Why I decided to go to College at 38

This weekend I finished up my last assignments for Quantitative Analysis, and as the next term of college comes up (WGU has its terms start February 1st and August 1st), it got me thinking about why I did this to myself.  Not that I’m unhappy, but definitely it was a lot more stress than I needed, so working my way through a video and this post, has helped remind me why I decided to do this.

I’m relatively lucky, the field I was most interested in, rewards passion and hard work more than a piece of paper.  If I had been interested in law, medicine, or any of another variety of paths, I guess I’d have pushed my way through college or still been working as a food server.  But instead, I maneuvered my way into IT and found that I loved it possibly more than even video games or board games.

But still, I’m forcing myself to go, mostly because I want to continue growing and feeling a sense of accomplishment one year to the next.  For the past 9 years, I’ve steadily gotten promotions, but that’s done now that I’m CTO.  Now I have to get degrees, become a speaker, write papers, get recognition for my accomplishments in an IT leadership role, etc.  These types of goals are much more meaningful than simply a replacement title on a business card, but they’re also much more difficult.

My friends and family know I love to work, and know I love doing things the hard way.  Still, despite as stubborn as I am, I’ll still tend to choose a way I know I’ll do well at rather than a way I’m going to face a lot of unknowns.  Over the next few years, I hope to really complete a lot of bucket list items, one of which is to get a degree, and WGU is helping make that happen.

WGU is pretty straight forward.   A purely online college that is accredited and has both a variety of programs.  You pay 3050 a term, take as many classes as possible for no additional fees, and continue each successive term until you graduate.  They’re a non-profit that has a goal of graduating students as quickly as possible, so none of those “trying to get you fail a class so you have to retake it” shenanigans here!  You choose which portions of each class you choose to do, with the only mandatory requirement usually being an exam or a paper.  Most of my classes I just choose to skip to the end, because in my role throughout the years, I’ve already picked up most of the knowledge I need to pass the classes.  This is a lot better than colleges that’ll say that you can test out of a class, as long as you pay…

Every student is assigned a mentor.  My mentor’s name is Sandy.  You talk as often as needed, or at minimum every two weeks.  I always feel like Sandy 1) knows who I am 2) has good advice for which class to take next and 3) brings a level of enthusiasm and support that makes me want to push forward and complete more classes.  Its really a bit ironic that when I went to traditional college for one semester in my 20s, I felt like I had less support and/or advice than I have from an online school with support from my mentor.

In short, WGU is the online college I always wanted.  As much or as little interaction with other people as I need, and a focus on completing the degree that I’ve never gotten the impression of from another college.

So I’ll probably get my degree by next summer.  What is next after that? I don’t know.  I think I’ll take that slice of time and try writing a book or try speaking at a conference or something.

Until next week, post below if you’re at a similar position in life and want to share what you’re doing.

 

Richard Mathis

Author

Richard Mathis

Richard Mathis is a software architect and CTO of CHSI Technologies. When he isn't imagining new ways to help insurance companies run their business, he's writing, gaming, or performing. You can follow his meanderings on twitter.

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