College is often considered the best four years of a student’s life. For me, a full-time student who also works full-time — it’s been quite the opposite experience. Unfortunately, this mindset stems from the belief that universities do not care about students who need to work full-time.
These years in college have tested me unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. I am far from the average student, with a far from traditional route. When I was 19 years old, I attended Mt. San Antonio College and couldn’t care less about school. I perceived school like an evil corporation obsessed with making money. I dropped out that same year and decided I would never go back.
When I was 21, I was being pressured by people in my life to go back to school because it was the smart thing to do. I felt like I had matured and was finally ready to take college seriously. What I found out is that I lacked motivation and drive, and I ended up withdrawing from every class I took and received Ws in all those classes. After that experience, I was convinced I would never sit in a classroom or ever listen to an academic lecture again.
I hit a crossroads when I was 26. I had been working at my job full-time for three years, hated my boss and didn’t want my life to be dictated by terrible management; I decided to go back to school.
I went back to the same junior college and decided that this time everything would be different. When I first stepped foot on that campus again, feelings of embarrassment and self-doubt crept in. I told myself if I was fully committed, I would never miss a day of school. When I went back, I took the hardest classes possible to prove to myself that I was committed.
During the process of going back, I still worked full-time to get ahead and aid my family financially. I normally stacked my classes on my two days off from work, a manageable strategy at a junior college taking general education classes.
When I transferred to CPP, however, things were entirely different. Very often, classes were offered at only one particular time, making it virtually impossible to schedule work around that class.
When I got to CPP in fall 2019, I took 15 units worth of classes at scattered times. I would consider a three-hour block of time when I came home from school as my day off. This schedule led to some stretches of not having a weekend off for over six months.
Nonetheless, I kept my promise to myself that I would never miss day of school or a class when we were still allowed to be on campus at CPP.
It’s confusing to me why the school doesn’t consider offering more classes at different times, or why they set certain classes at less-than-optimal times. Some classes that are a requirement for a communications degree are only available on a Friday or are spread out over three days of the school week. How does that help someone who works full-time? I’ve long held this resentment toward school because I felt like I was being punished for not wanting to take on debt while pursuing a degree.
I’ve had to sacrifice things like my social life, family time and mental health to ensure I finish school. Even my quality of schoolwork is affected because I simply don’t have the time to dedicate to school sometimes.
Instead of universities forcing students to set their schedule a certain way just to be able to attend school, why not accommodate them and give them more flexibility?
I’ve often been asked the question why not just work part-time? For me, someone who is loyal to a fault, I could not do that to my employer or the people who rely on me financially. My job was willing to be flexible and work with my school schedule every step of the way, my job even provides tuition-assistance for full-time employees.
The problem is universities don’t think about the type of people in my situation when they set the schedule for classes. It’s easy to feel isolated and feel like no one understands you, even faculty. There’s hardly anyone who you can relate to, or that you know is in the same situation. Now imagine dealing with that and being a 31-year-old college student.
30 and college just don’t sound right does it. It’s a humbling experience when you find yourself closer in age to the faculty members than the other students. I’ve contemplated dropping out of school so many times since I’ve gone back. Sometimes, I don’t even believe that I am set to graduate in the spring of 2021. I keep expecting something to go wrong or for me to simply not make it to that point.
When school was moved online it felt like the last test or the last evil character you’re supposed to beat at the end of a video game. As I get closer to that goal of graduating though, it’s provided me perspective, and in some ways appreciate the path I have taken.
For CPP and every university out there I have one recommendation: give the working man a chance!
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