A 40-Something-Year-Old’s Trip Back to the Books

I have written a few blogs regarding my experiences with having returned to school.  I have taken those pieces and put them all together to chronicle my educational experience.  Perhaps I may be able to help someone out there by sharing.  This blog will be ongoing as I struggle with the pursuit of my degree.  As it turns out, it is a bumpy ride.  Is nothing ever easy?22860-The-Struggle-You-re-In-Today

After 20 years of working in an administrative assistant/secretarial capacity, much frustration in my job, and several signs that I received that seemed to be leaning towards the possibility of me returning to school to finish my bachelor’s degree, I dove in and explored my school options and then finally made the leap.  I started my first class in March of 2014.  This is not something I took lightly. In fact, I had been contemplating returning to school for several years.  The desire has always been there, I just never had a real drive or reason to do it.  When I started thinking about it this time, I came across a transcript evaluation I had completed with another college in 2012.  At that time, it would have taken me two years to finish what I was originally only one year away from getting – my bachelor’s degree.  I remember thinking, “why should it take me two years?  I was so close xx number of years ago.”  Not only that, but I didn’t want to spend so much money just to get a piece of paper that I really did not have any ambition to know what to do with.  Now here it is, two years later, at a time when I do have that ambition, and I would have been finished.  I had no idea then that today it would have fit perfectly into my life to have that “piece of paper”.   I should have jumped in then, but I didn’t.  Better late than never, right?!

I decided to give the University of Phoenix’s online program a try.  I know a couple of people who go/went there, and they really liked it.  One had even done all sorts of research on various online programs before ultimately deciding to go with their program.  Since he essentially did the research for me, and because their admissions counselor was the most helpful during my own researching, I decided to go with their program.  I started with a small free workshop they provided to acquaint myself to the online process.  I have to admit, at first I was so overwhelmed with the process that I was questioning what in the world I was doing and thought about backing out.  But my dear friends helped talk those fears out of me, and I signed up.  Here is what my first year at University of Phoenix has been like.

March, 2014

I found that the first week wasn’t so bad.  Actually, it was way easier than I thought it would be.  So why did I fear it so much?  It’s funny how the unknown can keep us from moving forward in our lives, whether the change we seek is moving to a new city, changing jobs or returning to school.  Over the years, I have gotten comfortable and in a routine.  Not the best routine, I can assure you, as there is some laziness to it, but it is still my routine.  So now I am disrupting the routine (interfering with my lazy evenings) and forcing my brain to comprehend something new again.  I am sure there will be times I want to give up and quit.  It’s sort of like starting a new exercise routine.  Every year I start, and by the end of the year, I am no longer doing it.  When those moments hit, I am going to rely heavily on my family and friends to cheer me on to keep going.

April 26, 2014

I finished my first course to my bachelor’s degree – with a 99.1% A!  I am happy to say that, for the most part, it was relatively easy.  The two most difficult obstacles I found to attending school online were:

 1) Finding time to read – After working 8 hours a day, spending at least an hour to two hours a day commuting, coming home to make dinner, and trying to find some time for myself, finding time to read three or four textbook chapters in a week can be quite challenging.  Some nights I would crawl in bed, open the book and fall asleep.  Yep….it’s that exciting!  While I hate reading online and prefer actual books, I found saving the online book in a PDF that I can take with me helps me to catch up on reading during slow times during work.  In all actuality, since I don’t have a photographic memory anyway, sometimes reading the entire chapter wasn’t necessary.  As long as you know the gist of the discussion and where to find the information during the final exam, you are good to go.  Yes, the final exam is open book.

 2) Working with teams – As part of the curriculum, I was assigned to a team that had to write one paper each week during the course. Simple, right?  Wrong.  I thought since I had never done this before, that I was going to be the weak link of the group.  Boy was I wrong about that!  Our first assignment was to come up with a topic for our 5th week paper.  This was in week one.  In week two, we had to write a paper on a different topic than the one we chose for week 5.  As I started making suggestions, I kept being met with statements like, “Are we changing topics?” or “I thought we were doing our paper on such and such.”  I had to explain over and over again that this was a different paper with a different topic and that the topic we had already chosen was for our final week!  This discussion took place in an online meeting.  As I kept re-explaining the assignment, I was so frustrated that I started yelling at my computer.   I thought talking to teens was difficult…apparently, not as difficult as this was.  And the room full of kids behind me got a good laugh watching me yell at my screen.  In the end, everything was cleared up, and my team did write a couple pretty decent papers.  Hopefully the teams in my future classes will work a little smoother!

