Remember the good ol’ days when you just graduated from high school, got into university and everything was awesome? You were finally free, had fun, went out as long as often as you want, were your own person, you were young and free and all was good in the world? I mean, college days are awesome. It’s probably the one time in your life when you get to experience life to the fullest. You’re young, full of energy and enthusiasm, full of hopes and dreams and aspirations. Partying every weekend (if not every day) is the norm and you may save up some money and go see the world (on a student budget, of course). You’re feeling like a responsible adult, the world is your oyster and everything is possible.
Just kidding. You’re lost and confused and frustrated. You’re not sure if you chose the right school, exams are hard, professors are assholes, you will probably have to work for the rest of your life to pay off the student loans and textbooks and there is a reason why the phrase “broke as a college student” is a thing.
When I was 18, I also went to college like a happy puppy, with my rosy sunglasses on, my whole life planned out and ready to conquer the world. It was awesome for a couple of years and then came life, a mental breakdown and then I dropped out.
Several gruesome years later, when I finally got my life back on track, I decided I really wanted a university degree so I decided to go back to school. Instead of my old major (law) I decided on something more suited to my character (journalism) and I am now officially a freshman at 27. I won’t go right now into the horrendous amount of talks I’ve had about why I’m a failure at life for not already having a degree, a husband and three babies or why I’m a laughing stock in my family for going back to university. I’ve also had several messages from people my age that have congratulated me on the courage (huh?) for going back to school at such a late (huh?) age. So, I guess this article is for all of us: The late starters, the bitter parents and family, the fearful and undecided and all the rest who need a daily dose of inspiration. Here are some of the reasons I found that going back to school in your late 20’s is actually pretty awesome!
1. You’re more confident about what you want to do in life
I’ve spoken about this a lot of times and I will say it again: I honestly, from the bottom of my heart, don’t believe that kids at the age of 17-18 are mentally and emotionally capable to truly and responsibly be able to determine their future lives and careers. I will admit that there is a small amount of really mature, adult and responsible young people that are firmly aware of what they want from life and will work for it, but the vast majority of the youngsters ending high school are just extremely confused and insecure. They are under tremendous pressure from both their teachers and parents to pick now what they want to do for the rest of their lives so that in a lot of cases they just pick anything and then spend the rest of their lives regretting this. On the other hand (like me), they may be overzealous and idealistic about their future professions and ending up hating what they chose because they weren’t aware what they’re really about. And in case you didn’t know, lawyers are assholes. Yep. I’m telling you, first hand. Then there’s the whole “freedom” thing when they are actually more about partying and having fun than actually doing any studies.
By mid to late twenties, you’ve had time to think over a lot of things. You do a huge amount of personal growth and evolving. You get to know who you are and what you like, and, most importantly, what you want of life and your future. You are much better at discovering your talents, abilities and interests. When choosing you major/university (depending on your country), you will be much smarter about it. I chose journalism because I seem to be good with words (really?), like interacting with people and find genuine interest in the profession but, most importantly, am old and wise enough to be aware that nothing is perfect and that it has it’s ugly side and still choose to pursue it.
2. You are a lot more confident around your professors and in classes
Ok, when I was in law school, I was a terrified little mouse, probably because I was surrounded by hungry sharks. I swear that, when some of my professors looked at me, I would pee a little. I almost never dared to speak in class because I would be greeted by a sneer and a snappish remark. I once got bitched out in front of the whole class of 120 people by my professor (hi, Mr. Kačer!) for saying that I would work as a lawyer for a smaller pay because I want to help people. Once I just knocked on a professor’s door only for him to scream at me for bothering him (during official consultation hours, mind you). They would terrorize me on exams, sending me back dozens of times over one wrong sentence. I was young and insecure and the crap that I’ve been through with them is probably one of the reason why I’m still a nervous wreck today. They intimidated me and I let them do it, which is one of my biggest mistakes.
In the few years from then I’ve developed a back bone and a vocabulary. I’m not the scared little mouse I was because my age has given me an air of confidence the other students don’t have. I haven’t been to class yet but I know that I will not be as scared as I was then because I now know that they are just barking dogs that can’t do anything but to try (unsuccessfully) to bring me down. A lot of them are good people who just try to do their jobs but I know that the ones who will treat me like crap are just insecure people who are trying to feel empowered by making the weaker ones suffer. And I feel sorry for them, because they obviously don’t have what I do, and that is self-confidence, because I truly believe that a lot of the egoists are really just a bunch of insecure scaredy-cats.
3. You’re the baws of the group
I mean, I think this is so obvious it doesn’t need mentioning. Here you are, the fierce mature adult (never mind the fact that you still watch Saturday cartoons and play WOW, nobody needs to now that) who’s already been through college once and knows the system, the ins and outs, the secret methods, the works. You already ooze with self-confidence (see above) and when you walk around campus, you know where you’re going. Do you have that mental picture in your head? Now, imagine how that must look to a confused 18 year-old young adult just starting in life. You must look like gods to them. When I met some of my future classmates during enrollment, they first looked at me with weird looks (like, who is this old hag? Is she an assistant?) but when they saw me taking initiative with questions, seeing me confidently talking to the staff and walking around like I own the place, they also started asking me questions and already looked at me with new-found admiration.
This will probably last for a good 6 months before they themselves get into the groove but man, the feeling is awesome while it lasts.
4. Education is important
I was told that I don’t need a college degree, because I will probably end up working at a convenience store anyways. I was told that I don’t need a degree to be a journalist. I was told that I was too old to go back to school and that I should work on getting a “real job”. I was told that I had one chance and that I blew it. I was told that education is a waste of time. To all of that I say, from the bottom of my heart: watch me.
If I started to go into the whole discussion about how important a college degree really is in life, this would turn into a thesis, so I rather wouldn’t. What I would say is that I strongly believe education is extremely important and I’m willing to spend an insane amount of my own hard earned money on getting it. I personally don’t care if I end up working in a convenience store afterwards. I want to get that diploma because it is one of my personal life goals. Maybe one day I will use it as a piece of paper to write on but I will know that I spent time and effort to learn something new. I am so determined to do this that I am willing to combine my studies with a 40h/week job and volunteering writing just to make it work.
For those who already have kids, I am sorry that I am unable to provide any useful advice because I wouldn’t know how that is yet and I’m grateful that I’ve decided to go back to school before I had kids. I’ve heard of people crying and regretting their life because they had a child and now think that they can’t ever finish school. I know that combining kids and school is a tremendous job but I don’t want you to think that your life is over just because you now have a child because I firmly believe that this is not true. If you truly, truly, truly want it, I think that it can be done. It will take great sacrifices, a huge amount of effort and I don’t think that I am overdoing it if I say that it would be one of the biggest challenges in your life, but I believe it can be done, sooner or later.
Education is important. It’s never too late to go back to school, and once (and if) you go back, I think that you might enjoy if even more than in the good ol’ days.