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The 50-Year-Old Freshman

At 63, only 16 credits to go

    Deciding to continue college at age 50 brought me an education beyond ideas and theories. I had to figure out how to be an adult student — plus face the inescapable truth that I, middle-aged in a room of 30-year-olds, had plenty to learn.
    I understood quickly that my brain would survive intact. Yet culturally I was outpaced. My teenage college memories did not include shared projects, grades and online methodology. By profession my title was Technology Trainer, but I had never used technology for student group work.
    My life changed dramatically in that first semester as I discovered age-related strengths and weaknesses. Being open to both helped me to grow and continue working for my undergraduate degree.
    Fast forwarding 13 years, my educational journey continues, though my goal has changed. Throughout years of growing a career, I attended classes to become a more effective professional. One sudden change to my career five years ago showed me that earning a degree was no longer tied to money and profession. The value shift was negligible at first. Then, I lost my footing. My interest waned as I struggled to find worth in continuing school. Quite slowly the clarity did return. So too the desire to continue this journey not for riches or fame but to achieve a life goal.
    Now, instead of a professional need, a college degree is a personal goal.
    My story would be remiss without mention of gratitude for two universities, Johns Hopkins, which accepted academic credits older than many of my classmates. A few years later, University of Maryland University College welcomed me as a 76-credit, third-year student. University College — a patient and willing institution dedicated to educating adult learners — continues to work with me through long and short lapses of intent and interest. Through broad offerings and innovative delivery methods, University College stretches globally, counting as students thousands of military personnel around the world, as well as stay-at-home moms, career-driven professionals and seniors, like myself.
    Recently I read my student record and saw the words, Student has 16 credits remaining. I was struck by the effort of so many, including family and friends, who accompany me on this journey.