You Can Do College

What’s New?

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.


(Photo credit: via Google images)


Welcome to the revamped “You Can Do College” site!  As you can see, several changes have been made to make it more accessible.  After all, the site is about you and for you!

Which got me thinking about revamping and revising …

When it comes to education, colleges and universities are in a constant state of having to “think ahead.”  They must anticipate your needs this year, next year and five years from now.  As technology changes, so must classrooms and courses.  Colleges are trying to help you prepare for a new life that will probably be rooted in your education.  Therefore, they must be forward thinking.

Are you keeping pace with colleges?  What’s new with you?  Are you revamping and revising your life?  Are you thinking ahead?  Are you preparing yourself for an interesting future?

Many colleges and universities are beginning their new academic year this week.  There’s always a crackle of excitement in the halls, the classrooms and the bookstore.  There is a sense of anticipation, sort of like New Year’s Eve – because it is a new year – an academic new year.  The atmosphere of a college campus is alive with possibility.

If you have never experienced the excitement of an academic new year, now is the time.  Although some schools are beginning classes right now, others will kick off over the next month.  You still have time to enroll in that dream course you have been thinking about.  And, even if you don’t enroll, maybe you can take a stroll around the campus of your local community college.  The excitement might just rub off on you!

So, there are a lot of new things going on:  a new blog site for “You Can Do College,” a new academic year, new plans for the future – and maybe even a new you!


(Note:  Many thanks to PepperStation for their ideas and changes to this site!)

The Empowerment of Accountability

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

(Photo credit:  David Richardson accessed via Google images, 6.26.11)

I have been thinking a lot about the people in my life, primarily my daughter and son-in-law who – everyday – assume the monumental responsibilities associated with owning their own business, and providing physical, emotional and intellectual care for their 15 year-old son, who has cerebral palsy.  Both of these challenges require a commitment that is relentless and riddled with obstacles.  BUT, the rewards are the fuel that propels them onward.

These rewards are made possible through the simple act of being accountable for their own thoughts and actions.  To put it another way, they do not play the “victim” card when it comes to the circumstances in both their personal and professional lives.  On the rare occasion when a deadline has not been met or a client conveys dissatisfaction, they do not point the finger at others, and other things, and say, “It’s not our fault.”  Maybe the unmet deadline or unhappy client occurred because of technical problems or an oversight, but they go about identifying the problem and fixing it, rather than becoming defensive about the circumstances.  Because, no matter what the reasons behind their immediate dilemma, the bottom line is, it is up to them to turn things around.  They would rather use their time to create a solution rather than lament about the problem.  This accountability, or the assumption of responsibility for one’s actions, also applies to their business successes.  When their clients are delighted with the completion of a project, it is the result of my daughter and son-in-law’s efforts, not outside forces.

In addition, they do not play the “victim” card when it comes to their son.  Everyday encompasses both the routine and unexpected.  After visiting them (they live in another state), I always return home and tell my friends and colleagues that my daughter and son-in-law live a “different life from you and me.”  The things we take for granted, such as jumping in the car to run to Home Depot, requires an hour’s worth of preparation when they take their son.  Again, they could sit back and say, “Life’s not fair” and sulk about the circumstances.  Rather, they ensure that their son is included in everything – whether choosing the movie to watch that night or going on vacation (which means finding locales and places to stay that have accommodations for wheelchairs).  The rewards come in their son’s progress.  At 15, he is slowly learning to walk, can name all the U.S. Presidents since Hoover, and is working on learning President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Day that will live in infamy” speech.  Their assuming responsibility for their son’s most minute needs also gives them the opportunity to assume responsibility for their son’s most minute successes.

People who either do not understand the connection between their actions and subsequent outcomes, or refuse to accept the connection astound me.  Two family members come immediately to mind.  The first periodically goes through long stretches of time where he does not call me because, as he says, I “challenge him.”  He is the perpetual victim who has drowned his life in alcohol.  He complains that he does not have money to do anything.  When I remind him that he has chosen this life, he recoils.  The same is true for the other family member.  She went for a long period of time of withdrawal from me for the same reason.  She didn’t like being “challenged.”  Although she is not an alcoholic, she is in a continual state of depression over the circumstances of her life (e.g. She quit her job without creating a financial plan to sustain her.).   Both of these family members could have created positive changes in their lives, but for some reason found the act of being accountable threatening.  Neither of them understood the power behind being the “captain of your own ship” and mapping your course.

