| 03.18.2018

It”s never too late – The pros and cons of being a nontraditional graduate


Here I go, moving on to bigger and better things, or so I hope. Graduating college a decade late is better than never, I suppose.

Being a nontraditional student has been a wonderful experience, but I have discovered that there are many ups and downs to returning to college later in life.

First of all, I was more focused on schoolwork these last few years than when I was younger, and I even enjoyed most of it. The social aspect of college was less prominent for me, as I put forth more concentration on my academic success.

Many college students love to party. Some students can do both, but I don”t have that kind of energy anymore. At the same time, it is kind of sad that I missed out on that social aspect that is part of the college experience.

In some ways, I believe I have a better start on the world than traditional graduates. I often hear students worry about when they will eventually have to go out into the real world and start “adulting.” I have been “adulting” for a long time already.

Mary Malone

The world is not nearly as intimidating to me as it would be to someone who has never been face-to-face with life – holding down a job, a home and paying all their own bills.

At 34 years old, I spent about 15 years in the working world before returning to school to get my bachelor”s degree in journalism. I have paid many bills, and at times I haven”t been able to pay my bills.

As far as life after college goes, it does not intimidate me, but I also feel like I have more pressure to get a good job quickly because I don”t have as many years to work my way up.

I started my own book editing business a couple years ago. It began with editing for my sister, who has written a popular young adult book series. I always knew I was a good writer and a better editor, and I realized I could make some real money if I went back to school. So here I am.

My work experience and my education should be enough to secure me a good job, and I am sure it will, but as graduation approaches my anxiety increases.

One thought that has often occurred to me as I begin to apply for jobs is what to write on my resume and cover letter. Should I promote that I am older even though I am just graduating college?

This could be seen as good or bad by potential employers. They could see it as good thing that I have work experience and can prove that I am a hardworking and reliable.   On the other hand, some employers might wonder why I waited so long to finish college and assume that I”m not a go-getter, when there were extenuating circumstances that prevented me from finishing college when I was younger.

Some employers would prefer to have fresh young minds to bring new ideas to their business as well, and while I am fresh out of school, I may not have the young, fresh and pliable mind they are looking for.

The biggest problem with being a nontraditional graduate is that I have a home and a family secured in rural north Idaho, where journalism jobs are hard to come by. I am envious of younger students who have their whole lives ahead of them and can fly across the country on a whim.

I could do that, but it would not only be a hassle, it would be heartbreaking. My life, my love and my everything is in north Idaho. I am ready to go home to Priest Lake, to my little house in the woods.

While I may not have thought everything through before returning to school at 30 years old, I wouldn”t change my experience for anything. I have enjoyed my time at the University of Idaho. I have met some of the most amazing people, many of whom are going to go far in the world. It is refreshing to see young people who have so much ambition.

While I wouldn”t change my own experience, if I could offer one word of advice to the youth of America it would be to go to college and do it earlier than I did, though it is never too late to pursue a higher education. Just get it over with early and move on to the bigger and better things in life. Finally, and most importantly, don”t ever give up.

Mary Malone  can be reached at  arg-opinion@uidaho.edu  or on Twitter @InkSlasherEdit

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