Gifts and Ideas for Returning Mid-Life Student

Gifts and Ideas for Returning Mid-Life Student

Returning to school for anyone can always stressful, at any age. For someone like myself it was something I dreaded every semester, but it did get easier with time. I would think about what supplies where needs, parking permits, books, making new friends, dealing with new professors, and getting back into my study habits. With each new semester would come with a new challenge or new situation that would not be foreseen. After many conversations with many of my fellow middle-age students in conjunction with my personal experiences, I have formulated a list of items that will definitely helpful and  appreciated to make life easier for any mid-lifer returning to school. These items can be either given to, or even asked for by middle-life college students that may not be thought of when returning to school. Some do apply to any college student that may be new to the college scene.

Baby Sitting Service:

The number one topic of any middle-life student that is always talked about is their children. Offering to watch someone’s child(ren) so they can go to class is a very serious commitment. Most returning middle-life students have class time coverage for their children. What I am suggesting is to watch their children so they can either study for an important test or even have a fun night out as a break from school. Any child watching would be greatly appreciated for any reason.

Gas Gift Cards/Bus Pass:

Paying for someone’s transportation to school is one less thing for a returning student to worry about. This was one of my personal favorites. I would get gas gift cards for my birthday or Christmas and would put them in my school backpack for the weeks when I was short on cash and my gas tank would be close to empty.

Parking Pass/Permit:

One of my good friends (single mom) would take 2 classes a semester. Her employer was reimbursing her paying for her to go to school, but still was on a really strict budget. Her mother would pay for her parking pass each semester so her daughter would be safe and wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time looking for street parking which was scarce. Most days my friend was short on time coming from work so this was an enormous help the her.

Coffee Gift Cards:

Most college campuses have a some sort of a coffee shop on campus. Middle-State U had a Starbucks, and some colleges will have a Dunkin Donuts on site or even may have a regional coffee shop. Look to see what coffee shops/chains are on campus and give the student in your life gift cards. These are great for these weeks when funds may be low. I’m one of the few dozen people in this world that doesn’t drill coffee or tea, but these shops mostly have other beverages as well and cool items to eat.

Movie Cards or Passes:

Every student needs a break or needs to have some fun every now and then. These are always appreciated. I would used these for a ‘date night’ for my wife and I.

Tickets to a home sports game:

This may not apply to every school (or student), but for those who have a competitive sports teams, this is a great way for the sports fan to have some fun while support their school.


Who doesn’t like cash, enough said.

Gift Cards – Restaurant:

Being able to enjoy a meal during some off time at your favorite restaurant is great, having someone else pay for it is even better.

Gift Cards – Clothing:

OK, this may be for mostly the ladies, but I like shopping for my own clothes sometimes. One year, I received gift cards for Dick’s Sporting Goods and was able to buy some great comfortable sneakers. My feet felt great that semester with all the walking completed on campus.

Adding Funds to Campus E Card:

What is an E Card? Most colleges and universities will use their official student ID card as a declining balance debit card. Basically it’s a way for students to be allowed to make cash-free purchases all over campus, as well as select off-campus locations. How it works is that family and friends can add cash to the account online from home into the students account. Then the student can use it where ever the card is accepted on campus. Locations usually are the school bookstore, most food entities, and the campus coffee shop. Middle-State U’s E Card was accepted at those locations plus almost all the street food trucks and even some off-campus shops and restaurants as well.


There are more ideas but these are the ones that would be most appreciated to the mid-life returning student from my experiences. Thanks again for checking in.


Posted in Books, Campus Food, Daily Survival, Food On Campus, Free Time, TCDE Tips & Advice | Comments Off on Gifts and Ideas for Returning Mid-Life Student

Hello (again) and Thank You!

Hello again everyone!

My apologies for not posting in a while. I’ve been enjoying the holiday break, some free time with the family, post-graduation, and earnestly looking for employment. I have been also working on many stories for you all to enjoy!

I will have something posted by the end of this weekend, so please stay tuned!

Thank you to all of you who have signed on to follow me or just check in from time to time. I am truly blessed and honored that you would take the time to read my postings!

Thanks again,


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Hello (again) and Thank You!

