Thursday, July 31, 2008

Summer? What Summer?

This morning, thanks to my youngest daughter who woke up at 5:30 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep, I got up early and finished my summer coursework. All the "i's" have been dotted and "t's" crossed, so I can officially brush my hands together and call it a semester.

Would I do it all over again if I could? I won't be stupid and say that it was easy juggling school work, my kids' summer activities, my travel schedule and a host of "everyday life" chores. I struggled with spending downtime with my kids (like a real summer should be) and I didn't get to do a great many things that I planned to catch up on this summer.

I spent a lot of time pre-planning my travels to make sure I would have adequate time and internet connections, spent several late nights with in my office, and tried to do homework while keeping an eye on my kids and their friends. Heck, I even spent some quality multitasking time poolside in a bathing suit--lifeguarding, sunbathing and doing homework!

If I were to do it over again, I would....but just once.

If I weren't trying to speed up graduation and complete my degree this fall, I wouldn't have taken summer school nor would I have advised anyone else to. Summer break is really important for recharging batteries and preventing burn-out, but since I can see the light at the end of my tunnel, it has been worth it for me. After all, there's always next summer to catch up on my postponed projects.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tests For Advanced Standing

Okay, so I admit it: I've always been a pretty good test taker. It was the thrill of my day to be able to complete a test in grade school before anyone else in my class. There was just something about being the first to hand a test over to the teacher. If I made a good grade, then I felt all the prouder.

Yes, I realize I am a weirdo, thanks.

Even during standardized tests in high school, I never broke out into sweats or hives or nervously bit my fingernails. It was multiple choice for cryin' out loud! There was always at least one obviously wrong answer leaving three or less to guess from. Simple deduction; you don't really have to know it all!

So, back to tests....

When I first started the journey back to school as an adult student, I planned to CLEP as many classes as possible because A) it's cheaper B) it's less time consuming C) I'm a pretty decent test taker most of the time. I even bought a CLEP prep book for the Biology test (mainly because I desperately did not want to be stuck in a two hour lab each week). Well, that ended up being a little ambitious. I never tried it because I remembered that science is not my strong suit. If I had not already taken English Comp I & II, I would have certainly tried CLEP-ing those classes.

Without Biology to CLEP, there weren't a lot of general education requirements that I could test out of. However, I found out that my college had a test for the basic computer science class. By showing competency in Windows-based software by taking a timed test at the Assessment Center, a person could receive Advanced Standing and two hours credit...for only ten bucks! The only "downside" (if you could even call it that) is that the hours would not be calculated into the overall GPA. Like I said, not much of a "downside." You have to take the tests in order (Access-Excel-PowerPoint-Word) and you can not move on to the next until you have passed. And you can only take each test three (?) times.

Test one (Windows Access) was a little harder than I expected, but I passed. Barely. I made exactly the grade required to pass. Whew! Test two was on Excel which I am pretty familiar with and can use competently though not expertly. I passed with a grade in the high 70's I think. Since I had to drive an hour to take my test, I decided to make the most of my time and try to take the rest of the required sections. Even though I just dabble in PowerPoint occasionally, I still felt fairly confident in testing even though there were very few questions (making it harder to get a passing grade if I had missed too many). I passed it too! Yay! They saved the best for last--Word, software that my six year old knows how to navigate--and I wrapped up my test and my computer science class for good.

Moral of the story: take a chance. If you feel fairly--if not entirely--competent in a subject area, why not try to test out of at least one class. Of course, it will take a fair amount of preparation (I studied/practiced about an hour or more for each section using test preparation software), but it was well worth the tuition saved and hours saved sitting in a classroom!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Extra Load of an Adult College Student

Something I've been pondering....

Several weeks ago, I went on a trip. This trip wasn't leisurely by any means--it involved a great deal of manual labor--yet I experienced a kind of peacefulness while I was there working. For many hours, I was stuck scraping century-old paint off of 122-year-old stained glass windows, so I had some time to consider why I felt that way. I wasn't getting extra rest by any means--I was going to bed late and getting up earlier than I would at home. I wasn't lounging around by the poolside--I was sweating and sore from working hard. What was it??

Then I figured it out...I felt lighter.

No, I don't mean physically lighter, but mentally lighter. It wasn't because I was out of school, either. No, I spent the fifteen hour drive reading my Geography book and downtime during the week filling out maps, taking notes and taking tests online.

No, the reason for my "lightness" was simply because I had less to take care of that week. I was only responsible for taking care of myself (actually, I was a sponsor for a group of teenagers, but they didn't cause an ounce of trouble or need my help for the most part). I only had to worry about my mess, my meals, my one else's.

During that trip I realized how much of a load I had been carrying compared to the swinging single, young adults that I share a classroom with. Many don't have a job (I do), some don't have to worry about finances because mom & dad keep their account filled (not the case for me), they have more free time and fewer people/things to take care of than I do, etc.

I don't really think about the differences on a day-to-day basis because, when you become an adult student, it's just one more thing to add to the giant "to-do" list of everyday life. When you're married or have children, you soon realize that, like Nike, you "just do it." Your family has to eat so you have to buy groceries and cook meals. Your family needs clean clothes to wear so you just fit a load in between whatever else you are doing. Your kids need help with their homework or need to read to every night, so you just do it and fit in whatever else you have to do afterwards.

I don't really resent the younger students for being so carefree; I had my chance to finish my schooling while I was relatively carefree and chose not to. However, I am looking forward to the time when I feel lighter on an everyday basis. Until this summer, I guess I didn't realize what an extra burden I've taken on.

Five more months!