Life as an adult student at UW-Madison

A sin­gle mother of two boys, Janet Moore was inspired to earn a bachelor’s degree after work­ing in an envi­ron­men­tal edu­ca­tion pro­gram in the McFar­land school dis­trict.  She was the recip­i­ent of one of the many 2012 schol­ar­ships dis­trib­uted by Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies’ Adult Career and Spe­cial Stu­dent Ser­vices and is one of two win­ners of the 2013 Out­stand­ing Under­grad­u­ate Return­ing Adult Stu­dent Awards.

Janet kindly agreed to tell oth­ers about life on cam­pus for an adult student.

2012 adult student scholarship recipient Janet Moore

Janet Moore, a 2012 adult schol­ar­ship recipient

Was it dif­fi­cult to make the deci­sion to return to col­lege as an older student—or as a “non­tra­di­tional” stu­dent? Did you have any fears? What top­ics did you con­sider (if you did) such as finances, study skills, sit­ting next to younger students?

Return­ing to school to fin­ish my degree was a wrench­ing deci­sion, but ulti­mately one of the best I ever made.  Of course, the biggest fear fac­tor was the finan­cial part. I had no idea how I—a freshly divorced 40-something woman with two kids, just get­ting on my feet again—was going to afford rent, yet alone col­lege tuition!  I thought it was out of my reach, but I found many resources (tuition reim­burse­ment from my employer, finan­cial aid, and schol­ar­ships) to help me out.  And now, here I am two years later—just 12 cred­its shy of my bachelor’s degree and headed toward the fin­ish line!

What was the rea­son for your return to cam­pus?  What’s your goal?

I had worked in the McFar­land School dis­trict as a school for­est specialist—leading K-12 field trips and hands-on nature activ­i­ties for a cou­ple of years. I found that work­ing in an edu­ca­tional envi­ron­ment, sur­rounded by a group of peers that all had degrees, was inspir­ing.  Call it “pos­i­tive peer pres­sure,” if you will. I also real­ized, on paper any­way, I was woe­fully under-qualified even to teach sum­mer school!  I went back with the aim of get­ting a degree in art edu­ca­tion and teach­ing in K-12 pub­lic schools. I have since decided I would like to teach at the col­lege level some­day and have added envi­ron­men­tal stud­ies as a sec­ond major, in addi­tion to art. I would like to pur­sue a master’s degree and (dare I even say?) a Ph.D., com­bin­ing my inter­est in the envi­ron­ment, art, and science.

Now that you are a stu­dent, how’s it been being an adult among younger peo­ple? Do the other stu­dents give you the ‘cold shoul­der?’ Do they accept you?

I worked in a high school prior to going back to col­lege, so being around younger peo­ple on a daily basis was not new to me. I have found the other stu­dents to be very accept­ing, and some have told me they really admire what I am doing. I use humor a lot to set peo­ple at ease, laugh at myself when I need to, and I think that helps a lot. Plus my teenage son gave me lots of “back to school” point­ers on how to avoid being “uncool.”

How about the instruc­tors and/or pro­fes­sors? Are they sur­prised to see you in class? Do they treat you differently?

I think my rela­tion­ships with my pro­fes­sors have been far bet­ter as a return­ing older stu­dent. In some ways, it feels more like a pro­fes­sional or peer relationship—I am much less intim­i­dated than I was in my 20s about approach­ing pro­fes­sors with ques­tions or com­ments. In more than one of my classes, I think the pro­fes­sors actu­ally appre­ci­ated hav­ing some­one in class more their own age!

Has it been an advan­tage at all to be older? If so, how?

I think one advan­tage is hav­ing bet­ter time-management skills, along with a clearer sense of my goals and over­all mis­sion in life. I have also gained so many life expe­ri­ences (rais­ing chil­dren, hav­ing jobs, etc.) that pro­vide a con­text for my learn­ing. I can make con­nec­tions between dif­fer­ent sub­jects and pick out what is impor­tant so much more eas­ily than when I was younger.

How has the schol­ar­ship helped you? How did you find out about the scholarship?

I found out about the schol­ar­ship when I saw it posted on the bul­letin board in the Human­i­ties build­ing. It has helped me immensely! Ini­tially, I thought I would just take classes six cred­its at a time, because that’s what I could afford. Get­ting this schol­ar­ship made it pos­si­ble to take classes full-time and fin­ish my degree much sooner.

It was also such a much-needed vote of con­fi­dence in my abil­i­ties and val­i­da­tion for the impor­tance of com­plet­ing my edu­ca­tion at a time when I could so eas­ily have given up on my goals.

How many more semes­ters do you have to complete?

Just one…for now!

What’s your advice to any adult con­sid­er­ing return­ing to UW-Madison for a degree or certificate?

Do not be afraid…do not assume that any­thing is impos­si­ble. If I can do this, cer­tainly any­one can!  I spent way too many years wast­ing my men­tal energy, think­ing “I can’t.”  Yes, you can…and the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll fin­ish. One of my favorite quotes is:

“Until one is com­mit­ted, there is hes­i­tancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.Concerning all acts of ini­tia­tive and cre­ation, there is one ele­men­tary truth the igno­rance of which kills count­less ideas and splen­did plans: that the moment one def­i­nitely com­mits one­self, then prov­i­dence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never oth­er­wise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the deci­sion, rais­ing in one’s favor all man­ner of unfore­seen inci­dents, meet­ings and mate­r­ial assis­tance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

What­ever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Bold­ness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”—Goethe

I am so glad that I finally made the com­mit­ment to myself, and ulti­mately to my friends, fam­ily, and com­mu­nity as a whole, to strive to reach my poten­tial. I hope I can be an inspi­ra­tion as well as an asset to the world.

Don’t for­get the dead­line for apply­ing for 2013 return­ing adult stu­dent schol­ar­ships is March 1. Details are avail­able here.

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