Thursday, November 8, 2007

R-E-G-I-S-T-R-A-T-I-O-N! What does that spell? Hell!

It's early November and that means it's also time to start registering for spring semester courses. In previous years, registration time was riddled with anxiety. Could I get into the courses I needed/wanted? Would I have to take early or late classes? Would I have to go to class every day?

Things have changed a bit, now that I'm a non-traditional student.

I work full time, so those early and late classes are turning out to be the only ones I can take. I'm a senior by status (though I'm in the first semester of my undergraduate degree), so I get to sign up first, eliminating the possibility that I won't get into the classes I want, especially since all the other registering seniors are most likely NOT taking intro classes.

But now there's a new kind of anxiety. Now, I have to find a way to schedule classes into a 7.5 hr. workday. This is proving difficult, as the only classes I can choose from at this point are lab classes which meet four days a week. So, if I want to take two classes, which I do, I need to take a good two-three hour chunk out of work during the day and make it up at night. They've been really flexible so far, but I don't know how that'll fly.

On top of that, I'm torn between three choices: calculus, chemistry and geology. I'm currently taking Introductory Chemistry (part 1) and Fundamentals of Calculus. I need to take Introductory Chemistry (part 2) and Calculus I. But I want to take Earth System Science...because I want to.

I'll have to wait until next spring semester to take Introductory Chemistry (part 2) if I don't take it this spring, which could be rough, since I'm finding the first part to be challenging. So I'm pretty sure I should just take it a.s.a.p. And that leaves Calculus and Geology. I want to take Geology, but fitting it into my schedule is going to be hard if I take Chemistry. Fitting Calculus in will be much easier and allow for a much nicer schedule.

So really, I should take Chemistry and Calculus again. But that's exactly what I'm taking now, and I would like to at least have taken a Geology course by the time the SVP meeting rolls around. Meh...I can always just brush up on Geology by taking a textbook out at the library and teaching myself. Plus, if I want to take Geology, then I can take it when J takes it, and we can study together. Which would be nice, since we have so little time together as it is.


Jerry D. Harris said...

Hey Amanda - I sympathize with your plight. I teach at a small school where a huge percentage of the students -- far, far more than at any other place I've been -- work full time and still attempt to go to school. That's something I never had to do, thankfully, but I see students struggling with it daily. Many of them (here, at least), end up dropping out, largely because they end up deciding that having a steady income (many are married and already have kids -- this is, after all, Utah...!) is more important, and has greater immediacy, than school. Clearly you don't think along those lines, which I applaud!

But I am curious: many of us faculty have been asked to work on plans to increase retention at our institution, and one of the things that's come up is: "Why don't these students just take out loans to get them through school rather than try to work at the same time?" Of course, we realize that no one wants to deal later with loan payments, which are a pain in the arse. But overall, our students at least seem to drop out in order to work at very low-paying jobs, which strikes us as very odd given that if they got through school, they'd have a degree and be qualified for much higher-paying jobs. Granted, the "job now" provides money now, where as "school now" does not, at least not "earned" money, though loans can make up for that. We're just trying to better understand why a student might make the choice to have a low-paying job versus devoting full-time energies to school and have a loan...?

I don't know whether you quite fit the same mold as our students do in this case, but you're clearly one who thinks, and I'm interested in your thought processes!

Amanda said...

Hi Jerry! Great comment (especially the compliment part)! My situation is probably a bit different, as I make a livable wage AND go to school, but I'll offer what I have, anyway...

I haven't taken out loans (yet) for the following reasons:

1. I just decided,this past summer, to go back to school, after being at my first "real" job after college, which took me MONTHS to get. I was, at that point, going to just quit my job and take out loans, but the only local university with a geology department cost in the neighborhood of $20,000 a year, and I was looking at a good three years minimum of loans. Since I have a degree already, I couldn't get any "need-based" aid, so most of the loans were unsubsidized and I got almost no grant money. Having no history of debt and a bad history of money management, the idea of taking out $60,000 in loans was a bit daunting. I also didn't know how graduate school funding worked, so I figured that I'd be taking on thousands in addition to the undergrad debt. I've since learned that it's possible to work for a university during graduate school and get paid.

2. Just when I decided to go back to school, I was offered a job at the university I wanted to attend. It was a full-time position and I explained that I wanted to take classes, and they agreed to let me schedule work around my classes. So far, it's working out okay...I take two courses a semester and I've managed to maintain A's in both. And, since I work for the university, I get 15 credits a year for free. I figure I can work for a year or two and then do school full time, saving about $4,000. Of course, I really want to just go to school.

So, I have to get over the debt fear...doesn't help that as a kid, it was drilled into my head that paleontology wouldn't make me much money. But I love it...and I've worked in the corporate world for a while and I find it really really dull. And at this point, I'm most interested in school...not even finishing, but in the process.

Hope that helps. Mostly, I'm just afraid of being in debt. But I'm getting over that...slowly.