Open that door

Valerie Watts, Guest Columnist

Mark Twain said “some people get an education without going to college. The rest get it after they get out.”

As I stood outside of my first college-level math course, my hands were shaky, and my eyes welled up with tears.  I simply couldn’t open the door.  How many of us have found ourselves frozen in that kind of a moment? 

We all have our reasons for attending college. For some people it is for higher learning; for others, it is to pursue a passion. Some go to college to find their path in the world, others just to find themselves; family pressure and cultural beliefs may be what propels us to college, and some go to conquer a personal demon or to finish a quest from long ago. Personally, I fall somewhere in between those last two categories.

I started community college immediately following my high school graduation 20 years ago.  Life derailed me as a young adult trying to maintain a healthy college/work/life balance.  Ultimately, due to family obligations, I was forced to choose work over school but the intent to return was always there.  As you can probably predict, I did not return to school right away because life is continually heaping more onto your plate, never taking it away or lessening the load.  It took me 16 years to return to college and it was only possible thanks to my incredibly supportive husband.  

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 25 percent of undergraduate students are over the age of thirty.  Personally, though, I felt like I was on an island being in that age group.  I knew people in my life that returned to college later in life, yet I was more afraid than ever.  I was going to be one of the oldest students in these classes and I also hadn’t been in a traditional classroom in over fifteen years. I had no idea what it meant to be a student anymore.  

I started with online classes, which helped me get my bearings, and while the online classes taught me responsibility, time management, and accountability, I was essentially a faceless name.  Anonymity, for this introvert, made it easy to excel.

As students, we may not be aware of all the resources we have here at Los Medanos. I have yet to find a teacher who wasn’t willing to give a few extra minutes after class or to quickly respond to inquiries.  There are math centers and free tutoring sessions that can help when the subject matter is beyond us, we have drop-in computer labs, and so much more.  I’ll admit that I haven’t taken as much advantage of these programs as I should, but those that I have used have been incredibly helpful.       

Another issue that we face as college students is “what next?”  What will you do after your time at Los Medanos comes to an end?  Luckily, as Los Medanos students, we have resources such as transfer and career services.  We can schedule an appointment with a career counselor or attend a job fair on campus. 

 I am a 37-year old college student who will graduate soon and I still have absolutely no idea what I want to do.  Before I applied to Los Medanos, this kind of uncertainty would have evoked a new set of fears, but instead, I am looking forward to my blank slate. 

Looking back at the fear I had outside of that math class, it’s hard to believe how far I’ve come.  Eventually, I walked through that door and conquered an old foe. It wasn’t an easy task but a doable one. Anyone can do it; open that door, make that phone call, fill out that application. You owe yourself the effort.