Go Back to College on Your Own Terms

Barry Lenson

Go Back to College on Your Own Terms

Go Back to College on Your Own Terms  Last year I donated my 1973 Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia to charity. Why? Because it was so doggone scary to drive. Way back when I bought the car in 1981, it didn’t feel that way. My wife and I actually took a 600-mile road trip in it one summer. But the older the car got, the scarier it got, especially in comparison to the modern cars that we drive now – cars that can actually start, merge into highway traffic, go around corners, and stop when you apply the brakes. The only air bag that was ever in the Karmann-Ghia was an aunt of mine who couldn’t stop talking.

Well, cars aren’t the only things that have improved over the last few decades, or gotten less scary. Take college, for example. Back in 1973, people usually started college at age 18. If they didn’t, they felt like they had missed the boat. Some went back to “night school” when they were in their twenties, but there was a stigma attached to that. And for recent high school graduates, applying to college meant putting on an itchy suit or dress and traveling to a campus for an interview with an admissions officer who asked idiotic questions like, “Tell me something about yourself.” If you dropped out of college for a semester or two, that was seen as highly questionable behavior. (“You will never go back if you drop out now,” a know-nothing uncle of mine once told me.) Transferring from one college to another was also a sign of some kind of failure. And colleges discouraged it. As a friend of mine explained to me recently, “During my freshman and sophomore years, my college made sure we all had C averages so we couldn’t transfer out.” You also had to declare your major in your sophomore year and stick with it, no matter what.

If you are an adult learner who hasn’t thought about going back to college in a while, it might be a good idea to remember that college is now a lot less scary than it was the last time you looked. Thanks to the advent of online distance learning, you can start any time, while skipping the itchy interview clothes, the standardized tests and other obstacles. You can even drop out for a while, lighten your course load when your job makes you too busy, explore a number of majors before committing yourself, and behave in other ways that were generally taboo the last time you looked.

The one thing that has gotten scarier about college is the expense. In 1973, tuition ran about $2,500 a year. Today, it’s not uncommon to pay 10 times that much, even at a state school. But thanks to some innovative payment plans here at StraighterLine, you can slash those costs dramatically.

So if you are thinking of going back to college, there is no reason to be scared. Gentlemen and gentlewomen . . . start your engines.

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