Excuse Me? What Do You Mean I’m Smart?

I have always been that ‘average’ C+/B student. I was so ‘average’ that when graduating  from high school my ranking was exactly in the middle of my class. Half of my classmates were above me and half of my classmates were below me. The only awards that were ever received in high school were 2nd Honors a few times and what I’m most proud of, 4 years of perfect attendance. I was the only one in my graduating class with that ‘extinguished’ honor. Yes, I received an award for just showing up. Every day for 4 years I would drag myself out of bed whether it rained, snowed, on sunny days, through illness, and even when a sprained ankle with 2 weeks on crutches couldn’t stop me. So, scholastic honors were never the norm for me.

My lack of scholastic awards career started in grade school with every parent/teacher conferences. For 8 years, every elementary school conference went pretty much like this, “Well Mr./Mrs. Mark’s Parents, Mark is a very bright young man. I feel his grades are not a true reflection of his abilities. I know he can do the work if he just applies himself a little more. Most of his grades are in the C+ to the B+ range which is not bad, but someone like him has the ‘potential’ to get all ‘A’s’ if he just applies himself more and stops talking in class.” Now just image the ‘wonderful’ conversations I had with my parents when they returned home after each parent/teacher conference. Yes, good times (sarcasm), good times indeed.

Fast forward in the way distant future of the 21st century where a bright-eye middle-aged boy returns to college. Grades were not a concern at first. Survival was my mantra. (Remember, “C’s get degree’s) Every class was an opportunity to not only become more educated, but to work for something that has yet to be achieved, my degree. But something was different this time than from yesteryear. In my first semester I was able to achieve a GPA of 3.65 which meant ‘Dean’s list’. Didn’t know what that was until my wife explained that is a form of ‘honors’, in a way, at the college level. Me, honors, no shit! The following spring semester the achievement was reached again. OK, what do I do now? This was definitely uncharted waters and now and starting to think that those grade school teachers may have been right. Nah, that can’t be it, can it?

After transferring to middle-state university my thoughts were that this was the end of the road for Dean’s list since most of the courses would be at the 300 and 400 levels. I was wrong, obtained a 3.58 GPA in my first semester at middle state U! OK, one time is a fluke, two times may be a coincidence, but three times is a trend. Holy cow, I am officially freaking out and wondering how (and why) this is happening. But I do know how and why, my focus is different than it was years ago, priorities have change and the addition of the support of my wife and boys. Now my idea of grades has changed from just passing to possibly graduating with honors. Three semesters completed with two semesters left. This just might happen. Ya think?

About half way through my spring semester at middle-state U (semester #4), and met with my advisor to discuss my last semester’s courses for the following fall. In that conversation with Dr. Advisor we discussed the possibility of graduating with honors in December. He calculated how many credits needed to be able to not only graduate, but to do so with honors. His response almost killed me. “I’m sorry, you are 6 credits short for honors, but will have more than enough to graduate” he reluctantly told me. Apparently, you need to have taken a certain number of credits at middle-state U to be eligible for honors at graduation. My heart sank as he continued to tell me that there was nothing he could do. I was devastated.

It’s now fall 2017 and my last semester with six courses scheduled, just like most of the other semesters. Even though eligibility for honors was off the table, it didn’t stop me. Dean’s list’ was achieved the previous spring and I was going to do my best to finish strong. My goal was to end my college career making Dean’s list for my final semester, even though middle-state U wasn’t going to recognize me for honors at graduation.

Side bar your honor: Read the passage “Little League Baseball and My Two Minute (Week) Warning!” from December 4, 2017, then you’ll understand why.

I was determined, angry, and focused more than ever in my last semester. This one was for me, I wanted it bad. Unbeknownst to me, I would be taking the two of the toughest 400 level classes of my college career that would suck the life out of me (Business Policy and Strategy & Marketing Strategy and Planning), and both were known to be writing intensive, oy vey! Not going to give up now!

