Many go to college right after high school and it’s typically the norm. Having started to attend college right out of high school myself; I followed because it was how it was “supposed to be.” I didn’t take any SAT tests and had made up my mind that I would attend a community college, Grossmont College in La Mesa, California. There was no rhythm or reason for choosing this college, other than it’s what I knew at the time. Frankly the whole “college” thing was confusing to me. I passed about three classes and dropped out of the rest. My heart and mind was not in it… I didn’t go to college the conventional way.

Going to College the Unconventional Way

Going to College the Unconventional Way

I started working when I was 15, on a worker’s permit, at what is now called the San Diego Safari Park. By the time I was 18 and graduating High School, I’d moved up to a lead, supervising in the Food Service industry. My father provided for our family while my mother raised me and my 3 other siblings. She worked during the time my father went to college and then he became the breadwinner. For as long as I can remember he has always been a workaholic and I like to think he played a roll in my strong work ethic.

I moved to the East County area and continued to work while attending Grossmont for a semester, before eventually stopping. My mind was not in it and I really had no idea what I wanted to be.

While I enjoyed the fast work environment of the Safari Park, particularly being able to lead a team; I realized I didn’t want to work in the Food Service industry forever, let alone holidays and weekends. At 22, I had changed jobs and to an entirely different industry. This new job required me to perform some graphic design to make the internal store signs. Thus, I started taking college courses, once again, after about 6 months of troubleshooting Photoshop. Anyone who has played around with Photoshop knows how detailed and intuitive it is. I found I had a knack for it.

Around the age of 24, I started attending Palomar College at the San Marcos and Escondido campuses. I took many courses over the span of a few years; learning graphic design and then eventually leading to web design courses. It was a natural progression to do so, and it fueled my career. I moved up from the Wholesale Assistant to Marketing Coordinator after only 2 years with the company.  Then to a Marketing Supervisor about 4 years later.

I had completed many courses in my trade and received a Certificate of Proficiency in Digital Publishing, but to get your degree you had to take general education and follow a specific curriculum. I am sure I’m not the only one who has taken college courses to learn a trade, rather than go for a specific degree. It would appear that having an actual degree does help, and may actually be worth it long-term. It gives you more long term security.

Why did I stop going to college the second time around?

My first child was born about the age of 27, and I put higher education on hold. I had always done well in the workforce (granted I took many college courses) and by this time was making a decent living without an expensive degree. I was married and had dual incomes. I didn’t necessarily feel the need to complete my degree, and at this point I was still not enthused about general education. I was able to learn on the job and for web/graphic technology, online was a never-ending abyss of information allowing me to learn on the fly.

My second child was born about the age of 29 and I put school on hold again. I had looked into going back to college prior to my daughter’s birth and had even gone to the counselors to create a plan. I needed about 12 classes to complete my degree. That’s as far as I took it. My busy life at the time – babies, work, business, fitness etc. was still my priority. For the most part, having two really young toddlers made it difficult, paired with all else I had going on.

College and Today –  I’m Going Back to College!

I am now 35 years old (nearly six years later), and it’s the second time that I have gone and assessed what it would take to finish and obtain my degree. My kids are now at more “self-sufficient” ages, making it more doable. After working with a counselor, I found that I still needed the same 12 classes to receive an Associate of Science in Internet Graphic Communications. I was pumped. I was ready to do this.. finally!

Registration for college was already open when I got the brilliant idea to finish school. There were two classes I’d taken in the past that had title changes, and two that were below classes I had already successfully taken. I worked with the Graphic Communications Department to get these courses straightened out. They gave me alternative classes to substitute for two of the classes, and signed me out of the lower. I now only had two trade and eight GE courses to complete. ONLY 10 CLASSES TO GET MY DEGREE!!

Besides my full-time career, my two children, this blog, home renovations and preparing to sell our home, I decided to throw 18 units into the mix to knock them out quickly!  Since we have not sold our home yet, I actually live two miles from the Escondido Campus, which makes going to college even more convenient.  Plus, at 35 with two kids, going to class is nearly a break for me.

I am currently taking Geography, History, Health, English, Graphic Communications and WordPress Design. My last trade classes are going to be a walk in the park, as I am already skilled in this trade. Heck this blog is built in WordPress and I’ve build over 30 sites in WP alone. I received A’s in all my past trade classes by the way.. I was good at design and since I applied it daily at work, I had a leg up.

