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A non-traditional student's journey to higher education

By Denny West
On April 3, 2018

What is it that makes a forty-something-year-old man decide to put himself in league with the current generation of fresh-faced and idealistic young college students? 

What hubris must he have to match wits with this crop of intelligent young people? As I am the man in question, allow me to give you the motivations of one “non-trad” entering the world of higher education. 

Some may think this is on the verge of a mid-life crisis. If by that one would mean I was running out of time to do the things I really wanted to do in life, that would be absolutely right. 

This is the fundamental difference between the traditional and the older non-traditional student. With high school still so close this is a time for the young to forge their identity and find out what kind of adult they want to be.   

For me and other older students, it’s all about change. Some want to make more money.  Others look for personal fulfillment. 

If you’re lucky maybe you get both but it’s always about making a better life for yourself. 

For me, that was being the writer I was always supposed to be, which meant writing a lot more than I was. 

That also meant I needed assignments, deadlines and my hand forced to stay at the keyboard. I needed school. 

There is a term in anthropology called “punctuated equilibrium.” It says a species evolves not gradually over time but after long periods of stasis followed by rapid change. 

This is a perfect analogy for myself. After high school, at the age of 18, I was in a definite long period of “stasis.” 

I wrote only periodically, leaving story ideas to rot in numerous notebooks. If I were to evolve, I had to assume my stasis as similar to that of being in a cocoon. It was time to bust out. 

  One day, while driving by Kirkwood and dreaming of the life I could make for myself, I did something new to me.  

I pulled in rather than drove by.  I started the process by going directly to Admissions and doing all I could at that time to put myself in a forward trajectory toward my goals. I wanted to experience change more than I wanted to dream about it.    

Herein lies the commonality between myself and my traditional classmates- we are all going after our dreams. 

While I may envy their youth and knowing what they want so early in life, I applaud their efforts to obtain it while I remain aware of my own contributions to the overall college experience.  

I plan to milk it for all it’s worth- this story has only just begun.

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