All went well for in my final semester. It was very likely that my goal of Dean’s list was going to be achieved as I calculated each courses’ grade after every assignment. It was tough, but I persevered. What occurred just 12 days before graduation changed everything. It happened while picking up my cap and gown for graduation at the bookstore. I gave my ID to the woman working the table, she gets my items, and puts them in a bag for me, nothing earth shattering, but it is what she said to me while handing me my bag that changed everything, “Congratulations, here is your cap and gown and your slip to purchase your cord at the counter.” What? Cord? What? I was dumbfounded, what the heck is a ‘cord’? “Oh, you are graduating with honors (Magna Cum Laude), you didn’t know?” No, but how. Excuse me? The woman confirmed again on her list that I met all that requirements for honors. OK, I’m officially in shock! The young lady at the counter confirmed my honors eligibility as well. After researching requirements on my own at middle-state university, I discovered that ‘Dr. Advisor’ miss-informed me the previous spring (more on him later, Oh boy!).

I still can’t believe it!


Lasting though: Yesterday, I walked for graduation at middle-state U, and I am still in shock of my achievements. Looking back on my education from grade school and high school makes me wonder what could have been if I did apply myself a little bit more back then. But that is in the past, I can’t change that, no one can. What is funny is that even though the possibility of honors was supposed to be unattainable, I still wanted to prove to myself that I can achieve something for personal reasons without recognition.


“Don’t give up! Don’t EVER give up!”

Jimmy Valvano

Posted in Advising, Graduation, Honors, Lasting Thoughts, Professors | 7 Comments

The First 10 ‘Tips’ for Mid-Lifers Returning to School (millennials too!)

The First 10 ‘Tips’ for Mid-Lifers Returning to School (millennials to)

With just a week to go until graduation I have encountered a reflective mindset. I have been pondering on many different topics and issues from my second tour of college in quest of my Bachelor’s Degree. Now, I would be lying if I said I followed these tips all the time, I did not. Although, when I did, there were some noticeable improvements in not only grades, but in retaining information and a realization of how to deal with difficult material. So here are some things that I have learned about learning in the 21st century at the university level…

  1. Getting started is not easy: Being laid off from employment twice in 3 years’ time due to no fault of my own was tough. Making the decision to return to school in my mid-forties was even tougher.
  2. Keep an open mind: Every day was a new experience. Keeping an open mind about EVERYTHING was not easy at times. It is truly amazing how faith and prayer can help.
  3. Read the Syllabus: The syllabus is so important to read and follow throughout the semester. It really is your road-map to not only passing but in my opinion, the best way to getting at least a ‘B’ in the course. (I will elaborate in future postings on the importance of the Syllabus)
  4. Be prepared for class: Make sure all readings and work are completed prior to class. Being prepared can be difficult depending on your schedule, but make it a priority as much as possible.
  5. Sit towards the front of class: One thing I notice right away is the ‘smarter’ kids tend to sit up front. I preferred to sit in the first on second row off to the sides hoping their knowledge would rub off on me. The more ‘serious’ students tend to sit there. I highly recommend this, particularly in the first 2 weeks until groups are formed for team projects. Plus, professors are more likely to call on students in the back of the class. More on this later.
  6. Schedule down time: Very important to have some down time in between class. Whether it’s getting a cup of coffee or just to read a book for pleasure. That 15, 30, or 60-minute break can make a world difference on some trying days.
  7. Don’t work if you don’t have to: This, I know, can be difficult for a lot of people due to some financial constraints. My first attempt at college failed in part to me working 30+ hours a week to pay for school. I see some of my fellow classmates able to work and go to school full-time and they make it work. Not everyone can do that. I am one of those people who can’t. In addition, working students may have difficulties being available for meetings for group projects.
  8. Get a smart phone and learn how use it: This one is mostly for us middle-agers. It is the way of the world. Please, don’t make the mistake I made, get a smart phone, and learn how to use it. Can you say, ‘flip phone’, I’ve said too much already! Being able to communicate through emails, texting and social media is key on surviving not only at college but in the real world as well. More on this one later.
  9. Professors (some) will enjoy having you (Mid-Lifers) in class: This will be the topic of some future postings as well, but some professors will enjoy have older students in the class. A certain ‘kinship’ if you will, may happen organically. Trust me, it is refreshing for some of them to talk to a student that is not overly concerned with partying and just ‘getting by’ in school.
  10. Don’t always raise you hand if you know the answer: This one can apply to all students. There have been a few classes where most of information I knew just from past work history or life experiences. What I have learned is that NOBODY likes a ‘know-it-all’. Plus, it’s great to tick of those few professors who like to call on the students with their hands down thinking they are unprepared for class. Much more on this one later.

