Attending college later is no problem

By AJ Edwards

NIU is home to many types of students. One group in particular is the non-traditional students who decided to attend college a little later in life.

When it comes to self-improvement, what better place to start than college? Life doesn’t always work out the way we think it will, but luckily for us, there are plenty of opportunities to find improvements.

“I always wanted to go back and finish my education,” said junior history major Michael Cravens, 44. “Four years ago I got laid off of my job due to downsizing. I started [college] part time for a year while I searched for a job. After that my wife and I agreed to go full time until I finished.”

Because of his life experiences, Cravens knows the value of an education. With finals looming in the distance and midterms finishing up, this is a time where students feel the full weight of their college classes.

“I have more at stake in my education, and I realize the consequences of my actions more as far as how studying for a test or class affects how the semester will go as well as those that follow,” Cravens said.

Graduate French student Brandon Makthepharaks, 36, is another non-traditional student who is changing his life through education. After spending eight years in the Marine Corps, Makthepharaks decided he wanted to get his degree in order to live a better life.

“It’s a great investment,” Makthepharaks said. “Instead of just buying boats and cars that give you little or nothing in life, an education is something that will just keep on giving.”

Students like Cravens and Makthepharaks have to find the balance between the lives they have already established and the challenges of college. Not only did Cravens have to study for his midterm, something that we all should have been doing, he also had to make sure he made time for his son.

With this busy schedule, Cravens continues to build his academic career.

“I view my academic career as a lifestyle,” he said.

Let’s face it, these guys aren’t just some old dudes who thought it would be cool to hang out with college kids. They’re people who know what needs to be done to succeed in the world.

“If you do not know what you want to do with your life then you should take some time off,” Makthepharaks said. “Take a break, do some work and get some life experience that will help make you a better scholar.”

Makthepharaks wasn’t the only one who had advice for succeeding academically.

“Finding a network and developing a support system is important, too,” Cravens said. “It’s important whether you are 44 or 18 to surround yourself with like-minded people who are committed to academic success.”

Students like Cravens and Makthepharaks are great examples of the fact that no matter where you end up in life, there’s always an opportunity to change and find that place where you long to be.

Whether it’s starting a new career, pursuing a hobby or passion, or just achieving something you did not have time for in the past, life’s full of opportunities, and we should take hold of them.

Off-Campus and Non-Traditional Student Services also has many resources available to students like Cravens and Makthepharaks. If you’re a non-traditional student having a tough time balancing your hectic schedule, take a walk down there and check it out.

You can’t always better yourself on your own. Take advantage of those who want to help you.