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Returning to College: Confidence is Key
( Continued from 1)

Remember, you are at the institution to learn. If you already knew everything, they would just hand you a degree and send you on your merry way. Do not be afraid or ashamed of your skill level. There are classes that act as introductions to subjects and they are specially designed to bridge the gap between where you are and where you need to be. Believe it or not, most teachers really do care about how you are doing and will do whatever they can to help you. The same can be said for the tutors at your institution. If you go to these individuals with an open-mind, good attitude, and a willingness to work, you will be surprised how much you learn and take away with you.

Another major concern for nontraditional students is the assumed gap between themselves and the traditional students entering into college. As mentioned above, this is not always a social issue. A number of the nontrads I have encountered feel that they are "behind the times," are not aware of current issues, and won't be able to relate to their classmates in an academic setting. I do my best to stress to these individuals that everyone entering into college is in the same boat. Whether you are an 18-year-old freshman, or a 60-year-old grandmother, you are going to be nervous. You are going to feel inadequate on occasion, and there are going to be things that you are not aware of or do not know. I promise you, speaking from experience, that traditional students feel the same way when they look at you.

I had actual business men in a number of my undergraduate marketing classes. These were successful people with careers. During class discussion, it was difficult to present an opposing opinion to them. They had all the experience and I had just read the chapter last night! Remember this as you sit in class. You have life experience and worldly wisdom that might be intimidating to others. The best kind of classes occur when the traditional and nontraditional students recognize each other's worth and work together for the greater knowledge of the class as a whole.

The final concern a number of nontraditional students have is simple: technology. This is something that I find to be a constant problem for nontrads. This is not to say that you should feel at fault, or guilty, for a lack of computer knowledge; you should just be aware of it and work at it like you would any other class. View your difficulties as an opportunity to learn. Understand that you may have difficulties, but that they are acceptable. I would recommend finding tutorial programs or software to assist you. If you are not taking classes during the summer, this is a great time to get a little extra work in. If you have children, go to them and ask them to help you. A more radical approach is to start using social networking sites. Participating in this activity will allow you to become more comfortable with your computer and your keyboard. It allows you to tutor yourself without it actually feeling like work. Once you start to see improvement in your typing, writing, and editing ability, this will add to your confidence. As we all know, confidence is key.

I have had the opportunity to work with a number of gifted nontraditional students during my time as an instructor and tutor. Though some were lacking ability and skills in certain areas, they more than made up for it in others. Once they realized that they had something to contribute and that they could learn what they needed, they began to really enjoy their academic experience. Realize that everyone has something different to give, and that everyone takes something away. Regardless of age, we are all still students. Be confident and give yourself a chance to succeed, then see if your experience isn't enjoyable!

See also, Overcoming the Fear of Going Back to School.

William D. Tripp has a B.A. in English Language and Literature/Letters from Southern Arkansas University. He works as a writing instructor and professional writing tutor while he pursues a Master of Fine Arts degree at Old Dominion University.

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