This is just the first 10 of many items I have learned about learning at the university level in the 21st century. There will be more involved postings on some of the more ‘interesting’ stories behind the reasons why and in much greater detail. Stay Tuned!

Until next time,


Posted in First Days, Free Time, Group Work, In The Classroom, Professors, Tests/Quizes, The Syllabus, Tips | 9 Comments

Little League Baseball and My Two Minute (Week) Warning!

(A Reflective Passage)

Even though I am a non-traditional college student with a different outlook on many items compared to my millennial counterparts, doesn’t mean I don’t have the same thoughts and feelings of my fellow classmates. We are all college students preparing for the rest of our lives. Although, my post college life may have a few less potential decades then my millennial friends. The uncertainty that we all face is the same. Where am I going to work? What am I going to do? Can I really survive moving back home with my parents? How am I going to pay my mortgage? OK, the last one was mine, but you get the picture.

Today is the start of my last two weeks of college before graduation, and I am nervous as hell, but in an excited way. My journey started almost three years ago when meeting with an advisor at my community college. Graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree at that time seemed possible but so far away and really a pipe dream. Because of my past life experiences, I was thinking that something would come along and derail my plans. That didn’t happen. Sure, there were struggles along the way. But they were overcome most in part with the support I received from my biggest supporters and cheerleaders, my family and close friends.

Going to college 30 years ago was different. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t really get the support back then, as I have received in the past three years. Don’t get me wrong, I did receive some support before, but not like now. It is difficult to explain. But currently, maybe I am viewed as an underdog, or the outsider trying to do good. People seem more interested in my story and experiences than 30 years ago.

Now, my final two weeks are in front of me. Many questions are circling in my head on my future, but that’s another story. Right now, prioritizing assignments, studying for finals, and scheduling rehearsals for final group presentations is on my mind. Anticipation of graduation keeps creeping into my mind, which is one of the items keeping me focused to finish strong and not slack off like some of my millennial counterparts.

For many years I coached little league baseball , ages 5 thru 12. At the start of every season I would have a coach/parent/players meeting. Every meeting ending with me setting the goals that (what I thought) would make a successful season for all involved…

  1. Every player to be a better skilled player and the end of the season
  2. To have more ‘wins’ than ‘losses’
  3. Always try to turn any ‘negative’ into a ‘positive’
  4. Most of important, to have fun playing baseball

I have reflected on those goals numerous times during my college tour and has help me get through a few difficult times. There were a few seasons where my teams did not win more games than they lost, although, every year my team did finished strong. But they were winners because they worked hard and bettered themselves.  One year a team of mine, the Blue Claws, only won 1 game during the regular season. That team won 2 games in the postseason and was very close to playing for the championship. Learning from my mistakes of 30 years ago has made me realize what is the true meaning of success with the help of some baseball youth. Those players of mine may never know how they have influenced me to work hard, stay focused, learn from my mistakes, turn negatives to positives, strive for that goal, and finish strong.

If it is good for a bunch of little league baseball players, why not me!



Posted in Dealing with classmates, Finals, Home Life, TCDE Tips & Advice, Tests/Quizes | 2 Comments

“No Football For You Young Man!”

Being a 40something in college has its perks at times. I naturally wake up between 5am and 6am most days, unlike some of my classmates who are getting in at 5am from partying. It’s so easy to tell. And yes, being older, married with children, and working for 30+ years has established some structure in my life. Gone are the days of all night partying and whooping it up. Not that I don’t like to whoop it up, my body just can’t take it anymore.

So, getting to class on time, scheduling time for homework, group work, library time and studying does come easier to me now. Truth be told, I’m a ‘list’ person. Being organized, I’ve had a better time being prepared for class for the most part on my second tour of college. But every now and then, some of the ‘old ways’ will creep back into my life from yesteryear.

