Returning to College Later in Life: Following the Family Tradition

by Deanna Luke

During the 1970’s my uncle died. It caused my aunt to take a long hard look at what her life at 50 was going to be like if she didn’t have an education. In an effort to find a comrade and support, she telephoned my mother and asked her to go with her to the local junior college, Tarrant County Junior College, to see about enrollment.

My mother got caught up in the idea of having a degree and signed up for classes with my aunt. I recall thinking that they were too old to be trying something like that. But they seemed to really enjoy the classes, the knowledge gained, and even the tests! They both received their associate degree from TCC. Their self esteem rose remarkably, and they moved on to careers working outside the home after a lifetime of being wives and mothers.

After I turned 30, I decided I wanted to try my hand at college for the first time. I had married a year after high school, then gone on to business school. It had given me the skills I needed for employment until I was pregnant with our first child. Now, three kids later, college was a new thing for me. I had been a mediocre student in high school and found the idea of college at 18 to be too scary. But what was scary at 18 was just the challenge I wanted as a 30 something wife, mom, and person. My first semester accrued a 4.0 grade point average. I was shocked. I could learn and had a wonderful mind. Because of my mindset in high school, I had not applied myself and had been happy enough to just have passing grades.

I studied things I really loved like psychology, English, speech, and sociology. Each semester the 4.0 I had earned was a pleasant surprise. I loved learning that I was not a visual person, but totally auditory. I made tapes of my class notes and the reading assignments from the textbooks.

Later I would listen to the tapes as I bathed, slept and drove back and forth to school. In my early years in school they discovered I was dyslexic. It seemed to be some sort of a ceiling. But with the tapes I was not challenged at all with the classes and information. Even test taking became something I looked forward to, because I would get back my papers with high marks each time.

Knowing what you want to do at 18 is admirable. Having the conviction to do something about it when you are 30 or 40 is more exciting than it ever could have been directly following high school.

There were things that had to give way for me to be able to go back to college in my 30’s. My family was very supportive. I learned to do my homework at the college campus after class in the library, unless it was too involved. On those days I did my homework after my children and husband had gone to bed. Fortunately, I could get by on five or six hours of sleep at that time.

One thing I dreaded when I started to college was the attitude of the younger students. One test into the semester, they all wanted me on their study teams because of the excellent grades I made. Though there were many parts of life
where we had nothing in common, learning how to learn was something we shared.

The work I did was a wonderful look at my own thoughts that I had no idea about because they had never been tapped. The writing I did while I was in college, re-awakened the desire to write.

I had been on the high school newspaper at Carter-Riverside High School and had loved it. Writing had always come easily to me. When we had term themes in high school, everyone else hated the whole thing. I found the research and documenting it in my paper to be fascinating.

My first writing assignment in English 101 had touched that part of me all over again. Having a very creative instructor helped me continue my writing outside of class, as well as the writing I had to do for college. Connecting with those who were educating me was very comfortable for me because they were close to my own age.

When I reached my 40’s I knew I wanted to have a different type of education and signed up for a Bible college, Emmaus Road Ministry School. The Bible came to life for me there. I was always fascinated with it, but didn’t understand how to study it for myself. Whatever had been shared from a pulpit or in a Sunday School class was all I really knew prior to this. I had been in a few Bible studies, but no one knew more than anyone else, so learning to research the Bible had remained beyond my reach.

I had many wonderful educators throughout Emmaus Road and it was a spring board to several various ministry outreaches for me. I write professionally today using biblical principles as the basis for my line of children’s books. My
husband and I have a ministry for people who are feeling hopeless. Writing Bible studies has become a wonderful part of my life.

Seven years ago my middle daughter said, “I know I didn’t want to go to college when I graduated from high school, but I would like to go now.” She had been a legal assistant for almost ten years at that time. Many people surrounding her thought she was throwing away a wonderful career.

I totally understood where she was coming from with her idea about going to school in her late 20’s. After all, it has become a family tradition for us. She is finishing up a pre-med degree today and is recently married. It is my hope that she will find room for her continuing education in her life. She has a brilliant mind and would make a wonderful doctor. The fact that she won’t practice until she is about 40 will only give her more life experiences to take with her into her practice.

You see, it is never too late to step back into the educational realm. The value is incomparable, both to the student and those who enjoy being part of their journey.

Deanna Luke enjoys helping others find the excellence in their lives. She writes articles and books for publication (available at BowBooks). Deanna also takes part in community outreach classes at her local Barnes and Noble.