So the final week came and I breezed through my final exam, missing only one question.  🙂  I couldn’t be happier.  Then, because my last college English course was over ten years old, I had to take an English proficiency exam to determine if I had to retake an English class.  I thought this was funny timing since I had just come out of a course that required writing papers, but so be it.  I took the exam, a timed multiple choice grammar quiz and timed written essay.  Once again, I aced the test, only missing one multiple choice problem.  The essay was a bit more challenging.  While being timed already, I had to come up with a common problem, a thesis for the solution to that problem, and then write an essay to support that thesis.  Time ticked away while I sat staring blankly at my screen trying to come up with a problem.   My daughter piped in and gave me a topic to write about. I wrote my essay and also got an A.  No need to retake English.  Yay!  🙂

So now on to class two!  One class down and 16 to go!

May 15, 2014

Another school team project.  I was so frustrated that no one knew what they were doing that I decided to be the “team lead”.  When a couple of people still couldn’t manage to do their parts correctly, I found out just how much of a leader (and perfectionist) I have in me. I pointed out flaws that were there and gave directions on what to do and HOW to do it.  I didn’t think I had that in me.  Then, silly me, I did the whole project myself.  I didn’t tell the team I did it all, but I’ve guided them into giving me appropriate information so it looks like they contributed and I can ultimately submit what I know is required (and correct!.)

August 1, 2014

The past few days, or perhaps I should say weeks, I have been immersed in a math class for school.  I used to absolutely love math, and algebra was once one of my favorite subjects in school when I was a kid.  But now I find I no longer hold this subject in such high regard.  It doesn’t help that the work load I have for this current class seems to be extremely large and time-consuming.  I spend most of my evenings and a good part of my weekends working on math equations.  As if that isn’t bad enough, I go to sleep at night and dream of math problems and equations.  So I have found myself questioning school once again.  Why am I doing this?  Why am I spending so much time and money?  What am I really going to do with it?  Is it worth the lack of sleep and feeling tired all the time?

I know that quitting is not an option this time.  But could it possibly get a little easier, and a little less time-consuming?  I don’t think that’s too much to ask for, do you?

September 29, 2014

I’m in my sixth class in school.  It seems with each class, the notion of going to school gets more and more aggravating, and I have found myself wanting to quit many times.  Luckily my current class is one I enjoy.  So far it’s not too bad, other than the same old complaints of working with team members that don’t pull their weight.  Still I keep plodding along with each course and know that it will all end before I know it – even if it’s not soon enough at the moment!  As they say, time keeps moving whether you choose to do something or not, so you may as well do something.

November 9, 2014

I had a breakdown.  I wanted to quit.  My introductory Business Finance class feels like an expert finance class.  After spending 10 hours yesterday doing homework that did not make any sense to me, my computer decided to quit working right in the middle of it all.  I had problems to complete in the “finance lab”, a program designed for the finance class.  With each problem you have three chances to get it right, then you are forced to move on.  The whole program keeps tally of what your grade is in the top corner as you progress.  Question after question I kept answering wrong.  My running total remained at a “F”.  I could not seem to comprehend the examples given to me.  I had not even eaten that day and only took a brief break to order a pizza to feed myself and the girls.  Then, after 10 hours, my computer also decided it had enough.  It quit working.  I broken down crying. My friend Tina just happened to call me for some other reason at that very moment.  She talked me out of my breakdown, but not before the pizza delivery guy showed up.  I felt bad for him as he tried to complete a transaction with this crying and crazed woman who was still in her pajamas and on the phone while trying to pay for the pizza.

Tina let me know it was ok to not be perfect it all the time.  She already had this class. I could drop it for now, and when I retook it (because I would be required to retake it for my degree), she would help me through it.  I was all for quitting school that night.  But today I thought about how far I had come and my determination crept back in.  I was not going to quit, but my original plan to have a concentration in finance was over.  I sat back down at my computer, and discovered that because I had not saved any of my work yesterday, I actually was able to redo it all.  I slowly made my way through it, and managed to finish it all with an A.

December 11, 2014

After the disaster of my finance class, I still managed to end the course with an A and had a 3.86 GPA.  Still, with each new class, I have struggled more and more with my school work and the content of my education from University of Phoenix.

