This week I was considering my upcoming graduation, and I thought it fitting to talk about adult learning and finding the right school. When I graduated from high school (many moons ago), I knew I wanted to attend Howard University. I planned out my entire life, including living in Washington, D. C. until I completed a Bachelor of Arts in English Secondary Education, followed by a Master of Education. Well, luckily, I was accepted to Howard University in the 90s. I went to school for one whole week, and I was so overwhelmed by how large the school was and being away from friends and family. I called my dad, and back to Richmond I went. I had also applied to Virginia Union University and began the same degree program.
Unfortunately, I spent more time with my friends than in class. Fast forward three years, and I had done no more than waste my money (and my parents). I cut our losses and enlisted into active duty, United States Army. At the time, I guess I thought I was rebelling and proving I was an adult that could take care of herself.
Post-secondary education is not for everyone, and neither is the military. I mean, come on, 5:00 a.m. is a tough pill to swallow. On top of that, drill instructors are not the warmest people in the world (when they are working, of course). Somehow, I survived basic training. I was a swimmer, so adjusting to running, getting used to working with people from all over the globe, all while being “trained” in the hot sun of Missouri, made me re-think my entire decision. I met some awesome people, and I learned a lot about myself.
I loved singing and making people laugh, and I would sing and imitate my instructors for my “battle” buddies all the time (when the drill sergeants weren’t around). So, one day, during a scorching day, we were unable to train. We were all waiting in the shade for chow, and one of my buddies decides to brown nose, telling our female instructor that I always made them laugh by imitating her. I was mortified and terrified, all at the same time. Then someone chimed in, “Oh yeah, and she sings cadences just like you.” Instant pucker factor. Of course, she wanted to hear it. If I refused, I would have gotten stronger (literally), real quick like. So, as she stared me down, I stood up, took a deep breath, and did my best imitation. She laughed, and just as I was feeling relieved, she said, “Real funny private. Now, sing the National Anthem.” I think my eyes bulged further than possible, but I complied. She even clapped afterward. Of course, I still had to get strong. When she was done, my arms felt like spaghetti. The silver lining, the people who brought my extra skills to her attention, had to push, too! Ha
I ended up singing the National Anthem for my basic training graduation. I got an order to go to Korea, and my military career went on from there. I had always thought about going back to school, but there was still some reason to keep putting it off. It took over 15 years to decide to return to school finally. I decided to finish my degree but agreed after many challenging experiences that social work might be a better option than education. I earned a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from Virginia Union University. It was difficult for many reasons, one, I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a spring chicken. Returning to school is difficult alone, but returning as a seasoned, non-traditional student was a stiff learning curve. The professors expected more from me, and there were days that I truly wanted to say, I don’t need this foolishness.
After graduation, I landed a fantastic position in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It wasn’t until I realized I needed a Master of Social Work to advance m career further that I considered returning to school. Unlike my first school experience, I now had a family of my own. Now, my motivation was being an excellent example for my son and working to increase my ability to care for my family. I applied at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). When I, initially, started school, everything appeared to be going well. I was getting great grades, and, then, life happened. I began to notice that work became more demanding, my son’s school work started getting more robust, and my grades suffered. I wasn’t going to quit working, and my son will always be a top priority. So, I left school. I knew I wanted to finish my MSW, but, I could not see a clear way of getting it done.
I started to second guess everything I did. It took me another year to decide to go back to school. I didn’t think I had many options. I started researching schools that offered accredited social work programs. I knew I wasn’t going back to VCU. It didn’t fit in with everything going on. So, I saw an ad for Walden University. I requested information. I spoke with an admissions representative, but I still wasn’t 100% sold. I talked to my husband about it. I talked to my mom, and finally, I decided, it’s now or never. On-line school can be a challenge. It requires time management skills, planning, and dedicated time for assignments. In the beginning, it was difficult (and there are still some challenges), but it has been a rewarding experience.
I was pleasantly pleased with the support available from my advisors (less than 24-hour responses), financial aid, and the assistance of staff and my fellow students. I am in no way saying that online education is better than brick and mortar, but I am saying that as a busy adult, with a family, and full-time employment, the right online education program provided me with an opportunity to advance my learning and my career. There are so many grant opportunities for students, adult learners, and career switchers with a desire to return to school, and below is a short list of educational resources and programs that may assist those wanting to return to school. Like I said before, school is not for everyone, and there are certification programs for trades and businesses. Go, get your dream!
Until next time,