My collegiate journey was not drawn by the path of a straightened arrow. It was no surprise to me that I would begin my time at a university at an older age, but, I certainly did not foresee that I would be nearly 30. By the time I stepped onto campus for New Student Orientation, the reality of my circumstance became clear. I was nearly 10 years older than the vast majority of students around me. Though our goal of scholastic achievement was the same on paper, our world views and experiences were drastically different.
Coming to college for the first time when you are 18 is exciting and scary all at the same time. However, when you are 18, the process of assimilation and the ability to find identity within a social clique is comparatively easier. My experience was eating alone in the Commons during the first couple of weeks of the semester.
I have begun to work on the newspaper staff, taken an on-campus job, and immersed myself in weekend activities to balance not only my social life, but my school stress as well. Having these activities to look forward to throughout the week and on weekends has given me something outside of school to look forward to.
Involvement in school activities and on-campus jobs is a great way to not only break up the monotony of the day, but to provide a sense of belonging in the campus.
Being an older student on campus can be a challenge. I was 23 years-old when I started at HIU, and now, at 26, I am ready to graduate with a group of 21 year-olds.
My first thought upon arriving was that I would make new friends, and it would be fun to go to a Christian university. These dreams were diminished when I realized that all the students who were joining me were about five years younger and had very different priorities.
Younger students seem to stick with those who have common interests and who grew up in similar ways. For students in the older category, it can often feel like we are left out of all the fun. It is hard to make good, long-lasting friends because there are so many references to movies they all watched and cartoons they grew up with that older students would not understand.
Because of this, I started to hang out with the professors and the one other older student I found on campus because we had more in common. It is difficult to be the oldest in a class because you feel more pressure to set a good example for the younger students and feel that you must try twice as hard to be that example.
I have found the best way to feel like you are part of something while being an older student is getting more involved in the school. This could mean joining a club or student publications. This is one way you get to know other students that are interested in the same things you are. Older students should take the opportunity to talk to students they share majors with. Because HIU is such a small school, it is more likely you will have the same classes with these students more often. Another way to get involved is getting an on-campus job where you can interact with students you would otherwise not talk to.
Just like younger students, get involved. Start to get to know people. It is hard to be an older student, but getting involved makes things easier and can help people feel like they are not such an outcast.