Below are just a few of the stories FastWeb members who are nontraditional, returning, students have shared:
"The greatest challenge I faced was fitting in with the other students. I felt out of place most of the time. It took time, but after I started joining groups and becoming involved I felt better about the situation. I realized that very few people saw me as different. I was just one of them."
-- Krisdta H.
"My greatest challenge in returning to school after almost 30 years has been making myself do homework. I am used to doing things at a slower pace than what a classroom instructor deems necessary to finish an assignment. I've had to learn to gear myself up to doing things at a faster pace."
-- Lou Ann S.
"When I returned to school, the greatest challenge that I faced was finding childcare for my son. I felt like I was neglecting him but I knew that I had to return to college for the both of us."
-- Ramonia S.
"The greatest challenge I faced in going back to school has been fear. Being out of school as long as I have makes entering college a scary place. How will I compete with the much younger and more prepared students? But in the end, I know that furthering my education is very important and that fear is only a small obstacle."
-- Lisa R.
"When I decided to return to school, I had to make decisions. I am close to retirement, have an excellent job and make good money. Did I want to push myself one more time, and did I want to impose sacrifices on my family and loved ones? In the end, I decided to do this as a gift to me in celebration of my 50th birthday."
-- Deborah M.
"My greatest challenge in returning to school was my doubt about my own abilities. I had never been to college and I had just been an average student in high school. I was not sure that I could be successful in a college environment. I was terrified when I entered a college class for the first time but I did it and passed with an 'A.' This gave me the courage to continue."
-- Sandra B.
"My greatest challenge was my family. Not being able to devote more time to them was hard on all of us. Working full time and attending classes made it difficult for me to stay involved in their lives. I worry that they don't understand how busy I am. I wonder if they feel like I'm leaving them out of my life."
-- Emily P.
"My greatest challenge in returning to school was determining if the benefit of a degree would outweigh the time and energy required. I work full time and enjoy being a husband and father. In a single-income family, the pressure of earning our living and being available for my family was daunting. I realized that in order to progress in my line of work I needed more skills. A degree was the only way to [improve] our lifestyle."
-- Daniel D.
"I think my greatest challenge has been myself. I had been out of school for almost 20 years, had just ended a marriage and was raising three children alone, one of whom is handicapped. Could I fit college into our schedules without letting my children suffer? I realized that the best thing I could do for my children was to show them that nothing should stand in the way of attaining a dream."
-- Wendy J.
"At the age of 47, I am going back to college to finish my degree in Fine Arts. I have been working in the business world for the past 20 years and have found that to be unfulfilling. The greatest challenge I have faced are [the] doubts and questions from friends regarding job prospects in the art field. But I believe this is the right decision for my future happiness and must stay focused on my goal."
-- Christine G.
"The greatest challenge I faced in going back to school was not having the support of my husband. It was very hard for me to find the confidence to go back to school knowing that his education was valued more in his eyes. As a result, we are separated and I have been in design school for a year. I have one year until graduation."
-- Bonnie B.
"The greatest challenge I have faced is the loss of time spent with my two young children. After long consideration, I decided to follow through with my dreams of becoming a nurse for two reasons: 1) to show my children that they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to, and 2) to obtain a degree that will provide me with an excellent job and income to support my children independently."
-- Jennifer S.
"My greatest challenge was deciding if I was too old to begin again. Education has always been important to me, but I was busy putting my husband through school and never finished my own schooling. After my husband chose to end our marriage, I found myself needing to improve my skills and educational background. I feel good about the fact that I'm doing something positive for myself."
-- Leslie D.
"Before I returned to school, I was working the graveyard shift in a mail room. I watched the whites of my eyes turn red and the bags under them get heavier. I was bored, depressed and unhealthy. One morning, after taking a long look at myself, I decided I had more potential than this. It gave me the drive to return and the commitment to stay."
-- Lance P.
"My greatest challenge was figuring out how to [go to] school and be a good mother at the same time. The good thing is that my oldest daughter is already in school and my two youngest are able to go to daycare. At times it is taxing, but I appreciate school and still find time to do special things with my children."
-- Amy Q.
"The greatest challenge I faced was developing good study habits. Having been out of school for a long time, developing those study habits was critical to being successful as a full-time student."
-- Carl B.