It’s my second fall semester, October, and a beautiful fall Sunday for football watching. The normal Sunday scenario was playing out perfectly, church, Costco run for supplies/food, and then football! My oldest son and I would find ourselves watching the NFL all day. This was quickly becoming our new father/son tradition with snacks, wings or homemade chicken fingers. We would check our picks for our football pools and fantasy league players throughout the day. It was very cool and great bonding time.

After shopping for supplies, we would start to hunker down, computer on the coffee table, snacks and munches ready to go in the kitchen, TV on, and all systems go! The plan, as always, was to watch the 1 o’clock game with our prime game at 4:25pm with our team, then the late game. This particular Sunday was even better because Columbus Day was the next day and both of use were off from school and could just enjoy the day and stay up late for the last game. Now we have rule in the house that all school work needs to be completed before any sports watching or video game playing with all 3 boys. I knew my son’s work was done so we were good to go.

Now my attitude concerning all schoolwork was a complete 180 degrees from my first attempt at college. ALL of my schoolwork was a priority with me, unlike my first tour of college many years ago and it is always completed prior to class. To my credit, I was able to be placed on the ‘Deans List’ for having over a 3.5 GPA for each semester since returning back to school. With having off the next 2 days for ‘fall break’, I was going to complete whatever work on those two days. Sounded like a good plan to me to get my work completed before Wednesday’s classes. To my surprise, someone had a different take on my plans.

Enter my lovely wife about halfway through the first quarter of the first game.

In the friendliest calm voice, she says’ “Heh guys, is all of your schoolwork done?” Now I have to admit, I didn’t think she was talking to me, just my son. He says “yup”, then she asks me, “what about you?” Being very puzzled, I responded, “I’m addressing that on my days off tomorrow and/or Tuesday” thinking I was good. I was wrong. Now the reaction from my wife was one that you would have thought I just shot the pope or used the ‘good’ towels in the bathroom. That friendly voice turned and then she spoke in ‘that voice’ with a look to match in which no married man wants to experience (married guys  know what I mean). “You get yourself away from that TV and get your schoolwork done young man!”. Wait, who me? That ‘look’ continued and she waited for me to remove myself from the family room.

I knew she was serious. More importantly, I knew she was right. School comes first, even for me. I knew what I had to do. I got up, reluctantly, handed the remote to my son and said, “sorry, I’ll be back when I’m done…  later dude”. He laughed and blurted under his breath, “busted” as he claimed the ‘good spot’ on the couch. It was one of the hardest things I could have done that day, but I knew I had to do it. About 5+ hours later I returned to the couch with my work completed and my son fully engrossed in the games. I was hungry and thinking that all the good food was gone, and I thought that I had to result to grilled cheese sandwiches. My son feeling my pain from earlier did save me some wings and few other things. All was good, and I could enjoy the remainder of the day watching football with my son.

Thanks to my wife for reminding me of the bigger picture.

Since then, no homework done = no football watching.


Lasting Though: It’s hard to hear the truth sometimes, and even harder to admit when someone else is right (particularly me). Maybe its because they see the bigger picture, or maybe it’s just because part of you doesn’t want to face reality when needed. Or maybe, just maybe they care about you and just enforcing some tough love. That can be even harder to take sometimes, but I think it’s worth it now.

Posted in Free Time, Home Life, Homework, Lasting Thoughts | 4 Comments

My Date With A Nigerian Prince

My reboot college career really started in the summer of 2015. After meeting with an advisor at my local community college, it was decided that it would be best for me to take a course in the summer to not only reacquaint myself with the college atmosphere, but to see if I could really hang and deal with all that was associated attending college in my mid 40’s. One of my requirements to complete the list of classes needed to receive my associates was a pair of statistics classes to be taken over 2 semesters along with the remaining requirements and electives needed to receive my Associates in Business Administration then ultimately transfer to a 4-year university for my bachelors.

Most math classes and related subjects came easiest to me rather than any other areas of study. This was very evident going back as far as elementary school. Knowing this, it was decided, between myself and my advisor, that I would enroll in a summer course (MAT  100) to ease my way back into school before scheduling a full-time list of courses for the upcoming fall semester. This particular course was a requirement for the two statistic courses. Even though I had already passed this course (got a B) many years ago, my advisor and I both agreed it just seemed like a good idea to just re-take the course for all intensive purposes.

