My college journey as a non-traditional student

August 18, 2022

campus overhead

I feel like I have shared some of my biggest fears with you all. It’s easier to write from behind a computer, especially because I picture people on the other end who have the same feelings and same insecurities. However, the scariest obstacle I have overcome on my college journey is returning to school after many years off. To be honest, what I thought was going to be a terrifying return back to school, where younger people judged me (I was fully picturing walking into the CASL building with a walker like an old lady in a nightgown), turned out to be anything but that. 

My Backgroundnostalgia april 1

I initially came to UM-Dearborn right out of high school. I was ready for the college experience but still wanted to be close to home. Back then, there was no Student Union, the UC was newly built/renovated, and the Fairlane center was just being opened. It was a true commuter campus and a great option for those of us that wanted to experience college while still having some of the comfort and familiarity of home. I was a good student in high school. I was involved in everything from AP classes to Student Council and was a part of a ton of activities like Drama, Choir, and Student Leadership. 

When I made the decision to come to UM-Dearborn, I knew I wanted to continue to be involved as I was in high school, but I also wanted to make friends. I only knew one person from my high school who also enrolled, and we stuck together like glue for the first month or so.

The Harsh Reality

I dropped out of college during my junior year. My parents refused to pay any longer and served me a hefty dose of tough love. In my last semester, I had one A (thank you creative writing), three incompletes, and a failing GPA. I was embarrassed. I ran and didn’t look back. I also took a long time to deal with the reality that I was the one person who had messed it up, but also the one who could fix it. This lesson took nearly 10 years to learn. This is a hard story to share, but one that I have come to see as crucial to my own growth and speaks to the importance of second chances and the ability of people to change. I share it with humility in hopes that people understand we are all only one step away from an entirely different life. 

So, after I ran away, I got recruited for a management position in retail, and it worked out nicely. I was promoted within the company and made a nice living for myself traveling throughout the state of Michigan training management teams and opening new stores. But I always felt that disappointment bubbling in the back of my throat, and admittedly, sometimes it came out as tears for the opportunity I wasted in college. 

The Turning Point

nostalgia april 1
April & friends at a Michigan tailgate

It wasn’t until recently that I sat down with myself (yes, seriously spoke the tough words out loud to me, myself, and I) and accepted my life and the choices I made before. I think that is one of the toughest, but most important facts about truly growing up, being able to tell yourself the truth and accept your mistakes, not as roadblocks but as stepping-stones. Every obstacle has a way through/over/beyond if you look at it as an opportunity. 

I wrote one (very scared and humble) email to the admissions department at UM-Dearborn. And in that one email, I asked for another chance. I honestly didn’t know what the response would be. I could get a resounding “NO!” for the way in which I left my academics and my GPA standing, but the response that came back was, “we would love to talk to you about reinstating at the University of Michigan Dearborn.” And the door was opened for me, for a second chance at a degree and at life. 

And Now… 

I became a non-traditional student, and I am so happy that I am now. I have seen things from both sides as a nervous freshman and as a legitimate adult (still working on that) and am lucky to have a university that supports students like me. Students that have full-time jobs and families and dependents at home who need them. Students that come from other countries through international study programs. Students who are unsure of what they want to do in life and need some extra time to figure it out in school. Students who are first-generation college attending. Students who have been incarcerated and are seeking to better themselves. Students who have never been away from their families or homes. Students who are scared and searching for a place that will make them feel at ease and at home. Students who have so much life going on around them that they cannot be full-time or must step away for a while. Whether that’s a semester, or for over 10 years like me. 

If you are one of those potential students, I am here to tell you that UM-Dearborn is a place of solace for people like us. It is a great choice for the incoming freshman, as a smaller campus that can provide all the great things about college life, but still feels like a personalized and not overwhelming experience. But for the non-traditional student, it provides a great environment to learn, grow, and become what you know you were meant for. I wear that non-traditional badge proud because it comes with some impactful life lessons. 

If you feel like you may not fit in with whatever situation you have, trust me, there is a place for everyone here. And some wonderful people who probably feel just the same as you do. It’s only one step away. 


Blog written by April Marvin

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