You Are Never Too Old to Go Back to School
Meant to write this several years ago, but after recently mentioning my experience to some old friends who were getting caught up with me, I thought, why not write about it now?
Here I was in my fifties, at least thirty years past my last formal education in a university setting. (when I received my master’s degree.) I had taken post grad school course work here and there, but never aspired to another master’s or a PhD. I thought I was finished with school.
I had heard about a fascinating program at Rice University when assigned to write a story for the Houston Chronicle on it. Living in Houston, Rice has a reputation of being Ivy League quality in education. It is a very prestigious school, currently ranked as the top 18th school in the country, and very selective. It was a post master’s program, in the Jones Graduate School of Business and it trained people to become management or entrepreneurs. (This graduate business school is ranked 25th in the nation.)
I had never taken a business course in my life, but something about the program inspired me to apply after writing the newspaper story about it. Of course I never expected to get in, and just used all the intensive application experiences – role playing, interviewing, essays, etc as a challenge and a good experience. I was surprised- no make that SHOCKED – when I did get selected.
Here’s the thing: I did NOT want to go. I didn’t want to study, take tests, and I didn’t want to be the oldest student there. I didn’t want to make the time commitment on the one year intensive business track program requiring weekend attendance. I couldn’t complain about the cost -anyone accepted received a fellowship to attend. (That AND they gave you free clothes, books, materials and food!!)
Again, I thought about the challenge of attending and completing the program, complete with a requirement of a huge graduation project at the end. And then I leaped. How often does a person get this kind of opportunity I wondered.
So of course I was about 25 to 30 years older than every other student there. That was almost embarrassing. I was also older than the Mentor assigned to me.
Yet, from the moment I stepped foot on campus, I felt I was embarking on the most special experience of my life. It was true, never before had I been so stimulated with class discussions and discourses by some of the most brilliant minds in the business world. I made lots of new friends too with young, ambitious, and brilliant future leaders.
Perhaps the most eye opening thing for me was all of the psychological testing they did to see where our managerial interests and personality fit – and what our true calling was.
Despite the workload, the extra eating, and the weekends given away, the year flew by and before I knew it I was invited to graduation. We were given pewter Owl pins (for Rice Owls) and diplomas. I am now considered a Rice University Ambassador, after successfully completing a fellowship program. That means I am a special guest invited to all these world renown speakers who come to visit and other special events. I get invited to the yearly holiday party too and keep in touch with my Mentor from the program.
In this photo of me receiving my diploma, who looks prouder – me, my son or my husband???
When I look back at graduation and realized that I had applied on a lark, and then went into this ill prepared to be a student again, I felt proud that I took on this challenge and completed it successfully. I am now a proud Rice University alum – something I never pictured.
Though I guess you could say I am pretty old to undertake something this ambitious, I can honestly state that one is NEVER too old to go back to school. It’s exciting and stimulating, and even our old brain can all use a bit of that. That’s the lesson here for all of us.