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A diary of a college student: Rebecca’s story

by Rebecca Smith

“A diary of a college student” is a series where we profile a variety of students to get a glimpse of their day-to-day. Learn from their stories of balancing family, work, and school.

Going back to school as an adult

I started college a year ago to finish my degree in Social Work. The important thing when transferring as an adult to a four-year university is to do research on where you are going. If you have been to college before, it’s important to know a few things about the school you are wanting to attend:

1. Is there an Adult degree program?

Many universities have Adult degree programs offered in a variety of courses. With an Adult degree program there are several benefits such as a flexible course schedule, reduced tuition, and accommodating programs with specific advisors for working adults with a busy schedule.

2. Verify which credits will or will not transfer.

This was a big challenge for me because I had inquired at other colleges and were told several different things about what would or would not transfer. Ask for specifics. This will determine the length of your college career. If you feel like something should transfer as a major credit and it transfers as an elective because of the length of time that’s passed since taking the course, inquire about it. This really made a difference in the length of how long it was going to take me to finish. (When I started a year ago, it was going to take me 3 years, by the end of this year, my advisors were able to get other courses transferred, and now I have 1 year left). So verifying credits really does matter!!!

3. Try to obtain a good relationship with your advisor or department chair.

After you begin your first semester or decide your major, these people will be a key aspect in helping you as you journey through your college years. Not only are they there to help pick your classes academically, but most of the time, if you chose a small, or close knit school, they are there to support you in all aspects throughout your college time.

4. Don’t take a heavy load your first semester.

When returning back to school as an adult, it’s important to start slow and get your feet wet. Although many adults are ready to get in and get done, the importance of returning and starting over as an adult, is to make sure you’re ready, and to not rush or overload yourself with too many hours.

Surviving college as an adult

Starting back at college as an adult student can be a challenge. As a 34-year-old senior, trying to go back to school and also have a life beyond school can be difficult. Although I don’t have kids, I am married. It’s important not only to manage my household, keep up with the cooking, cleaning, and shopping, as well as maintain a full time position as a college student.  Some days, I feel overwhelmed. But starting over does not have to be overwhelming.

Some of the things that have helped me get through this past year:

  1. Allowing myself freedom to de-stress.  It’s important to not push my limits.  If I start to feel overwhelmed, I take a break.
  2. It’s ok to let the kitchen or laundry go every now and then.  Sometimes if I have something important to do for school, I can let the other stuff go for a day. It’s not the end of the world.
  3. Talk to your spouse, if you are married. If not make sure you have a good support system to help you talk through your stresses. Because just like a job, school is stressful and tiring.

Walking into a classroom full of teenagers and 20-something-year-olds after being out of school for 15 years can be intimidating. School alone can be intimidating. However, I hope that you find a place that you feel safe and comfortable.  School as an adult does not have to scary. Just because you’re starting over, does not have to be scary. It should be a powerful step, an encouraging step for a better direction for you to better your life and to help you as an adult to do something you have always wanted to do. I know it has for me!

I hope these tips in starting over as an adult student have been beneficial. They have really helped me in my journey as I began my continuation of my college career.

About the Author: Rebecca Smith is a 34-year-old full-time undergraduate student at Belmont University. She is studying Social Work.

5 benefits of taking summer classes

by ValoreBooks

Summer reading

Sure, no one enjoys summer school. But we like to think it has a bad reputation it doesn’t deserve. After all, there are advantages to taking a class or two during summer break. Check them out:

1. Fewer students means more personal attention.

Summer classes are usually in lower demand than their fall or spring counterparts. As a result, each class may have fewer students. That means your professor will have more time to focus on you, should the class be difficult and should you need the help.


2. You could finish college faster.

Yeah, summer courses cost money. But if you take enough of them you could actually graduate in less than four years. That could save you a whole semester—or even a whole year!—of tuition payments.


3. Learn at your own pace.

One of the best things about summer classes is that you can choose to take only one course at a time, meaning you can hone in and focus on just one subject. No distractions. No more stressed weekends wondering which test you should study for.


4. Easier to get into required classes.

If there are classes you’re required to take—general education requirements, for example—that always fill up before you can register, then consider knocking them out during summer session. Less students enrolling means more space for you!


5. Keep your brain sharp.

The unsung hero of summer classes is the fact that they keep your brain sharp over what would otherwise be a long, lazy summer. Keep your study and work habits alive! That way, come fall, you won’t have trouble adjusting back to school life.

