Making the Decision on Going Back to School
by Editor & Photographer Rebecka Hoyt
This past year has not only been trying for students under the age of 18 in public or private school settings, but also for college students. Some college students that are well above the normal college age have had their challenges as well. Lake Michigan College (LMC) has been able to offer free tuition this school year based on funding they have received during the pandemic. In our community there are a few adults and there may be more adult students who have returned back to college to finish their degrees. I met with three great ladies to see what their going back to school experiences are like. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to go back to school as an adult, keep on reading and maybe this will help you to make that decision a little easier.
First up is Kristen Woodrick. Kristen, a stay-at-home-mom, who homeschools her & her husband, Jay’s three children: Loralie in 7th, Landon in 3rd, and Lainey in Kindergarten. She also cleans a few homes as her side job while her husband works full-time. Starting in 2004 at Southwest Michigan College (SMC) for one year, then to LMC. However, life happened and put college on hold. She wanted to go back to school to finish what she started as her degree of study is in Business Administration. Kristen says, “It’s okay to stop, but to go back and finish what you started makes the degree so much sweeter. It’s also a great tool to connect with my homeschoolers on a different level and you connect on a different level.” So far her favorite class for this semester is Art and her least favorite is Accounting. She does much of her school work online in the evening. An English/literature class has been a good one as well as enjoying the book “Dracula” even though she thought she would never read a book like that. When asked what her hobbies/favorite things are, reading was at the top of the list along with cleaning and organizing. She likes to be with the kids and hangout in their woodshop and looking forward to vacations.
With many of Kristen’s classes being online they are not face-to-face, but the students participating in the class have introduced themselves to each other. She can tell a lot of people that are her age is in this career path. They have a lot in common if they were to meet in person. As with any college admission you have to apply for financial aid. Kristen didn’t get the free tuition but was able to get a Pell Grant which has helped pay for books and classes. With her kids seeing her studying she has noticed that her oldest daughter has a good work ethic and is becoming independent with her studies and they check things over together. Her son Landon, is “all boy, does his work and gets it done,” says Kristen. She is very thankful for her husband, “Jay is fantastic in helping with dinners. You need that support,” says Kristen with a smile. In one year from now, she plans to be done at LMC as long as she stays on track. Kristen’s advice to a mom or anyone that is thinking about going back to school: “You need to figure out if you really want that degree, and if you do, go get it. If you have many responsibilities to contend with, try one class at a time. The end result will still be the same. A degree in hand.”
Next we have Julie Blaylock! Julie, a 57 year-old wife, mom and grandma who went back to LMC for the 2021 winter (fall) semester and only had to take two classes to finish her Associates degree in General Studies for free! Her story starts out as she started college back in 1982 majoring in Accounting at SMC with a scholarship she received through her dad’s work, General Telephone, and then she got married and of course life happened. In 1997 she went to LMC to major in Computer Science while working full time at the Buchanan District Library when the library moved to its current location from being at the Buchanan Art Center.
When she heard about the free tuition at LMC she looked into what classes she would have to take for the Computer Science degree. It turns out that she would have had to take her classes over as technology has changed a great deal. So her Academic Advisor mentioned that she could just get her Associates degree in General Studies. After looking over what needed to be completed, she was amazed that she only had to take two classes: English & Environmental Biology. She will now be graduating this May! Her favorite class was Environmental Biology as she learned about plants & animals. On a recent vacation to St. Lucia she was able to identify coffee bean trees and a poinsettia growing in the wild! Her classes were both online and in-person. She said in her English class, “I was definitely the oldest and older than the instructor. We had lively discussions of what was going on in the U.S.A. and I chose health care.”
While being a wife, mom and grandma it was an adjustment to bring schoolwork into all of it as she was working part-time at the Buchanan District Library. On the weekends she would be working/doing homework. “Biology was a lot of studying and reading. I studied with the grandkids, set up a desk, and then they would see grandma doing her study and thought that was cool!” stated Julie. Now that Julie is done with school, you will see her leading the preschool storytime at the library and working the circulation desk while helping people find things in the library. Some of Julie’s hobbies/favorite things to do are: reading, spending time with the grandkids, going out to eat, and playing computer games like Fishdom. She says “I like to learn at my age and it’s fun and I’m 57!” Julie’s advice to a mom or anyone that is thinking about going back to school: “Have confidence, don’t worry that you will be the older one in the class and do it.”
Last but not least is Kelly Brown. Kelly first went to Andrews University to major in Early Elementary Education for one semester but realized it was too much money, then she went to LMC in 2002. In the fall of 2002 she was pregnant with her first baby, so she dropped the classes and got a job. Kelly has a family of six with her husband, Brett. She wanted to get back into the workplace when her kids got into school and not sit at home. English ended up being her new major at LMC. Her favorite class is basically all of her English classes but she really enjoyed her Native American Lit class. She described it, “As a small body of work but with phenomenal authors that she enjoyed to delve into a different culture.” Her least favorite class was math which she didn’t have much patience for.
Kelly has definitely noticed that “LMC really has patient instructors!” When asked about how she felt about being older in the class she said, “I felt intimidated – be less knowledgeable about that topic/debates. A life experience has given you a lot. The way the younger generation acts is neat to see how they react/relate and understand. I have also seen the growth of humanity in younger students.” Besides Kelly going to college and having a family, she has also substituted at some local schools and those earnings goes towards her tuition/books along with some grants that she received. When she does her homework, she has to hide from her kids as she can get interrupted when it’s not an emergency. She has lots of help from her husband who’s been working from home during the pandemic and her older son can drive and pick up his siblings from school. Her 9 year-old daughter Charlie has seen Kelly study and has had mom make multiplication worksheets typed out and she has improved on her testing time with them! She tells her to keep going and this is hard to do.
Kelly will be graduating this May! She will probably do a gap year, but wants to go on for a Bachelor’s in English with an emphasis on the high school level and substitute for short-term. Quite a few of LMC’s classes have aligned with her hobbies! Painting, listening to music and reading are her hobbies/fun things to do. She also enjoys working out to loud music along with her husband. Kelly’s advice to a mom or anyone that is thinking about going back to school: “No reason you wouldn’t regret it – there’s no downside. It won’t be stress-free. The time you spend doing it is worth it.”
As some of you know, I went back to school as well and graduated with an Associates in Arts degree from LMC during the pandemic of 2020. I agree with all of these ladies’ advice if you are thinking about going back to school. It’s not just for moms, it’s for EVERYONE no matter your age, and to also have a good support system! I would like to wish Kristen great success as she takes her classes, and congratulations to Julie and Kelly for graduating this spring!
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you don’t stop.” – Confucius.