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Deanna LukeReturning 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 about enrollment.

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 time.

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.

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