The first year of university from the perspective of a continuing education student

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The majority of us go to post-secondary within a year or two of graduating high school. It’s just the way it’s done; how it’s explained to us in high school and what our parents expect of us.

However, for those who came before us, not everyone wanted to or thought they needed to get post-secondary education in order to get a good job. But now, more “adults” (i.e. those of earlier generations than our own) are opting to attend post-secondary education as continuing education students than ever before.

Like many of you, I came to university right out of high school so I never really know what it was like to experience working full-time for anything more than a summer.

But I recently became the acquaintance of Mark Reeves, a 31-year-old former Tier II Technical Support for Apple computers, and asked him about his experiences so far as a first-year social sciences student.

Q. Why did you decide to go to university after having been in the working world for long?

A. University was something I wanted to do from the get-go, but I didn’t have the grades before. I fell into a routine of getting up and going to work which I didn’t want to disrupt. Workplace politics finally pushed me over the edge and I decided to apply to school last year.

Q. What separates you from the average first year student?

A. Besides the obvious – age. I haven’t really met any first years yet so it’s hard for me to say for sure.

Maturity level would be the big difference. I’m at university for me, [while] many first years are expected to go by their school and/or their parents. I should be able to put more effort into what I’m doing of my own volition because I want to do it. Another thing that is also tied into maturity is committing to things. I will get up and do it because I signed up to do it. Waking up for an 8:30 class isn’t a chore for me now in the same way it was when I was younger (and for many students) because I am used to getting up early for work now.

Q. As a mature student, what are some challenges you have faced and/or can possibly foresee?

A. The biggest challenge is the social aspect of everything: I’m mixing with people 10 to 12 years younger than I am.

Re-adjusting to school life is going to be a challenge. It is different to get up and go to work every day when work doesn’t come home with you. Now I’m going to have to buckle down and do the readings and the research, etc.

Q. What do you think a university degree can give you?

A. Hopefully a better job in the end. Mostly I’m here to prove to myself and everyone else that I have potential. There were people who said I’m a failure and could never do it and others who believed in me and said I would be able to. I want to be able to say yes I can do it and go shove it up your ass to those who said I couldn’t do this.

Q. What sorts of things do you hope to learn (or re-learn) while you are completing your next degree, either over the next year or over the next four?

A. Time management skills are something I need to work on. My job didn’t really require these skills.

My financial responsibilities are much different than bringing in a steady, relatively large pay check every couple weeks. Now I’ve got to live off of OSAP and a part-time job.

I need to learn some social skills. I’m not known as a social person, and you have to be for group projects and whatnot.

Commitment – I’ve got to stick things out to the end and do what I want to do and not get fed up and do what I was previously doing.

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About the author

Danielle Lorenz is a long-time contributor to the Career Incubator. Danielle is a PhD student in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta. When procrastinating from schoolwork, you will find Danielle lurking on several social media platforms and trying to befriend the snowshoe hares on the U of A campus.