The Collegiate Road Less Traveled


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By Afia Jones

Out of the 17 million U.S. students in undergraduate programs, one out of five are at least 30 years old, 44 percent come from parents who did not receive bachelor’s degrees and about half are financially independent from their parents, according to the National Center for Education.

As shown by these statistics, it’s not uncommon to come across students who don’t fit the stereotypical ideal of what most people think about an undergrad student.

Since 1996, statistics claiming college students are making alternative decisions to pursue education have increased.

Speaking as someone that’s had a jarring ride throughout my undergraduate years, I find it comforting many students have experienced or are experiencing the same ride as I did when I began college.

When I entered my last year of high school in 2015, I thought the next four years of my life were figured out.

I’d spent my junior year searching strategically for universities that would meet my academic and financial needs. I composed a seemingly solid list of colleges I would apply to. However, I didn’t know where I was going all throughout my senior year. My first choice school became unattainable for me to attend, and I was stuck back at square one halfway through the school year.

It’s easy to get lost in comparisons. So many of my peers’ eyes would get wide and have their mouths turned up in immense excitement at the question: “What school are you going to?”

That question filled me with copious amounts of anxiety. It felt like my future was undetermined, and I was destined for failure. Those students weren’t discussing any financial concerns. It seemed like everybody had just a plethora of options to choose from and no matter where they landed, they would be okay. They were destined for greatness, and I was not.

It wasn’t until July when I landed upon a small school in southern Ohio. I’d finally established some type of security in my life, and the future didn’t seem so bleak anymore.

However, all throughout my first semester, I completely drowned in my own misery. I was upset that I had chosen a school simply because I was scared to turn to some alternative choices to take me where I wanted to be.

So, I packed up my wallows and my dorm stuff and moved back home where I would attend community college until I transferred to where I believe I truly belong, which is Northern Illinois University.

If there’s anything I’ve learned during that process, it’s that there’s no such thing as a foolproof plan. I believe these statistics reinforce that.

There’s no right way of trying to obtain an undergraduate degree. Sometimes taking the road less traveled is the best ride for you despite how daunting it may be.