I think it began when I started taking my daughter to go see colleges the summer before her senior year. She had her heart set on Boston, and we looked at several schools there. Among many, many other things spinning through my head as I thought about my first child heading to college, I started thinking, “What a lucky girl, what an opportunity.” I started thinking, “Why not me?”
Of course, I couldn’t very well bound out for Boston. Besides that, I hadn’t been in a classroom since I graduated from high school in 1981. And I live on an island. I started wondering how on earth I could “go to college” when I live 15 miles off the coast of Maine?
Well, UMA to the rescue! I checked out their course listings, and a particular online poetry writing class caught my eye. I like to write poetry, and it seemed like a good class to test the waters.
I was so unversed in the protocol of college course selection that I didn’t even know what a 400-level course was. The description did mention a prerequisite: “English Composition II or permission of instructor.” So I wrote to the professor to explain my situation, and she said yes, I was welcome to join the class. Suddenly I was a college student.
At that point I wasn’t registered, hadn’t even thought of a degree program. By chance I read a brief mention in the newspaper about a scholarship opportunity for new college students or those returning to school after a period of time. The scholarship offered by the local chapter of AAUW (formerly known as the American Association of University Women) would cover tuition, fees, and books for one class. I applied, and they generously gave me a scholarship (thank you, ladies!).
I loved it. The online format was ideal for a self-conscious poetry writer like me. I didn’t have to stand in front of the class and read my work, or sit and blush while my classmates and professor dissected what I’d written. Instead, we posted our work to discussion forums on Blackboard, the online platform used by University of Maine. We all learned how to thoughtfully “workshop” the poems for each other, and took part in discussions from our course readings. We all got loads of feedback, but in the safety of a virtual forum.
I was sold, both on web-based learning and on college in general. This online class was the ideal entry for me. I took my placement exams, registered, chose my degree program (English – big surprise) and was on my way the following fall.
So yeah, you can be older and long out of school. You can live far away from any campus. You can even live on an island. In fact, you can live anywhere and still attend UMA.