I am currently in a business research class that has me watching physics videos.  I am not taking physics!  I just do not feel the content of my courses are at the appropriate level or provide the appropriate content for my degree.  Therefore, I started looking again at another school I checked out back at the start of this venture.  I thought that by changing schools now, I would only lose a little bit of the coursework I just completed, would add only a little extra time to my schooling, but I will save a lot of money, and hopefully a lot of stress.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  If I were to change, because the other school has restrictions on how many credits they will take in, I would lose a good bit of the credits I just earned this year. Even though their classes are cheaper, by taking more I would not be saving any money.  So I continue on at the University of Phoenix.

January 22, 2015

My Business Research class went on a two-week break (along with the rest of the school) through the holidays.  That sort of sucked, because I would have been finished two weeks faster otherwise.  Over the break, I did receive notice that due to my GPA I had been invited to become a member of the University of Phoenix Chapter of the International Business Honor Society, Sigma Beta Delta.  How about that!  After the stress of that blasted business finance class and how I felt like I was going to fail it, I pulled through and now hello honor society!  CrAzEe!.  But I will say after all of that I will try to never doubt myself and my abilities again.

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Classes resumed and my up until this point the team I had in my Business Research class was the best I had to this point.  But of course it could not stay that way.  For our week 4 team paper, parts were chosen, but one part was left vacant.  After many confirmation posts as to who was doing what parts, I decided to take the vacant part.  I completed it and submitted it on Saturday morning.  A few hours later I get a group text message on my phone.  Another team member, who did not identify himself at first was “going off” that I took his part and now he was going to have to start all over again.  Other members spoke up and confirmed what I had thought, that he had already chosen a different part, and he never once said the confirmation posts were wrong, so how was it that I took his part?  Well after watching him basically throw a tantrum via text messages, he conceded and completed the part he originally said he would do.  By the time our week 5 paper was due (the last week of this class), he and another member barely participated at all, leaving just myself and another woman to take the bulk of the work.  Go figure.

With 8 classes down, 9 to go, this week I started my 9th class – Marketing.  This first week of this class is not start well.  With every class, there are reading assignments.  Along with the reading assignments, the facilitators/instructors post discussion questions.  Students are required to participate in discussions a minimal of 8 times a week to be counted as fully participating for the week, and the posts must be substantial (150 words or more).  This has been the case for every instructor, every class for the previous 8 classes I have had.  Day one of marketing, the instructor did not have any discussion questions posted.  Day two, still no discussion questions posted, so I asked when they would be posted.  Her reply was a very snotty reply that told me to refer to her “instructor policies” and basically did not answer my question.   All her policies indicated were where the many places were that would not count towards participation should you post there.  It was not clear by any means.  By today (day three), classmates just started posting their own comments below the reading where the discussion questions would be, none of us knowing if we would actually be getting credit for these posts.  The instructor finally replied, “’Discussion Questions’ are in the old classroom format. For the new classroom setup, you have multiple opportunities to post substantial postings and responses to the “learning activities” in each week of the course. Simply click on a learning activity title and post your response. See the Instructor Policies regarding the parameters for substantial postings and what learning activities and chapters count toward your participation points.  Reading the Instructor Policies document from beginning to end will greatly assist you in passing this course and reduce questions.”  Now I would like to point out her use of the word “response.”  What exactly were we supposed to be responding to?  Also, the “new classroom format” has been in place as long as I have been attending University of Phoenix.  It seems to me discussion questions were very much in use, as every class I had been in had them.  This instructor and I were not going to get along.  I asked to be taken out of her class and placed in another with a new instructor.  I anxiously await word from my academic advisor about changing classes.

January 23, 2015

I’m a little irritated.  I received a phone call from my financial advisor.  Apparently the way the government sets up their loans and the timing of the way my classes fall (a formula which I still cannot quite comprehend) my student loans will fall short in covering the remainder of my program.  So, today I started hitting the scholarship boards in the hopes of finding one or two that I may have a chance at obtaining to cover my tuition.  In the meantime, it looks like I need to start saving some dough for when the tuition will be billed directly to me.  I wish the school would have realized this sooner, perhaps instead of sending me a reimbursement for a overpayment back just before Christmas, they could have put that money towards any shortage.  Such poor management on their part.

I also heard back from my academic advisor and was told I could not change courses because I was “financially locked into this course” because I “made attendance” by posting my question to the instructor.  What crap!!  Once again I am questioning my choice of schools.  There may be a convenience factor in attending school online, but in a traditional school, one seems to have more control over their education.  Because I am in my final year, transferring schools is not a good choice.  I feel trapped.

