I am a nontraditional college student, and I love it!!!

I grew up in Fairfield Connecticut.  I went to Roger Ludlowe High School (now called Fairfield Ludlowe High School I believe). This school was not just a high school, it was called a “College Preparatory” school.    So I guess they expected us to go to college.

There were about 400 kid who graduated in my class of 1984, and I expect a great many of them did go to College.  Some went to work and a scant few of us went into the military.  I was one of the military route people.  Not that I didn’t consider college.  My parents certainly asked me if I wanted to attend college. But they had strings attached.

My old brain (which admittedly is full of holes) remembers the conversation like this:

Mom&Dad: “If you choose to go to college, we will pay for you to go.”

me: “I am not sure I want to go to College.  I don’t want to go to more school.  I am sick of school.”

Mom&Dad: “Well if you go, we will pay, and when you graduate we will buy you a nice car. But if you drop out or flunk out and don’t finish you will have to pay us back all the money we spent on your education.”

Well, all I heard was the “pay us back” part.  I really didn’t want to go to school anymore, and to be honest if I had attempted college, I would probably have flunked, or dropped out, and knew I was going to owe my parents thousands of dollars.  No way I wanted that!!

Besides, my older brother had joined the Navy, and he was doing okay, so that is what I chose to do. I joined the United States Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, and had a successful 20 year career!

Bahrain 2003
Bahrain 2003

After retiring from the Navy I got a job at a local Dermatologist, and started working.  College never really occurred to me, besides who had the time for that….??  I was working full time and had two small children….

Fast forward a few years.  Virginia Senator Mark Warner sponsored a new GI Bill aimed at military personnel who were on Active Duty during the tragic Terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This bill was signed into law in July 2008, and went into effect in August 2009.

I knew nothing about this new GI Bill, until a patient told me about it.  I was intrigued.  The Post 911 GI Bill would pay for 100% of tuition for me because I was on Active Duty for three years after 9/11, and would also give me a housing allowance and an allowance for books.

So in Fall 2010, I was enrolled at Tidewater Community College (TCC) to earn my Associates Degree in Science.

It was a bit daunting, being a 45 year old lady in college classes.  Most of the people in my classes were just a few years older than my children.  However, I will say that having lots of life experience seemed to give me an edge, because I knew things I was being taught, merely because I had lived a little, and had learned some things along the way.

I graduated from TCC in December 2012, and applied to finish my Bachelor’s at this awesome institution:


I LOVE LOVE LOVE going to college!!!  Walking around campus, and doing schoolwork in the library, attending classes, all of it!

It still feels a little strange being old enough to be most students’ mama, but nobody has ever treated me too differently because of it.  The only time I was ever treated differently because of my age was in my Women’s Studies Class when one of the students referred to me as “Miss Carol”.  I am sure her upbringing had taught her to use the Miss as a term of respect for “older” folks, and it made me smile. Most students accept me as one of their own, and treat me the same (almost) as everyone else.  Sometimes at first they are a bit standoffish but when they realize that I can relate to them on their level, they change and treat me as a peer.

I am taking the summer off from classes, but will be back to them in the Fall.  I decided last semester to double major. I was already a Psychology Major, and decided to add  Women’s Studies as a second major.  So far that has been a great decision, and I am thoroughly enjoying my Women’s Studies classes (a different story for a different day).

If all goes as planned, I expect to graduate in May of 2015 with my Bachelor’s Degree and will have to figure out what to do with all that I have learned.


One thought on “I am a nontraditional college student, and I love it!!!

  1. I am so happy to read your stories about life in the military for 20 years and now as a college student.

  2. So awesome. Right now I have one friend who just finished her degree and another just about to start. Such an awesome example a mother can set for her kids and for herself. Good luck!

  3. Hey Carol! I love reading these stories from non-traditional students. I too am an “old” Old Dominion student. I retired from the Navy in 2003, started working, decided to go back to school, graduated from TCC, started at ODU, and will graduate this December. I’ve probably seen you on campus. I can relate to the joy of just walking around campus from class to class (especially this fall, which just seems especially nice this year).
    Well, back to work (finishing a philosophy paper). Your story inspired me to get back to work. Hang in there! Sounds like you’re doing great! See you at the Borjo Coffeehouse!

    1. Jerry,
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. This poor blog has been ignored because school was such a bear last semester. Congratulations on graduating!! I should graduate in December 2015. I do love the whole college experience. I think it is better fr me to be going now as opposed to going at age 19. I needed the Navy to “grow me up”, and I don’t think I would have done well if I had gone at 19. I hope you did well on your paper. 🙂

  4. Wow, I think it´s amazing course in a American College. Most incredible was your courage, to graduate after many years.
    Thanks for sharing your experience e give hope for people who wants to study anytime! Congratulations!!!
    And sorry about my English, I´m from Brazil lol.

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