My professor for this class was from Nigeria and spoke with an understanding and very cool accent. First day of class and all the normal first day items covered but more intense due the time restraints of it being a summer session class. Dr. ‘E’ was very interesting. He grew up in a small Nigerian village with very basic living conditions. He described his life and the difficulties growing up in Nigeria. His story was fascinating, and stressed that the ONLY way to really survive in these conditions and to be prosperous was to focus on education. The work ethic that he installed in himself and the journey to study in the U.S. was inspiring at the least if not remarkable. One of the underlining themes of his story was to take advantage of all opportunities that are given to you and success will follow.

While Dr. ‘E’ was disclosing all the information about the class, one item stood out to me. Kinda like when you are talking to a friend and not totally paying attention, but there is the one thing that stands out and you don’t know why, but you feel it is important for some reason. This was one of those times. What did stick out was his statement about being exempt from the final if, and only if, someone receives an ‘A’ on ALL of the tests during the course. Well, I have experience this before during my first attempt at college back into 1980’s but never took it seriously because I never thought it was an attainable goal. But this was different, that little voice in the back of head was saying, “yo, bald dude, pay attention, this is something important”. So, I made note of it on my hard copy of the syllabus.

Fast forward to the end of the semester. 3 tests taken, with an ‘A’ achieved (94.3% average) on all three tests with just one test left before the final. While passing out the last test, Dr. ‘E’ stated that if any of us thought we had a chance to qualify for exemption from taking the final then we were to write our cell number at the top of the page of test number 4. The reason for the cell number is that he would call the exempted students “before Sunday” and tell us that we are exempt from the final the following Tuesday (this was Thursday). Hell ya, that’s me! I have a chance!

Test #4 completed and I’m feeling good, just need a phone call from my favorite Nigerian professor. Thursday, no call, no problem. Friday, no call, concerned but dealing with it. “He’ll just call Saturday morning and I’ll have the rest of the weekend free”, I thought to myself. 12 noon, nothing, 6pm, notta, 10pm and still nothing. I am so screwed, now I must study like crazy on Sunday and Monday for a cumulative final. The previous day I was boasting to my wife how this school thing was easy and not to worry the day before and to make plans for Sunday. 11:30pm and I’m now making sure that the ringer wasn’t turned off and checking voice mail. Panic starts to set in. Oh shit, did I give the wrong number! There’s no way he was going to call this late.

11:56pm, yes 11:56pm, my phone rings. It’s Dr. ‘E’ telling me that I passed the 4th test with a 93 and I don’t have to take the final on Tuesday. He thanked me for being in his class, that I was a great student, and wished me good luck in the future. I confirmed that I ‘did NOT’ have to take the final, thanked him for everything and then hung up. A variety of emotions came over me, joy, anger, happiness, rage, and finally relief.

The follow two semesters I would see Dr. “E’ on campus from time to time and he would always remembered me and say hello and ask how things were going. I never did question Dr. ‘E’ why I received that phone call at 11:56pm. Looking back, he truly was a gentleman. A prince if you will. A Nigerian prince that saved me before the clock stuck midnight.


Lasting Thought: Sometimes we experience things and don’t know why they happen and why they happen when they happen. Looking back, waiting until 11:56pm for that news thought me to not count your chickens before they hatch and a big helping of humility. But what I think I learned most importantly is to always do you best and only worry about things that you can control.


Posted in Finals, In The Classroom, Lasting Thoughts, Professors, Tests/Quizes, The Syllabus | 5 Comments

“Back off, the ‘old guy’ is ours!”

Group work and projects are a very common part of classwork in most courses in the college world today, particularly in any business/marketing programs. Since I’m a Marketing major, this is pretty much the norm for every class. It’s not one of my favorite items about college, but it has permitted me to be part of some really interesting groups and work with some really interesting people.

Forming groups in a university setting is like the college version of getting picked for the dodge-ball teams from grade school. The professor usually states what the project going to entail and then says, “OK you have 10 minutes to form your groups”. What? This is where panic sets in. I don’t know these kids. Damn, no one is gonna pick me. I’m going to be stuck with ‘stinky Steve and that other new kid that takes the sniffs his erasers’, as I thought back to my grade-school days.