January 30, 2015

I’m in the middle of week 2 of my marketing class.  The instructor continues to prove she is useless.  Every question asked is answered with something that does not remotely relate to the question or “refer to the syllabus”.  I am not an idiot.  I can read and I have read the syllabus over and over again.  I watch other students ask the same question and she gives the same answer of “refer to the syllabus.”  Then she made a post in which she basically talked down to all of us on how she has never experienced a class as confused as we were.  Perhaps she needs to rethink why we are confused.  I cannot deal with this woman.  I contacted my financial advisor and was told I could actually drop one class and retake it for free during the course of my program.  So now I have chosen to drop it.  With any luck both my academic advisor and financial advisor will get this coordinator quickly enough for me to begin a new class next week.  My only regret is that by dropping this course I will not be able to evaluate this instructor, and believe me it would not have been a favorable evaluation.

February 12, 2015

I am finally in my Marketing class retake.  Wouldn’t you know the assignments are exactly the same as the class I dropped, but at least the instructor is much better.  I am due to have surgery on my shoulder next week, so this week I completed all of my assignments very early on so I can start working on next week’s assignments. That way I can have a day or two after surgery to not even think about school in the event I am not up to it.  If I am up to it, then that will be all the better, as I can then also start working on the following week assignments.  Either way, I am trying to get ahead right now.  Unfortunately even as I get ahead, I cannot submit many items until the week they are actually due, but that is alright.  They will be completed and ready for easy submission.  🙂

March 19, 2015

I just finished my 9th class.  I have 8 to go and am on the downhill slope maintaining a 3.89 average (A).  I couldn’t be happier.  Teams continue to be a challenge, but I’ve managed to learn how to handle them.  I’ve also learned not to wait until the end of the week to do assignments.  Instead, I read what the assignments are, and I take notes pertaining to them as I am reading.  That way I don’t have to remember what I read or go back to research something after the fact.  This has become a great time saving trick for me.  By taking notes on papers I have to write as I am reading, I have been able to breeze through my papers and submit them early.

May 25, 2015

Class number 11 complete and with another A!  This was Business Law.  I took Business Law right out of high school and was so intimidated by it that I dropped the course.  When I saw this come up on my schedule, I asked my advisor to push it back as far as we could, because it made me so nervous.  Much to my surprise it was not a very difficult class at all.  However, I think this had to do in part with the assignments the instructor gave.  His assignments were very reasonable for a non-law major.  For this, I am very grateful.  I now have six classes to go.  Now that I am in a new job that I love so far, there are still some days I don’t know why I am doing this.  But I have come too far to stop now.  Ironically I have caught myself looking at Masters Degree programs.  No I haven’t decided to make that plunge yet, and I am really looking forward to not having to do so much reading and paper writing.  But there are some days….

June 13, 2015

My current class, Strategic Management, is basically my “cap stone class”.  That means it should be my last class.  A class that sums up everything I’ve learned.  A class that requires a great deal from me.  This was evident by the paper I had to write this week.  It was very in depth on a subject I couldn’t care less about and don’t fully understand or want to understand.  Once again, I sat staring at the requirements of this paper and a blank computer screen in tears not knowing where in the world to begin with this paper.  This should be my last class.  However, I have five electives to go, so it’s not my last class.  Why am I taking it now?  Needing someone to help me gain perspective and to talk me through my stress, I called my best friend.  He calmed me down, gave me some good information to work with, and instructed me to walk away from the paper until the next day.  This was the voice of reason I needed.  I let everything sit for a day, and then I was able to take his advice and whip out that paper in two hours the next morning.  Still two more weeks to go of this class, but I am feeling a little better about it now.

July 1, 2015

I completed the hardest class I have had to date and I am so very relieved!  The instructor was tough.  No matter how closely I followed his paper requirements, he would always mention something he didn’t require as being missing, which essentially kept my running grade just below an A average.  I’m talking about a quarter point just below every time!  He drove me crazy.  I would go over the word count on my papers to make sure I included everything he wanted, yet he would still say I could have said more and deducted points because I didn’t “say enough”.  It’s enough to drive a person crazy, so I took a week off between this and my next class to have a moment to breathe.  Even though I keep checking for my final grade, I am fairly certain with his grading style I will have my first B.  At this point I do not care.  I only have five business electives left to take and then I am finished!!  🙂

Update:  Happy July 4th – I found I managed to pull off another A with class!  I am seriously contemplating graduate school now.  Sure I have moments where I feel it is all a struggle; however, if I can feel that weak and still manage an A, then maybe I shouldn’t stop.  I will keep thinking about it.  I don’t have to rush to commit to the idea yet.

