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Going Back to School isn’t for Sissies

My mother had only an 8th grade education; my father didn’t graduate high school.  Education wasn’t a priority as we were growing up. Instead, my mother made sure her five daughters could catch a man. Pretty telling, isn’t it?

Well, as adults we figured out how important education is. Recently,  I attended my sister’s MBA graduation and I’m incredibly proud of her. Both she and I got our degrees when we were over 40. I remember what a challenge it was to go back to school. I was working full time with children still at home. But I have absolutely no doubt; I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Return to School

Returning to School Can Be Incredible and Satisfying

Yes, one day when I was 42 I had an “Aha!” moment.   I could either have my degree in four years, or still be sitting around whining that I needed to get it.  The desire was never going to go away so I needed to stop “deciding” and just do it.

If this is you- then let me share tips from my sister and I. I’m here to tell you that going back to school as an adult isn’t for sissies.  But, you can do it .  Just consider these things-

It must be a priority:  You have to be SURE that you want it- more than anything. It will be more important than putting on your makeup, dust bunnies under the bed, or fresh vegetables in the fridge.  Put your classwork first.

Make time your ally:  You can always find more time.  Think of time as a barrel you are filling with rocks.  Each time you think it’s full; you put in smaller and smaller rocks. You can fit more in to the nooks and crannies, can’t you?  That’s the way time works. Find the bits and pieces of time in each day, and use it for school work.

You have to be more than organized:  My school required that I read and annotate 40 books in addition to my courses each semester. I had to be more than organized- I had to prioritize.  You will not be able to accomplish everything. But still, you have to accomplish the top tasks.  Know what those most important tasks are and hit them every day. The rest will take care of itself.

Find a program for you:  Each school is different.  Choose one that fits with your style and goals. I chose an online program so I could do it from anywhere.  Others need the interaction with other students so a local college works for them.  In any case, look for flexibility and a returning adult environment.

Know when things are “good enough”:   Remember, you don’t have to get an “A” on everything. Sometimes a returning student can only do “C” work because of their life commitments.  “C” work is fine.    Remember that once you get that diploma, no one will look at the grades.

Know what you’re made of: Regardless of how organized you are, there will be days when you

Man studying

Put study at the top of the list

get by on pure grit. There will be days when you’re overwhelmed, but you must persevere. This will be your opportunity to show the world what you’re made of.  Don’t give up.

I’d love to hear your stories and your personal experience, so please comment. Join the conversation -sign up for the newsletter and please share this blog, my website, FB and TWTR links so that we can inspire and provoke the conversation.

Enjoy and Keep Rockin!

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  1. Sadie Stine (Benson)

    Hi Virginia!
    How fitting of a piece this time around, I loved it! As you know, I too recently went back to school to complete my degree and so far, I’m loving it! I am only 1/2 way through my first set of courses but I just knew this was something I had to do. It’s so nice to know I am not alone and that it certainly can be done. I chose an online option that allows for dual-enrollment to complete my masters as well if I so choose. To anyone considering it… there’s not time like the present!

    • Virginia

      Sadie- I’ve always known you are a smart girl. It’s never easy to go back to school, but you recognized that it is pretty important. Nice to hear you’re loving it. I enjoyed mine too, but it was exhausting :D I know you’re going to do great!

  2. Dawn Biocca

    How timely this is. I decided to return to school and will be starting my second semester on the 19. I am taking Microsoft Word Part 1 & 2, PowerPoint 1 & 2. each is 8 weeks long and totally on line. I did very well my Spring semester but I did learn that I need to be organized and consistent about when I do my homework. I also have a home based business so I need to be very mindful about my time. I can get so involved with homework that work falls apart or get so involved with work that homework doesn’t get done. Alan asked me what I was going to do with it. Not sure at this point but I am going to complete my Certificate in Microsoft Office Professional first then see where I am and if I want to get my AS/AA degree. To answer his question maybe I will not do anything with it other than get it. Because it will mean something to me and that is what it is about. I turn 59 tomorrow so if you think you are to old to do this think again. I felt so alive and my brain worked so much better for me then I ever thought it would when I was taking classes in the Spring and I am excited in the classes I have lined up this semester. I feel empowered and ready to take on the world. Think of it this way you will be 60 next year do you want to be 60 with a certificate or without it. Either way you will be there. I have decided that I want to be 60 with a completed certificate. I am so jazzed.

    • Virginia

      What a wonderful testimonial Dawn- clearly you are happy with your decision and enjoying every step of moving forward. And, I agree with you- you don’t always have to know what you’ll do with it. Especially if you love it! Virginia

  3. Sheryl

    I’m so with you. I went back for my MFA when iwas 50 and my boys were in high school. Best thing I ever did.

    • Virginia

      I’m sure it wasn’t easy Sheryl, but you certainly are clear that you wouldn’t have changed it for the world. That’s how I feel also. Virginia

  4. Janie Emaus

    Good for you – is all I can say!

    • Virginia

      Ha! Janie you are so funny. Good to hear from you- Virginia

  5. Phoebe Wulliman Graber

    Great words of wisdom and encouragement! I’ve contemplated working on a graduate degree but school and the pursuit of the grade (!) would be all encompassing. I don’t want to put myself or my husband through that!

    • Virginia

      Yes Phoebe, it certainly is consuming. It does impact others like your husband and family, not just you. And, at some point you have to ask yourself what you’ll get out of it. I know if I pursue anything further, it won’t be a higher degree, but maybe something fun and shorter- like a writing class or language. There are lots of options out there. Maybe someday for me…. Good to hear from you! Virginia

  6. Connie McLeod

    Virginia, great post and great advice.

    • Virginia

      Thanks Connie- so much of what we’ve talked about- making your life what you want it to be involves education for some. Just had to post this piece. thanks for the good thoughts.

  7. Maria-Christina

    Well written and very sound advise!

    • Virginia

      Thank you MC, I’ve always thought of you as a very smart business woman who speaks of continuing education all the time. Good to hear! Virginia

  8. Shell

    What great tips! I know it would be harder to go back now, while I have three little boys in my house, than back when my only responsibility was going to class(funny how hard I thought that was at that time!).

    • Virginia

      Three little boys, you lucky thing! I remember how much wonderful chaos there was in my house with my four kids- and I miss it everyday. If this is something you want to do Shell, those days will come. You just keep having fun with those little ones while you can. Thanks so muchy for your thoughtful comments. Virginia