Now this was my first marketing class (Market Research) and first 300 level course, at my new university after earning my associates from the community college the previous spring. The professor conducts all the normal first day stuff and then proceeds to inform us about the semester long group project that will be 1/3 of our overall grade. She states that the project will be dealing with researching and developing a new produce related item or improving an existing produce item that you would find in any local grocery store. Hot Damn! What luck.

OK, side bar your honor… More background on me. I spent 20+ years in the grocery industry. I just thought I hit the jackpot! I have something to offer, I am valuable, thinking to myself. I started to feel really good about this. OK, think fast, how do I let everyone know my credentials? How do I ‘market’ myself to this ‘kids’? Yes, the introductions, I’m home free. The smart kids will come running after I divulge my work history.

It’s going to be a good day Tatar! (Ron White, stand-up comedian, look it up, love the part with his bulldog Sluggo, hilarious!).

Introductions start, I know exactly what to say. As we move through the class, I’m practicing my lines in my head, making sure not to sound too arrogant, but present myself where they will all look past the ‘old guy’ image and want me to be part of their team. OK, I’m next, be cool Mark, I got this. In a very calm relaxed voice, without sounding too confident, I went for it, “Hi, I’m Mark, non-traditional student, first semester here at ‘mid-level state university’, returning to school after being laid off twice in 3 years to pursue my bachelor’s degree. I have about 30 years in the food and beverage industry, with 23 years of the 30 in the grocery industry in various positions. I’m married for 17 years, with 3 teenage boys.” Yes, nailed it. Just then the professor responds, “Wow, I guess you are going to be in high demand for this group project, everyone should consider Mark for your group”. She didn’t just say that. Great, thanks mom dropping off my lunch, kissing me on the forehead in front of all my guy friends, and embarrassing me to no end. I felt like the teachers ‘pet’ on day one, I’m doomed. Stinky Steve and eraser kid wait for me, here I come!

Introductions conclude, let the group picking torture begin. I just sat there in my own misery letting fate present my future. Groups were forming all around me and just going to deal with whoever was left. Heh, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get, forget where I heard that once. Just as I was going to accept what the ‘group forming gods’ were going to give me, two young coeds approached me (again, get your mind out of the gutter). As they approached, I heard a guy in the row behind me loudly whisper to one of the coeds “no one’s got him yet, hurry up!”. What? In a slightly nervous voice one of the coeds asks me, “Heh, Mark right, would you want to be in our group for the project?” This is where ‘idiot Mark’ came out, my respond “who else is in the group?” Like I had a boatload of choices and holding out for the highest bidder. What was I thinking. I blew it.

My response didn’t faze them, thank God. Without hesitation they pointed out the 3 other guys in the group, I looked at them and each one, particularly the one sitting in the row behind me had the same look. The look was like a state of suspended wonder as if to say ‘please say yes old guy’. I turn back to the coeds and said sure, OK. Gave them my contact info, all was good, I guess. What happened next was what sealed the deal for me.

With my head down looking for my reading glasses, I heard one the two coeds say, “we got him” to the guy in the row behind me. A gleeful response of “YES” was elated behind me. Angela and Karen (not real names) introduce themselves, collecting my info, they thanked me, said they would be in touch. They turned around walked away and gave each other a very small, but noticeable, fist pump to each other (girl style). Two other coeds where making a bee line towards me. In a very possessive but reassuring tone Karen headed them off, “Yo, back off, the ‘old guy’ is ours!”.

Yes, I have arrived. I guess.

All five were great to work with that semester. I learned a lot that semester from both my group-mates and the material in the course. I would have another great experience with one of the group members in a future class, more on that later.


Lasting Thought: Don’t short change yourself. Realize that you have something to offer to others. Find out what that is and use it to promote yourself. Everyone has value and can be valuable to someone somewhere. We just need to pull back the current sometimes to see what opportunities are out there.