A diary of a college student: Ellen’s story

by Ellen Griffin

“A diary of a college student” is a series where we profile a variety of students to get a glimpse of their day-to-day. Learn from their stories of balancing family, work, and school.


Tell us about yourself

Two-and-a-half years ago my daughter was starting middle school and I started college at the local community college. The last grade I attended in high school was 10th grade, but I wasn’t there long enough to get any credit, so I technically had the education of a 9th grader. I had worked really hard at all of my jobs taking advantage of any training that was available, I read everything I could get my hands on, and I was smart and a hard worker. Still though, that was not enough; I needed a college education if I was ever going to do more than an entry-level customer service job. So, I started with two night classes to see if I had what it would take to be successful in college.

Why did you decide to go back to school? 

I had tried to go to school previously, but life always seemed to take over and squash my chances at a college education. This time though I decided that I was not giving up; no matter what obstacles got in my way. I couldn’t stand the thought of my daughter seeing me quit.

How do you balance family life and school life? 

The plan was to start off slow with just two classes. I also needed to make sure there were savings in case of any emergencies and that I had a commitment from my family to help me be successful. The last part of the plan sounds obvious, but it’s probably the most important. You need your family’s support when you are studying for exams and doing homework - especially during finals.

Generally speaking, middle school age children are not very understanding about time commitments that do not pertain to themselves. To work through this, we created a schedule that showed when I needed to be studying, working, and/or it was family time. I also made a commitment to be present when it was family time or even just a girl’s night with my daughter. Making a commitment to step away from my work and be present with my family was probably one of the most difficult parts of balancing school and family, but was also one of the most important parts. It took some time to get good at stepping away from my work and really focusing on my family. Kids of any age can see when you are preoccupied with something else, and they can be especially hurt when you are not holding up your end of the bargain when it comes to their time. So, it’s important to really make the effort to be present during family time.

What have you learned from raising a family while in school?

Over the last few years I have tried to find ways to involve my daughter in what I was doing. I explained to her what I was working on or what I had learned that day. I also read my papers out loud to her or had her read my papers out loud to me. I learned to live with my husband and daughter’s idea of clean when school was in session and saved my deep cleaning for when I was on break. I learned to say thank you for my study time and thank you for cleaning up messes and thank you for understanding why I had to miss parent teacher conferences, band concerts, and awards. I treated every one of my daughter’s accomplishments as equal to my own and we celebrated together. There is absolutely no way I could do this without my family to support me, love me, and to remind me I’m smart enough to go to college. It takes a lot of planning, scheduling and commitment, but it can be done as long as you are doing it as a team.


Ellen GriffinAbout the author: Ellen Griffin is a 43 year old mother studying at Rockhurst University as a full-time undergraduate student. She is majoring in English and Psychology.




6 apps to stretch your student dollar

by JT Ripton

Phone money app

College students have it pretty tough. As if leaving the parental nest — filled with free food and clean clothing — wasn’t enough, embarking on the great college adventure can leave your bank account drained. Life as an adult-in-the-making is a financial learning curve and the bills can pile up while you blissfully toss a frisbee on the college green.

Getting the most out of college and your finances is as simple as downloading an app. In today’s technology driven world, apps make saving easy and effective for the student looking to save. Here are six apps that give you an edge on saving.

mint app

1. Mint

This financial tracking app is a particularly potent tool for helping students decide how they should divide their money to fit their lifestyle. It helps them find areas of excessive spending, like the grocery store or restaurants, and recommends adjustments for achieving an affordable living. The app uses game theory to motivate students to take charge of their spending and rewards them for setting financial goals, like building an emergency fund. Learning is premium in this app, with a recommendations section that provides guidance for students looking to become masters of their financial futures.

BillMinder app

2. BillMinder

BillMinder is another good app for staying on top of your financial game. Many students have little to no experience paying bills when they arrive on campus. Student fees, phone bills, car notes, and off-campus living bills can add up to a lot of payments to remember. BillMinder helps your track your bills, sending you reminders and helping you avoid late fees that drain your funds.

WhatsApp app

3. WhatsApp

While we’re on the subject of bills, decreasing the size of payments is a foolproof way to avoid paying more than necessary for basic needs. The WhatsApp app does just that for your phone bill and is available for all Android phones on carriers like T-Mobile. It allows users to connect with other app users via text message for free without geographical restrictions. Users will save money on standard text messaging fees and stay connected while studying abroad or supporting friends doing the same.

