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William D. Tripp Returning to College: Confidence is Key

by William D. Tripp

Animal House (1978) isn't representative of college today. Yet for many nontraditional students returning to the realm of academia, or even venturing into it for the first time, the exploits of John Belushi and his cohorts are the image of college they are most familiar with. With such a view of the college experience, the fear of not fitting in can be a common one.

There are many fears associated with going back to school. A quick look at a few and how to deal with them can help older students enter the new school year with confidence.

It is a brave decision to head back to school after a long gap. It is never easy fitting in. You may be apprehensive of mingling in with the younger crowd. Your kids maybe the same age! Another daunting aspect is the admission process. You don’t know where to start, how to fill out all the forms and if you'll pass the tests. However, the worst thing that any person can do is let fear stop them from returning to school. Adults that get their degrees at a later time increase their chances of getting paid exponentially more in their lifetime, than if they did not get their degree.

One of the most important things to remember about going back to school is that every person, even young adults, are scared at some point and that this feeling is normal. School at any point can be hard, but adults need to know that there is always someone that can help them overcome their fears and help them achieve success.

First and foremost admit that you are scared and have reservations. You think you are too old, won't fit in, won’t be able to cope, or won’t be able to afford it.

The fear of "fitting-in" is reserved for the younger generation for the most part. While the fraternity/sorority aspect of college is still present, it is not something that most returning students need concern themselves with. Most adults returning to school have families, job, and/or children, and are not in college for the social scene as much as to get an education and attain their career goals.

In regards to academics, students matriculate at all levels and the is plenty of remedial help available. As a writing instructor and professional writing tutor for Southern Arkansas University Tech in East Camden, Arkansas, I assist students in all stages of the writing process, everything from brainstorming to final polish. My most frequent consultations involve nontraditional students returning to/entering college with questions about their papers.

Almost every consultation starts off the same way. A nervous woman or man will hand me their paper, sit down, and before I even have time to read their name, begin explaining to me why the paper "isn't any good." By this point, they have quit making eye contact and are staring at the floor or table. They apologize for wasting my time, tell me about how hectic their lives are, and some even go as far as to say that they shouldn't even be here. This is all without me having read a single word! In the span of a minute, the student has shut themselves down, made themselves feel terrible, and no longer want to try. This is the first, and largest, mistake I see nontraditional students making on a daily basis; you have to be confident in yourself and your academic abilities.

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