Going to College as an Adult – Education at a different pace

college students throwing graduation caps

Work will pay for college!?

As you know if you’ve ready my about page, I am not a high school graduate, let alone college. Despite that fact, I have had a successful career in the computer industry, both supporting large corporations and working at them. My current employer offers to pay for undergraduate tuition completely, I just have to cover books.

Now, having succeeded in this industry, I know education gets stale, and a degree doesn’t necessarily mean you’re qualified for the work. So, while I wasn’t overly concerned, I did acquire some industry certificates like an MCSE and a Tableau certification after my work footed the bill for the tests.

Changing Times

These days however, tech skills are a lot more common. Also, having seen the behind the scenes of hiring, I’ve seen that recruiters are often not very knowledgeable on the technology side. That being the case, you can end up with your resume being reviewed by someone who can’t tell heads from tails when comparing resumes, and as their world is one that still values a more traditional education, you can potentially find yourself  out of the candidate pool due to lack of degree. That said, college is still very expensive, so it may not be worth your time, or debt, to pursue a degree. It’s a personal choice.

My Choice

I decided to go after my degree after several months of deliberations. In the pro column, I had: it was paid for, I already had 18+ years in the field, I could do it online. In the cons column I had, it will take time and some of the money has to be fronted. I had found myself a subject matter expert in a niche technology, Microsoft Project Server. That’s great, and lucrative, but I didn’t necessarily want to stay in this field forever. The career path I saw lead to consulting and that doesn’t appeal to me. I knew I wanted to get into management and maybe land a director role eventually. I’d seen enough bad management and poorly managed departments that I begun to identify the problems and potential solutions. Finally, I realized, I’d actually be able to handle the work. I spent so long riding my career wherever it went, that it felt a little odd to decide to take the action, but I realized that I was ready.


Who doesn’t love a bureaucracy? I applied for college and included my transcripts from junior college I had taken about 19 years earlier. Those credits were from when I was fresh out of high school and was still burned out on schooling as a whole. Well, I got back a decision on that application. I was declined admission to the college because my transferring GPA was too low. Grades attached to credits 20 years old were keeping me from moving forward. I said, “I shouldn’t have mentioned them and should’ve just started over.” That comment was met with a morality lecture from someone half my age… sigh.

The solution that I was given was to go to local community college and take courses until my GPA was higher. That was ridiculous. The reason I wanted to go was work would pay for it. They wouldn’t cover community college. So, I reached around to contacts at work and then contacted someone else in admissions. Finally, I found a way to appeal. I had to write a letter of appeal and get three letters of reference. I was on a team of four, so I had my three referrals. My own argument was that I had led a successful career, I had industry certifications, the degree I was pursuing was in the field I’m employed in, and the GPA that was holding me back was older than most incoming freshmen! They relented and I was let in.

A Different Attitude in Class

So here I am. I’ve taken a full year, plus a summer, and I’m in the second quarter of the fall semester. Add it to the credits I carried from junior college and I’m on track to graduate at the end of next fall. I’ve also got a 3.6 GPA. I look at things very differently and approach my courses strategically. I know what matters in my career and what is important only to my degree. I try to select my elective credits to directly solve work problems I am facing. It’s very liberating to be looking at a “brief-calculus” final, knowing it doesn’t impact my career, understanding the concepts but not having memorized all the rules and calculating my current grade. I knew I needed a grade of 50% or greater on the final, it was the end of the quarter and I wanted to see my family. So, I crammed for a half hour or so and then I took the final. I got a 54%. I passed with a C. Done.

I could’ve dedicated more time to the class. I could’ve done more problems. But calculus just isn’t important in my job, and my time and family are very important to me. So I strategically limited my effort in that course to meet the requirements without owning my life. So how about you? Have you graduated college? Or are you in college? Have you strategically limited effort to get an acceptable grade rather than a perfect one? What’s your education story?

On a side-note, stay tuned to my blog. I’ll continue to share exploits from my time in college.

Image Credits: Hamza Butt