Campus Special app

4. Campus Special

Campus Special helps you find the best food and drink deals around your campus. Growing intellectual minds need adequate sustenance to do well in the academic environment, and sometimes the school cafeteria isn’t going to cut it. This app understands your need for new, stimulating food adventures, finding all the best deals around campus for food and drink. It locates multiple restaurant deals to please any craving, allows for menu planning and easy over-the-phone orders, and offers loyalty rewards for frequent users.

venmo app icon

5. Venmo

College is a time of sharing, but excessive favors lead to financial losses for the lender, especially if borrowers aren’t held accountable. Venmo does just that, helping students keep track of their lending and borrowing, and giving them access to student borrower ratings based on their payback rates. The app promotes a friendly environment of responsible sharing and helps students prevent unnecessary financial losses.

ATM hunter app

6. ATM Hunter

Finding an ATM with fee reimbursement for your bank is hard around college campuses. The ATM Hunter app understands this conundrum and allows students to forgo the fees while withdrawing cash around campus. All the app needs to know is your type of ATM card and the rest is a matter of choosing a fee-free ATM closest to you. Money saved on ATM fees is the start to a more financially sound college experience.


Whether it’s avoiding fees or finding the cheapest pasta dinner in town, these apps can keep you on track during your college years and set the pace for an adulthood of smart-spending and financial savings. Download to start saving today!


About the author:  JT Ripton is a freelance writer out of Tampa, FL, who lives for TED talks and loves being inspired by all of the incredible people out there who motivate him to be a better person in all facets of life.

A diary of a college student: Ashleigh’s story

by Ashleigh Morghan

“A diary of a college student” is a series where we profile a variety of students to get a glimpse of their day-to-day. Learn from their stories of balancing family, work, and school.


Tell us about yourself

I am a 24-year-old recent college graduate. Throughout my collegiate career I attended mostly full-time, except one semester when I fell short and enrolled as a part-time student. I attended The University of Akron and I now have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication as well as a minor in Theater. Throughout my college career I carried a full-credit school load and worked part-time. I worked both at an on-campus job and at an off-campus job. My on-campus job consisted of me working at a convenience store, where we sold grocery-store items to college students. I also worked as a server at a restaurant.

What is the hardest part of balancing work life and school life?

The hardest part of balancing work life and school life is trying to find time for everything. You need time to do your math homework, you have to start that project for science, your favorite show is coming on, your friends want to hang out–oh and you have to close at your job tonight. I always felt like I never had time to do anything. After scrambling around and somehow finding time to do everything else you realize that you are often left with no personal time for yourself to relax. When you finally fall asleep, it’s usually early in the morning, and when your eyes shut it feels as if minutes go by when you’re awakened by your alarm.

How were you able to manage having a job and going to school?

It took me a long time, and days of being burned out, with numerous missed hours of sleep before I finally was able to manage and balance having a job and going to school. Keeping a personal planner was a HUGE aid for me. I wrote down weekly what my tasks were and at what time. This prevented me from overbooking myself and enabled me to manage personal time for myself. I wrote what days I had to work, the location, and at what time I had to be there. I wrote down homework assignment due dates, project due dates, and paper assignment due dates–this helped me keep track of what school work I needed to do so I wasn’t surprised in any classes. This also helped me balance my personal life: I would check my planner to see what I had to do for work or school before I agreed to spend time with my friends. I allotted one day I called a “personal day.” I used this day to lounge around, get caught up on sleep, or catch up on any work I was falling behind on.

Why is it important that you have a job while in school?

I think having a job in school is very important to self growth. It teaches you how to have time management and how to balance doing different things at one time. Learning these skills teaches responsibility and is part of transitioning from the teenage high-school years into the adult collegiate years.  Working in school also allows you to have extra money to hang out with your friends or buy the leisure things you want to buy. Money management is another skill you learn from working and going to school. If you spend your money too frivolously then you’ll be stressed and forced to work more hours at work–this can throw off your entire life balance.

All in all, working while in school can be a drag, but the skills you gain, money you earn, and the responsibility you develop makes it all worth it in the long run.


Ashleigh MorghanAbout the Author: Ashleigh Morghan is a 24 year old recent graduate from University of Akron. She majored in Interpersonal Communications and minored in theater.