to College Later in Life: Following the Family Tradition
by Deanna Luke
During the 1970's my uncle died. It caused my aunt
to take a long hard look at what her life at 50 was
going to be like if she didn't have an education. In
an effort to find a comrade and support, she telephoned
my mother and asked her to go with her to the local
junior college, Tarrant County Junior College, to see
My mother got caught up in the idea of having a degree
and signed up for classes with my aunt. I recall thinking
that they were too old to be trying something like that.
But they seemed to really enjoy the classes, the knowledge
gained, and even the tests! They both received their
associate degree from TCC. Their self esteem rose remarkably,
and they moved on to careers working outside the home
after a lifetime of being wives and mothers.
After I turned 30, I decided I wanted to try my hand
at college for the first time. I had married a year
after high school, then gone on to business school.
It had given me the skills I needed for employment until
I was pregnant with our first child. Now, three kids
later, college was a new thing for me. I had been a
mediocre student in high school and found the idea of
college at 18 to be too scary. But what was scary at
18 was just the challenge I wanted as a 30 something
wife, mom, and person. My first semester accrued a 4.0
grade point average. I was shocked. I could learn and
had a wonderful mind. Because of my mindset in high
school, I had not applied myself and had been happy
enough to just have passing grades.
I studied things I really loved like psychology, English,
speech, and sociology. Each semester the 4.0 I had earned
was a pleasant surprise. I loved learning that I was
not a visual person, but totally auditory.
I made tapes of my class notes and the reading assignments
from the textbooks.
Later I would listen to the tapes as I bathed, slept
and drove back and forth to school. In my early years
in school they discovered I was dyslexic.
It seemed to be some sort of a ceiling. But with the
tapes I was not challenged at all with the classes and
information. Even test taking became something I looked
forward to, because I would get back my papers with
high marks each time.
Knowing what you want to do at 18 is admirable. Having
the conviction to do something about it when you are
30 or 40 is more exciting than it ever could have been
directly following high school.
There were things that had to give way for me to be
able to go back to college in my 30's. My family was
very supportive. I learned to do my homework at the
college campus after class in the library, unless it
was too involved. On those days I did my homework after
my children and husband had gone to bed. Fortunately,
I could get by on five or six hours of sleep at that
One thing I dreaded when I started to college was the
attitude of the younger students. One test into the
semester, they all wanted me on their study teams because
of the excellent grades I made. Though there were many
parts of life
where we had nothing in common, learning how to learn
was something we shared.