Back to College

Hey, I’m 35, this isn’t going to be some crazy frat party life where I wake up after an hour of sleep and high-tale it to class! Does that even happen or is that only in the movies? It’s going to be more like a mundane “I’m going to class and enjoying this in a geeky kind of way,” life.  I took my first Geography, History, and English class this past week and I thoroughly enjoyed them. In my early twenties I lacked the attention span and the desire to sit and listen to anything I wasn’t interested in.

Today I can focus. I can listen compassionately to what the teacher is saying and I can retain it better. Going to college and re-learning about history, US Since Reconstruction and comparing it to all that is happening in our world today- has made me long for Thursday nights. Studying more about the physical and cultural aspects of our Earth has become a great diversion. Writing essays on the weekends with topics such as “Is the internet making us dumber,” has become something I really enjoy. Writing is a passion of mine.. at least in a “blog” sort of way.

I am so glad to finally be ready to get a degree and the point is that you don’t have to do things the conventional way. It’s NEVER too late to go back or to learn. I was not ready at 18 to follow the path to a degree. Ultimately my choice to work and experience first, led me to what I wanted to study four years after graduating high school. Mind you, I didn’t sit around mooching off of anyone. I worked and supported myself.  I had taken lots of courses in college to further my career over the years, and I have always had the drive and the passion to do whatever I set out to do. This drive paired with college courses, has helped me move up and progress in the world of working, while figuring myself out.  Now, I plan to ensure long-term security by completing my degree.

Is College and/or Higher Education Important?

If it wasn’t for expanding my skills through college, I would not have moved up in the ways that have. I wouldn’t be typing this blog which I am so passionate about nor would I have built websites and provided marketing services to others. Before I moved up to a Marketing Coordinator some 10 years ago, I had actually put in my resignation. If it wasn’t for the fact that I already played a role in the Marketing Department, I would have probably moved on. I was offered the job and a matched salary to the company who I was planning to leave for, because my graphic design skills made me valuable. A skill that was acquired through practice and higher education.

College may not be for everybody, but I highly recommend going to college, because when it comes down to you and another applicant, there are instances where that one piece of paper seals the deal. When I was 22, I applied for a supervisor position at the Safari Park in Food Service. Having already been a classified lead for years, I was considered one of the best. But someone else applied. Someone that shared the same level of experience as me. This person had also just finished her degree in Business Management. Experience + degree = sorry, maybe next time for you. A college degree gives you more security for this reason.

College does so much more than just teach you a trade. Many wonder why general education is required. You may think it doesn’t benefit you, but I say the more you learn about other cultures, how things work and the like; the more you learn to collaborate with others, share ideas, expand and open your mind, use logic- be able to critically think. College courses paired with real world experience gave me an advantage when applying for work. Remember that when you’re thinking twice about going to college.

Studies have shown that more often than not, college grades make more over the course of their lives than none college grads. While I have always done well in the salary department, I can’t help but wonder if I had had my degree, would I have been able to ask for a little more? Granted, there is always an exception to the rule, but statistically college grad = higher pay. It opens up more career opportunities and for some professions is is absolutely required. For others, such as in the tech field, experience sometimes out ways the degree; but again, degree + experience wins nearly every time.

I’ve asked myself in the past; would I have done it differently? What if I had stayed home at 18 instead of moving out, went to college, and done it the conventional way? Would I change anything?  Even though I have been successful in the workforce and in my career, there are times that I have thought it would’ve been easier to just stay home, under my parents roof, and finish college. But then I realize that I may never have fallen into the world of graphics and marketing had I gone to college the conventional way.

Life of a College Mom

Going to College the Unconventional Way
Life of a College Mom - Going to School the unconventional way
Life of a College Mom - Going to School the unconventional way

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I'm a daughter, sister, twin, mom, wife, aunt, friend, designer, kitchen gadget craze, tech nut, home improvement enthusiast... I love the many hats I wear. My two kiddos are my world. I love reading and writing. I started writing as a graphic and web designer providing content, then started my own blog JennyLeeBlogs which progressed to Perfectly Inspired.  I'm an Account Manager by day and Blogger/Web Designer by night. I'm your everyday, 9-5, non-frilly, OCD, driven lady who tells it how it is and my posts will reflect this. I am me, as you are you ~ Love and Respect One Another 🙂

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