These are two sides of the same coin of accountability.  Understanding the connection between your actions and the results in your life lifts you up and moves you forward.  The other side, that of denial of responsibility, leaves you stuck in an emotional and physical quagmire.  This means that the simple act of being asked, “Why are things the way they are?” can be a productive impetus to resolving problems, or a question that becomes offensive.  The former leaves you empowered, the latter leaves you powerless.

So, where are you in this scenario?  Chances are, you are somewhere in between.  You know your talents and probably accept your ability to use those talents for different levels of success.  For instance, if cars are your passion, you may use your talent to keep the family’s car out of the repair shop, or perhaps, you have rebuilt a classic car.  However, you may not have yet made the connection between other abilities and other actions.

Maybe you have thought about returning to school but have not done so because you don’t think you belong, or you think it’s too big of a challenge?  Maybe you have always wanted to, but are afraid?  If you accept the responsibility for your future – including all of the challenges that may be thrown at you – you will have empowered yourself to take control of your life.

Have I Got a Group for You!!

If you are wondering if there are support groups out there, beyond this blog, there are!  The Association for Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE) defines their mission as “international partnership of students, academic professionals, institutions, and organizations whose mission is to encourage and coordinate support, education, and advocacy for the adult learner.”

ANTSHE provides a variety of support options, including “Loggers, Bloggers and other Interesting Nontrad Stuff.”  If you have returned to school as a Nontrad, there is a survey you can complete that will assess your institution’s services toward the adult Learner.

For more information, click here.

Fantastic! “You Can Do College” – any time, any place, any age!

Written May 31st, 2010
Categories: You Can Do College
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An 84-year-old enrolls as a college freshman. This link takes you there. Listen to his reasons as to why he’s attending college. This is great!

Any time! Any place! Any age! Congratulations Ms. Soares!

California woman earns college diploma at age 94! Click here to read her story.

What do “they know?”

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

My previous blog entry, dated 5.3.10, discussed what “I can’t” really means, i.e. usually “I don’t want to” or “I don’t know how.” But what about when someone says “You can’t”? Does that translate to them as “They don’t want to” or “They don’t know how”? I’m not so sure about that.

My own personal experience, and the experience of those whom I have interviewed is, “They don’t want YOU to.” When you go against what has been accepted in your circles, you are expanding the rules of acceptability. (see blog entry dated 2.15.10, “Breaking the Cycle”) If you go to college, and they haven’t, they may wonder, “What does that say about them?” But, you cannot live your life for other people. Those other people are not inside your head.

You have your own dreams and goals. You have your own curiosities. Sometimes you need to forge ahead with blinders on so that you do not see the actions of those on the periphery. Maybe you just want to take one course to see if you can do it. That is a challenge you have laid down for yourself. Maybe one course will answer your questions. Maybe one course will raise even more questions.

The fact remains that your life is lived by you. Those other people are merely looking on. However, who knows? Your simple, yet brave, example may be the catalyst others need to take the plunge themselves. That would be a nice byproduct of your new venture, but certainly cannot be the central reason. Do it for you. Do it because you can.

I Can’t

By Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

Have you ever said to yourself, “Maybe I’ll go down to the Community College and take a couple of courses this year”? Often this thought occurs as a New Year’s resolution. Sometimes signing up for a course over the summer, or on-line, seems like a good idea. Then, it hits. The mother of all obstacles: “I can’t.”

There’s an old saying that goes: “’I can’t’ usually means ‘I don’t want to’ or ‘I don’t know how.’” If the idea of taking a course or two has been rolling around your head like a marble in a can, then the “I don’t want to” response would not apply. However, “I don’t know how” can be a real obstacle.

If you have never taken a course, the process of enrollment can seem a bit intimidating. The whole idea of signing up, buying the appropriate textbook, and walking into class on that first day can be scary if you have never done it before. But, isn’t that true with most things? We tend to be afraid of the unknown.