August 10, 2015

15th class complete!  Only four classes to go!  It is such a relief to finally feel like I can see the end of the tunnel.  I am now torn between being finished and having free time back and continuing on to grad school.  While this whole process has driven me completely batty, I must admit that the grades continue to come easy to me just as they always have in all my schooling.  I suppose I am blessed.

September 10, 2015

Final week of my current class and I am back to struggling with my team.  Only one more assignment and this one is complete!  I will have three classes left, and yesterday I started to get excited about the prospect of being finished.  Until today.  I am starting to deal with some sketchiness with my financial advisor so I googled information on the school and finances.  What I found instead was a great deal of negative information on the University of Phoenix.  I am sure the outcome of having a degree from the University of Phoenix is different for everyone.  The school couldn’t possibly stay in business so long if their degrees were useless.  Could they?  And why would they be useless?  I know I worked very hard for this education.  But now I worry.  I have contemplated continuing on to get a master’s degree (at another school of course), but it was still just a thought – a choice I did not have to commit to if I did not want to.  However, I am now feeling the only way I can be 100% certain that my education is worth all the hard work I put into it is if I go on to get a master’s degree that will trump my bachelors degree so that where I obtained my bachelors will not matter.  I’m still not sold on the idea of continuing on, but now I feel pressured to do so.  I’m so stressed.

September 18, 2015

Finished another class with a perfect grade.  Only three to go!  🙂

October 20, 2015

Another class down and I didn’t even write about it?!  LOL  It was the same scenario yet again; always one or two team members, who just don’t get the team idea.  I did have to step up and “be a leader” to one team member who took the reigns a little early and in a controlling fashion. He meant well, but he decided create his own ruling in that any team member that submitted their part late would not get credit on the assignment.  Well, I understand the need for a deadline and the importance of team members meeting that deadline, for I have been the leader on many assignments, where I was stuck gathering information and/or rewriting information at the last second; however, participation is participation.  If someone participates, you simply cannot exclude them from the assignment.  I pointed this out to him.  We are given team evaluations that should be completed and submitted privately to instructors, which can be used to state why you believe another team  member does not deserve full credit.  Then it is up to the instructor to determine if the person will receive credit or not. When I pointed this out to him with our very first team assignment, I thought I would be pegging myself as “trouble” and that he and I wouldn’t get along.  Well, believe it or not, he respected that I did that.  He amended our team charter, then even surprised me when he contacted me for advice when another team member submitted a very below par part of the assignment.  I learned that day, that if you diplomatically stand up against what you disagree with, the outcome may be very favorable.  The key – be logical and diplomatic about it, not bossy or demanding.

Now only two classes to go!

December 3, 2015

A busy few weeks with classes, illness and Thanksgiving, and yet I managed to wrap up my second to last class with another A.  I am now in my final class with two and a half weeks to go.  This is proving to be the most challenging team I have had this entire time.  With only four members, it is the smallest, and two of the members seem to be non-existent.  After they contribute, they disappear.  That would be fine if their contributions were thorough and logical.  They haven’t been.  Here I am in my final course and I am still cleaning everyone’s work up.  I’ve resigned myself to it so much that I just automatically assumed the permanent lead roll in the team.  I plan on graduating with an A so I will not let this last team bring me down!

December 16, 2015

My final week of class!  Still the worst team I have had this entire time.  I have had to take the lead every week and keep on top of them since they don’t communicate.  Regardless of my experience with this team, this has been the most interesting class I have had through this entire program.  Probably because it is more psychology driven than business driven.  Just another reminder I should have been a psychology major.  Oh well, too late now.  Either way, I am so anxious for this week to be over!!  What in the world will I do with my time?  The answer is WHATERVER I WANT!!!  I’m almost done! Yay!

 

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3 comments on “A 40-Something-Year-Old’s Trip Back to the Books

  1. Well done!! I wish I had known sooner that you were attending UoPhx. I got my masters from them so I can empathize with you. I had very similar experiences but my team stayed intact throughout our classes. The four of us worked well together and remain friends today.

  2. Pingback: Finished! | My Inspirations

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