Okay, I’ve avoided thinking about this question my whole life:

What can you tell me about getting into college?

Finding, evaluating, being accepted, choosing – what do I need to know?

Are my hopes of finding a school with the attitude that it’s lucky to have me, rather than that I’m lucky to be accepted, foolish?

What am I going to need in order to get into the college I like, as someone with zero credentials, not even a diploma, other than my five years of real-world software engineering experience?

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  1. For starters, get your adult GED and sit the SATs if you can. There are prep books for the SATs out there, they do actually help, I’m willing to bet you’ve forgotten more than you realize about geometry and albrega. Those two thigns will help. Most colleges have programs these days specfically geared to adults returning to college, and are very eager to help people do that. Call a admissions counciler at a local college or a state college and explain your situtation, ask what they would require. Do this for several schools and you can get a broad picture.

    Once I get my head straighter and we can afford it, I am going back to UMUC (it’s the University of Maryland’s adult program. You live in MD, you might want to look into it.)

    1. We live in PA. Is it only open to MD residents? Does working in MD qualify him?

  2. Yeah, college is largely a waste of time. If you have your heart set on going, you really only need 3 things:

    1. A diploma or GED
    2. SAT or ACT scores
    3. money

    If you have enough of the third, they’ll probably even overlook the first two. It might be hard to “get accepted” at Harvard and Yale, but non-Ivy-League schools will accept pretty much anyone who applies.

    Best of luck.

    1. Maybe not

      I disagree that college is “largely a waste of time”. As with many things, what you get out of it depends on what you put into the effort.

      I think that one gets three important things from college:

      1) The stuff that they try to teach you in class. This is the least important item.

      2) The stuff you learn outside of class: How to deal with bureaucracy, how to select classes and professors, when to buy books. With five year experience in the field, you will have learned about many of these things.

      3) A set of friends who will last your lifetime. These can be important contacts as you pursue a career and life in general.

      1. Re: Maybe not

        As regards to #3, I fear this won’t be possible. I’ve sorely missed out on this aspect of college life, but sadly any classes I take will probably have to be largely online for time reasons. Not really conducive to fostering friendships… I do hope to someday have the full campus experience, although I fear I will be too old to fit in, by then…

        1. Re: Maybe not

          If you’re If you’re worried about fitting in, just be sure you do the assignments in the way the teacher tells you to and actually read the assignment papers and you’ll be better off than a lot of continuing ed sutdents. If for some reason you don’t do that, don’t bring it up in class because no one will care if you weren’t bright enough to do the assigment properly. Also DO NOT, EVER, talk about your life when called on in class. Nobody wants to know about your kids, your bank account or your house. Those are the two most common things that continuing ed students do that really make them stick out like a sore thumb and make them look ignorant and obtuse. I’ve actually been meaning to write up an advisory post for anyone who is/wants to go back to school, on “Really dumb things that continuing ed student do that you shouldn’t”

  3. Do you have a GED?

    Any prior college classes taken, you mentioned community college when younger. Get those records if you can.

  4. As someone who works in that biz as a dayjob..

    Your first step is to research colleges. You can either go online, or request that an information application pkt. be sent to you. If there is a college you are interested in, you call/email and set up an appt. with an Enrollment Advisor. He/she can help you plan your course of study, and they will tell you about the programs that the institution offers.

    Don’t forget to make a separate appt. with a Financial Aid counselor.

    You fill out an application, submit an application fee (which ranges between $25 and $75 in most cases), and get official HS transcripts or GED sent directly to the admissions office; also, send official transcripts from any and all previously attended academic institutions. (Very few colleges ask for SATs anymore, if you’re not “traditional college student age” (18-22), so don’t worry about that).

    Some institutions do give “life experience credits” for dayjob work experience, professional training or certifications, and military experience. Be sure to ask about that.

    How do you choose a college? Well, diff. people use different factors. For some, it’s all about tuition costs. Others choose based on proximity to home or dayjob; others choose according to the program offered. One thing to be sure of – make sure the college is ACCREDITED.

  5. The only advice that I can give which is practical is to make sure you visit the place. It gives you a really good idea of whether or not you’ll be able to stand being there. Walk around the campus and talk to some of the people to get an idea of the atmosphere. It makes a huge difference on the perception of the place. It really really does.

  6. Same as what they said.

    1. If you don’t have a high school diploma–get your GED–often local community colleges have info on this/classes–you can often take the tests and if you be the smartz, then you pass like just fine…

    2. Take the SAT’s.. but first go buy one of those $30 “SAT Prep books” with practice tests in them (usually you can do this on the puter..) These things help immensely, if only to give you agood impression of what the real test will be like.

    3. Before you take the SAT, go scout out colleges that you might want to go to. Usually if you aren’t going the normal route–it is often easier to go to a local community college for the first couple of years and then transfer over to a bigger college if you want to.

    4. Actually, check with where you work.. they might actually pay you to go back to school. If you go get some kind of degree that they think is worthwhile (like business, comp. programming, some form of engineering, marketing, what not), they often have programs that will give you a good amount of money to do so.. (My partner got this when she was working for Charter–it was often like $1000 a semester, which will often cover half-time tuition at community colleges at the least… )

  7. Lots of good advice here, too. (I posted in one of your other very recent entries.)

    Are my hopes of finding a school with the attitude that it’s lucky to have me, rather than that I’m lucky to be accepted, foolish?

    Unless you have something so incredibly amazing to offer a school–something that would make them shine brightly and publicly–colleges don’t give a rat’s butt. It’s not like high school where you’re required to show up and they care if you do or don’t. In college, you are paying them to attend through goals that you have. Professors don’t have the time, energy, or will to care whether you show up or not–it’s solely up to you because they are your goals, not theirs. Usually, they are there to help, but you are the one who must seek it. They will rarely just offer it to you. It’s much like the real world in that sense.

    1. It’s much like the real world in that sense.

      That doesn’t sound like the real world to me. Barring extenuating circumstances, I’d never take a job that didn’t make it clear they really wanted me. Because, frankly, I am that good, and I don’t need to be anywhere that doesn’t recognize my worth.

      Since, as you say, I’d be paying a college [a lot!] for my education, I’d expect them to take a solicitous attitude towards me, just as I expect the staff of a fancy restaurant to be as polite and friendly as they possibly can.

      1. Well, that’s cool if you really are that good; it’s good that you recognize it, but hopefully without too much ego that would keep you from seeing things realistically. And you’re right, people with great skills and talent need to be working for people/a company who appreciates them.

        Like I said, professors aren’t there to pamper, for lack of a better word. However, not all professors are cold-hearted jerks, either (there are some like that). If you communicate with the professor and show them that you have clear intent and goals to excel, they will usually help you in whatever ways they can.

        As far as a solicitous attitude, I don’t believe it’s realistic to draw a comparison between college & places like restaurants simply because you are paying them. But, again, if you have something that would make the college shine brightly and publicly, they would certainly look upon you with hungrier eyes than if you were just like other students with goals & motivation for a “standard” career. Remember, most universities have 10’s of thousands of students, and to shine above all those others takes a lot of natural talent AND motivation to make that talent very noticeable to the right staff members.

        I hope this helps you in making your decisions.

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