Perhaps school seems inappropriate. By that I mean – your age. What if you are someone over 50, or 60, or 70 … and so on? The funny thing about education is that it never really stops. Human beings are, by nature, curious creatures. We do tend to seek out answers to our questions. Looking for those answers can be a little frustrating, too, if you have never been shown the “how-to” of research. (Research is all about asking the right questions.) College can help you learn how to pose a question and then go exploring for the answer. That exploration is actually a fun and rewarding process. There is no substitute for the epiphany – that “ah ha!” moment when the answer is discovered.

If you are motivated to begin that process of discovery, then the process of enrollment is a minor step along the way. And, as with most things, once you do something you have never done before, doing it again becomes easier and easier.

Think about it. If your “I can’t” is actually “I don’t know how,” remember the other things that you didn’t know how to do at one time. You CAN do college – any time, any place, any age! Go for it!

Looking Back, Looking Forward

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

I have spoken with so many Non-Traditional Students over the last few months. The initial steps of their educational journey often parallel my own. I remember how the eight years it took for me to earn my Associate’s degree seemed like it would never end. Year-in and year-out, I was in school. Every semester I began the tedious, albeit enjoyable, task of registration. The further along I was in my program, the fewer choices I had in time slots that could accommodate my family obligations and full-time work schedule. But, I kept plodding along … course by course, semester by semester, and, year by year. Finally, I graduated, and suddenly it seemed like it all went by so quickly!

One thing is for certain, that Associate’s degree made my future degrees possible. Because then I knew I actually could do it – be a college graduate. Everything changed the day I held that diploma in my hand. I had something that no one could ever take from me: an education.

So for those just embarking upon their own educational road – or those who are still undecided – I say to you: Don’t be discouraged. Take those first steps. The repeated refrain I have heard from newly enrolled students is, “This time it’s for me.” And they echo their encouragement to my present and future readers in a unanimous chorus. Without hesitation, they have all emphatically chimed: “Just do it!!” You’ll be glad you did.

“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eye off of the goal”

Written January 29th, 2010
Categories: You Can Do College
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by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

This quote by the legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, is the mantra of the Non-Traditional Student (NTS). The goal is clear and well-defined – a degree or certification. However, the list of obstacles is long and varied. Here are some that I have heard over the last few months: too old, money problems, bad timing, have kids, would feel “stupid” or “out of place,” too behind on the technology, have tried before and not succeeded, spouse is non-supportive, there is a language barrier, don’t know how to enroll, and don’t qualify for college (e.g. GED).

What is interesting is the response of NTS to their own reasons for procrastination. That is, what did they think of all of those reasons now? When asked what advice they would give to a NTS who is in the “thinking” stage of returning to school, the unanimous response was “Just do it!”

Personally, my reason for putting off school for 5 years was … I was afraid of math. I didn’t think I would be able to do it! I kept checking with the Community College, reviewing the catalogues and course schedules, but the answer was always the same: I needed math. I had had such a poor experience with math in high school, that I was certain it would be my downfall in college. However, when I finally decided that I wanted the degree more than I feared math, I enrolled. Because NTS tend to be focused and purposeful with their studies, my college experience was vastly different from my high school experience. Bottom line: I “aced” every math course I took in college – from Basic Math to Pre-Calculus. Not only did I earn “A” s, but I actually liked it!

So, those obstacles really are “what you see when you take your eyes off of the goal.” When you return to college, your involvement with your own education is so different than the traditional student. Being aware of why you are there reduces the obstacles to grains of sand that will float away in the wake of your own determination.

How will I manage a full-time job AND go to school?

Written January 18th, 2010
Categories: Time Management, You Can Do College
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by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

There are only 24 hours in a day. If you get the requisite 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night, work 8 hours, commute, and have family time, you are left with about 6 hours, or less. However, through time management, goal-setting and planning, it IS possible to return to school.

It took me 8 years while working full-time and raising a teen-age daughter, to earn my Associate’s degree. Sometimes I could take two courses in a semester; sometimes I had to withdraw from the only course in which I was enrolled. But, I kept plodding along. It is amazing how much easier it is when you plan your education one semester at a time.

By planning your classes around your work and home life, you can reach the goal of a degree or certification. Community Colleges understand the needs of the Non-Traditional Student (sometimes called “Adult Learner”). Check with your local Community College. The Admissions office and other advising areas will be happy to help you!