world.

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