I am a 35-year old college student. I attended College: Part One when I was of the traditional college age, and since I knew everything there was to know in life (except what I wanted to do for a career), I quit going to school just two courses shy of my Associates degree. Brilliant. Four years ago, I came to the realization that I was topped out. I have the potential to make a great career with my current employer, but finishing school had to become a priority before the door to future professional growth would open. Working at an academic medical institution really can light a fire under your tush - it feels as though everyone else has credentials behind their names.
I began by returning to my original college to take care of those last two courses to finally complete my Associates Degree. For me, it was important to finish what I had started there, and then I was ready to pursue my Bachelor's degree. In College: Part One, I was on a path to the nursing program. I would probably be making a great salary by now (half my life later), and who knows, I could have very well ended up loving that career path - but the person I am today has no desire to be a nurse. With my work and life experience leading up to going back to school, I decided that business is where I would like to focus. And after working at a medical institution for nine years, I find the business of healthcare to be quite fascinating.
Enrolling at a university as an adult was intimidating, likely as it would have been at the traditional college age, except I didn't have my parents there to help me get settled in this time. You can build an entire story in your mind about how things will be - how you will be perceived, stress about whether your performance will be at the level you desire, stress about whether you will be able to figure out where you need to go, etc. And don't get me started about the stress of getting back into the "student" frame of mind.
I selected Management for my major, signed up for my first two courses at UTA, and so began College: Part Two. My first semester was not enjoyable - I started with Business Calculus (reeeeeeeally should have done that one at a Community College, btw), and the instructor turned out to be a disgruntled PhD candidate who clearly did not want to be in class with us, two evenings per week. He would yell at us, threaten us with extra difficult problems on exams, and humiliate us if we asked questions in class. It was an absolute nightmare, but thank goodness that has not at all been my experience beyond the first semester. My second semester was exponentially better than my first, and my third was even better than my second. (And I have never been more proud of a 'B' than I was when I completed Business Calculus.)
I enrolled in Principles of Marketing because it was a required course, but I will also admit that I was curious about it. Several of my friends work in the Marketing industry, and while they do different types of things (from Brand Awareness and Brand Management to Public Relations, Graphic Design, and Advertising) within various areas of the field, one common element is that they are all pleased with their career choice. Following Principles, I decided to enroll in a second marketing course the very next semester, Retail Marketing.
During that semester, I learned that I could earn my Business Administration degree with dual majors, and there would be no additional hours required. I declared that I am now pursuing a dual major and my degree plan was refreshed with a more focused list of course requirements - it was a simple enough choice for me to be placed on the Management and Marketing dual major plan. Since then I have studied Consumer Behavior, which is something I could see myself diving into even deeper - the psychology of marketing - love it! I then continued my studies in Social Media Marketing, and I am now Hootsuite certified!
Of all the required courses, by far my favorite was Marketing Research - my greatest source of academic pleasure and pain during the Spring 2017 semester. The workload and hours I had to dedicate to this one course and project were borderline unreasonable, but I ate it up. I love research and solving problems, and applying the process to Marketing further piqued my interest in digging deeper for further understanding.
My Marketing Research professor, who also happens to be the Program Director of the MSMR (Master of Science in Marketing Research) graduate program, reached out to me to gauge my interest in his program. At that time I did not even know there were graduate programs for Marketing Research, and so I looked into it. Apparently the field is quite competitive, only seven (7) universities in the US offer the MSMR degree, and future prospects for the field are looking great. I was flattered that the Program Director sought me out and encouraged me to apply to his program, and after months of weighing my options I have decided to apply for the program once I graduate this winter.
Three years at UTA have completely flown by. I started out lacking 22 courses for my degree, and now I only lack 3. My early concerns were swiftly snuffed - it took nearly no time to learn my way around, I found TWO Starbucks locations on campus, and it turns out I am not the oldest student there! In fact, I would estimate I am around the median age - likely due to my nearly exclusive enrollment in evening and weekend courses. Generational diversity in the classroom creates the opportunity for richer conversations, and we all learn from each other's unique paths and experiences. The coursework, while challenging at times, has turned out to not be too difficult overall, and my biggest hurdle has been time management and developing the self-discipline to stay home and study when my real desire is to be out socializing. Speaking of socializing, I have found several new friends in my classmates, and I even have budding friendships with faculty!
It truly is a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. As my Marketing Capstone professor always encouraged us to do, I have been cataloging my "unexpected successes". While I knew I wanted to return to school to complete a degree in business, I never thought of how inspired I would be through my studies in Marketing. And I certainly never imagined I would be prepared to pursue a graduate degree and career in Marketing Research.
I am now at home, relaxing during the one weekend between my final summer and fall semesters, and I thought now was a good time to pause and reflect on this journey. I feel gratitude that I have had the privilege to finish school, and I feel gratitude for those who have encouraged me through the past few years - it certainly has not always been fun and it was not at all easy - but the love, patience, and support I have felt from my friends and family have helped to propel me forward. I have the most gratitude towards my husband, who has kept the house, the pets, and me running during this somewhat surreal period of our lives. There is no way I could have gotten this far without the Kitster.
When asked about my experience of going back to school, the one word that consistently comes up is 'meaningful'. Most people complete their college education immediately after high school. I may have taken the scenic route, but I am so thankful I finally found my way back.