I have realized recently that it’s been almost a year since I actually began my college adventure. I’m trying to remember what it was like back in the olden days, before I became a returning student and committed myself to showing up for class several days a week, against the stated preferences of the intervening years between my graduation from high school and the decision I made in May 2018 to re-enter the halls of learning. What did I think it was going to be like back then?
Could I make a list? What, to be specific, was I thinking when I signed up for college?
- I wasn’t sure yet whether college would be “a piece of cake” or “no idea what I was getting into,” but I was relatively optimistic.
- I thought I would probably get snowed under with assignments in the first few weeks and wish I hadn’t started.
- I expected the younger college students to automatically treat me like a clueless old lady, so I decided ahead of time that I would play the class clown if necessary in order to deflect attention from whatever insecurities they suffered from, as I’m not as socially sensitive as they probably are due to my advanced age.
- I dreaded the thought of having to stay up all night to finish homework.
- I thought the teachers would be as inflexible as my high-school teachers were.
- I thought I wouldn’t have many friends.
- I was afraid that if I couldn’t take the heat, I would have to give back my FAFSA money and that I would have spent it already by then.
So, what am I thinking now?
- College has not been “a piece of cake,” but while I certainly had “no idea what I was getting into,” it hasn’t been unbearably difficult either. It’s less like high school, more like getting ready for a craft fair. You work on things ahead of time but you still end up staying up all night before the final deadline, cramming. And it’s more like a varied meal than a slice of dessert.
- I did get snowed under a few times, but only a few. For the most part I was able to keep up just by observing a few simple guidelines learned over many decades of running a home and family. Not that I do all that well running a home and family, but at least it is familiar territory. The last-minute panic of a remembered responsibility in college is not all that different from the last-minute panic of a remembered responsibility in housekeeping.
3. The younger students have been delightful, and I have enjoyed getting to know them. Some of them go out of their way to greet me when we meet at a different campus, where it would be easy for them walk on by in the company of their cool same-age college friends, pretending they do not know me. Whenever I’ve looked like a fool (and not always voluntarily), I have mostly been received with sympathy and understanding. My guess is that none of these youngsters had any idea I was trying to help them save face by acting like an idiot; they probably just figured I was naturally stupid, and extended the same grace to me they would have to their own Mamaw had she embarrassed herself in a public place.
4. All-night homework or exam-prep sessions have been minimal. I could probably count the times on one hand that I had to stay up to finish something. Could also probably count on one hand the times I had to cancel some other engagement in order to study.
5. The teachers are mostly quite human. Even when they threaten torture or death to those who dare to challenge the deadlines, they generally only follow through if you really deserve it.
6. See #3.
7. So far, my GPA is good enough that no one has asked for any of my FAFSA money back. Which is a good thing, because I really have spent it all.
It’s been worth it.
Final exams for summer courses coming up this week and next; fall semester starts in a little less than a month.