Front Range Community College Blog

College as an Adult Student

So you’ve decided to go back to school. For whatever reason it didn’t work out in your late teens or twenties: kids, work, finances. Here you are, walking into a college for the first time in 17 years, or maybe the first time ever. Maybe your classmates are close to your kids’ ages. They dress different from you, they talk different from you, and they seem to learn different as well. It all can be a little overwhelming, but I am here to tell you that it is worth the discomfort you may feel for the first couple of weeks.

Decisions, Decisions

When I made the decision to go back to school it was not an overnight thing. I had played with the idea since my daughter was in kindergarten, and she is now in seventh grade. Finally doing it was really scary. I thought everyone would notice me, and point and laugh at what a failure I had been at 19. I thought I would stick out like a sore thumb. I thought I would have nothing in common with my classmates. That first day I was shaking and felt like my head would explode, but I made it. I more than made it. I found I really liked it. I also discovered that one of two things tends to happen with other, traditional college-age students: They either look at you in an almost mom-like way, or they somehow don’t realize how old you are (or pretend not to).

Relating to Traditional Students

In my first semester at FRCC I took MAT 050. I was at a table with three kids, all newly graduated from high school. One was a neighbor’s son; another was a newly married 19-year-old; and the other was an 18-year-old guy who had a lot going on at home. What I learned from the three of them was almost more important than what I learned in the class, which was a lot (thank you, Christine Mack).

From the students I learned that even though I am way older than they are, I also had a lot in common with them, and my knowledge about life was really important to them. I was asked advice, and listened to horrifying stories and said things like: “Did you get stitches? Are you on antibiotics? Marriage is hard. Do not break his car windows.” It made me feel like I was in the right place at the right time.

Age Brings the Blessing of Not Caring What People Think

I have had classes where I do not really connect with anyone, and that’s okay too. Then I am just one of the “kids” doing my thing. I find that in classes like those, the teachers really appreciate my input during discussions. I have a mature adult’s lack of fear of speaking out. I will ask the questions that the others are afraid to ask for fear of looking stupid, and everyone benefits from those answers.

Age Brings the Knowledge of Why You Are In School

I have excelled at FRCC because I now know the value of what I am doing. My family will benefit directly from my degree. Earning my degree  is not an arbitrary concept for the future. The sooner I finish college, the quicker my family’s life will get better. That is a major benefit to being an adult student. I work hard because I know this is the only way to better my own and my family’s future. Yes, it’s a little weird to sit in class with people who babysat my kids, or kids of neighbors and coworkers. I like to think that they look at me, and either see how important it is to stay in school, or feel like if I can do it, they surely can.

You Can Do It!

Being an adult learner at Front Range Community College is an inclusive and rewarding experience. I look forward to the next semester and beyond, and would strongly encourage anyone who is on the fence, as I was for so many years, to do it. The first step is the hardest, but once you are in your groove nothing can stop you.

Avatar for Heidi Swetich

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heidi Swetich returned to college after a 17-year break. She is working toward her degree in Elementary Education. When she's not in class she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teenagers.