"The greatest challenge I have faced is the time away from my husband. We have only been married four months and I do not have much free time to spend with him. The second part of this challenge is the financial burden of school loans on us as a young married couple. The lack of time together and added financial burden are sometimes a source of stress between us."
-- Christy W.
"The greatest challenge I have faced in deciding whether or not to return to school is my children. I have six [children] ranging in age from 12 months to 12 years. It took a lot of courage on my part and theirs for me to return to school. The decision came one day when my husband said 'If you go to college, your children are more likely to go to college.' That was it - the answer I was looking for!"
-- Deana H.
"The decision to return to school was, in itself, one of the most challenging decisions I had to make. Mostly, I needed to overcome the fear of the unknown. I was not an 'A' student in high school, let alone my earlier years. Would I be able to 'make the grade'? I was determined, however, to do my absolute best. I am now a junior and an honor roll student."
-- Robin A.
"I am 59 years old, and should have returned to college 10 years ago. I had been in accounting in a supervisory position, earning a good salary. I knew this was not the field I belonged in, but it was very difficult to give up the income after working so hard in the field for so long (since I was 21 years old). I finally decided to return this fall and am so happy to have made that decision."
-- Betty S.
"The greatest challenge in returning to school was the temptation to simply return to my old career and start making a living wage again. I had to make myself remember how unhappy I was with work because I could not advance without a degree. My husband agreed and I enrolled for the long haul."
-- Sally P.
"After being out of school for 10+ years, the biggest challenge I faced was the uncertainty of my abilities to succeed. I did not have the chance to attend college after high school and went on to work one meaningless job after another. I decided that I had to set a better example for my children."
-- Shandell S.
"The greatest challenge I faced in returning to school was knowing that, as a single mother, I would not be able to work full-time to support my children. But, with the help of my parents and friends, I decided it was a better choice to get a degree rather than making minimum wage for the rest of my life."
-- Robin P.
"My greatest challenge has been overcoming my past habits. I was not a great student in high school. I didn't apply myself. I've been relearning ways to study and I have found I like it. I wake up every morning with excitement and anticipation, and it makes learning fun."
-- Sherri B.
"The greatest challenge I faced in deciding whether or not to return to school was financial. I thought to myself, 'Where do I want to be in four years'? I decided that it wasn't where I am today. If my family and I struggle for just four years, our future will be much better. Not only financially, but also as a family. If we can get through this, we can get through almost anything."
-- Blaze L.
"After my divorce, I became a single parent of three young children. After being home for so many years, I took a degrading and unfulfilling job to make ends meet for my family. I decided that I wanted more for myself and my children. Going to college would bring me fulfillment as well as a career. I also went back so that I could set a good example for my children."
-- Donna B.
"My greatest challenge in going back to school has been dealing with the possible embarrassment if my peers found out. Everyone I work with received their college degree many years ago. Although I have done well in my career, it is built on a self-created public perception that I already have a degree. If my superiors found out the truth, I fear they would lock me out of further opportunities."
-- Richard T.
"One of my greatest challenges was deciding to return to college after graduating from high school 12 years ago. I imagined being surrounded by teenagers smirking and making comments about my age. The reality was the exact opposite. My life experience has been an asset to my academic career. The life lessons I've learned motivate me to do my very best."
-- Debbie C.
"As a single parent who works full time, I was sure that I could never fit school into my schedule. I finally looked into my local community college and was stunned to find that most of the classes I needed were available on the Internet. Now that I have returned, I almost hate to think about the time I wasted just because I was too scared to take the plunge."
-- Tania D.
"The greatest challenge I faced in deciding to go back to school was adjusting my schedule to accommodate classes. Working full-time plus attending school can create a time crunch. I have had to relearn study habits, adjust time management strategies and decide how committed I was to earning my degree."
-- Patty C.
"Going back to school is tough under any circumstances, but it is especially hard for a single parent. It was important to me to go back to school, but it seemed impossible to afford the cost of a four-year college. I did some research and found that there is money out there for me, in form of grants, loans and scholarships. I am now in my third year of school. I will owe a lot of money when I get done, but it will be worth it."
-- Marianne B.
"The greatest challenge I faced in deciding whether or not to return to school was monetary. I had student loans from my previous years in school and did not want to take on new loans. I did not qualify for financial aid and did not think I would get any scholarships. In the end, I decided to apply for student loans through my school. The completion of a degree is well worth a few more student loans, and this time I will get my degree."
-- Kristin M.