Posted in Dealing with classmates, First Days, Group Work, In The Classroom, Lasting Thoughts, Professors | 13 Comments

Want friends! Look for someone in your demographic…

Want friends! Look for someone in your demographic…

Being the ‘new kid’ in class is always tough, but even more difficult if you are old enough to be everyone’s parent! Most first days of class are ‘introduction days’ where everyone tells their story/situation. Pay extra attention to those who either look close in age to you or older than the other ‘kids’ in class. Go up to them after class and introduce yourself. Trust me, they are just as scared as you are. It’s easier to make a friend/study partner with these classmates then the other ‘kids’ in class. Even if it is someone to just commiserate over coffee every now and then. These are the classmates that will most likely understand what you are going through. And chances are it will help you not feel so alone on campus.

Posted in TCDE Tips & Advice, Tips | 1 Comment

“Are You The Professor?”

My second semester in my reboot college career was starting off pretty good. With one full semester under my belt I was feeling more confident about my choice to return to school. Even though I didn’t really make any sold friendships I was becoming more comfortable being around my classmates who were mostly between the ages of 18 and 20 years. Even though I was still a little apprehensive to start a conversation with them, my confidence was growing day by day realizing that we are all there for the most part to earn an education.

Starting a conversation with someone I didn’t know was somewhat easy for me with my sales experience. I was the one who primarily initiated conversation at school, other than the professor teaching the class. Most of the time the ‘kids’ in the class just looked at me with the ‘what’s the old guy doing here?’ gaze. But all that would change on the second day of my first ‘spring’ semester. Before I continue, I feel I need to describe my physical self. I am a 6-foot, 235 lb., white, male, bald (greying), with a goatee in his mid-forties. It was a pleasantly surprised when follow happen to me.

It was the first day of class for a micro economics class in one of those cinder block classrooms. I sat down toward the front of the classroom and started to get out a notebook and pen. Then I heard this voice from a perky young co-ed (get you mind out of the gutter) ask me the following question, “Are you the professor?” I was stymied, I was literally lost for words. But after a few seconds, I answered, “No, I am not”. Without thinking I asked back, “why do you ask?” as if I didn’t realize what I looked like. She then proceeded to tell me the following in a quick gossipy teenage girl tone…

“Well, my friend Jessica told me that she heard that there is this older professor that likes to dress up like he is a college student on the first day of class. He sits in the class like he’s a student and then this creep tries to find out what the students know or think about him, the school, and like all that other stuff. Don’t you think that’s weird? I mean that’s pretty sneaky and cruel. Why would anyone do that? That’s real jerky, don’t ya think? I mean really, get a life!”

Jackpot! I couldn’t pass this up!

“Really, wow, yes that is odd. Why would someone do that?” in my hope she did not notice her flaw. “I know, what an a-hole!”  she responded. I glanced at the clock over her shoulder, its 5 minutes past the official start time and no professor. This is too good to be true. Am I really going to do this, yes, I am. We proceeded to exchange a little more about this “jerk, creep, a-hole” of a professor. Every statement for me encouraging her to just keep going. She continued to trash this professor and educate me to “be aware” of some of these professors on how they are all against the students and try to make college life so difficult for them. She looks like she just had a ‘sweet 16’ birthday party last weekend, and she is lecturing me, OK, sure, whatever. At about 9 minutes late I politely stopped and then went for it…

“I really appreciate the advice and sorry to stop you, but I need to get the class started”, then a perplexing look appeared on her face. I stood up to get out of my seat and proceeded to walked up to the front of class. She looked like she was going to die. What was going through her mind, I will never know, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. She definitely was panic sickened. I throughout my soda can in the trash can at the front of the room and as I turned the real professor enter the room and apologized for being late. As I sat back down in my seat, the panic faced turn into bewilderment. My response to her as I sat back down, “Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity”, and then realized how much fun I could have amongst these millennials.

It took a few classes, but we did talk about what transpired between her and I that first day. She realized her mistake, understood why I did what I did and forgave me, thank God. We did become so-so friends and did helped each other out on some homework assignments. And yes, we both were able to laugh about it in time, me more than her.


Lasting Though: In the college word, and in the real world as well, be careful who and what you say to someone until you know who you are exactly talking to. Without thinking you just may impact your future in a way that you didn’t intend to.

Posted in Dealing with classmates, First Days, In The Classroom, Lasting Thoughts, Professors | 3 Comments