When Melody Aquaro of Danvers, Mass. decided to return to college to complete her degree, she selected the Bay Path College One-Day Program for the convenience, but stayed for the camaraderie. "The cohort setup was my saving grace on more than one occasion. It helped to have other people to be able to explain things on a level I could understand when I felt the class was too challenging. We were all able to bond and push each other along when we were about to jump ship and quit."
Aquaro, a busy mother of three with a full-time work schedule as an education paraprofessional, is also a full-time student and at the end of earning her bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. Aquaro has been accepted into the master's degree program for Special Education -- Moderate Disabilities at Bay Path. She spoke with About.com and reflected on her experiences as an adult learner in this degree completion program.
About.com: What college experience did you have before choosing this non-traditional student program?
Melody Aquaro: I took an Accounting summer school course at North Shore Community College back in 1992, an Early Childhood course at NSCC in 1996, then I took a Business Math class at NSCC in 2004.
About.com: What made you decide to go back to college?
Melody Aquaro: I was working in the corporate world because that was where the money was, but I really wanted to go back to teaching children and I knew that I belonged in a classroom. So it was quite a career change for me, but I do not regret it at all and would do it again in a heartbeat.
About.com: What's been your biggest challenge as a non-traditional student?
Melody Aquaro: I would say my biggest challenge has been to stay focused for the past three years. I work full-time, have a husband, three teenage boys (two of whom are not biologically mine), two dogs and a cat, all of whom demand my time. When I am at work, or spending time with my family, I struggle with trying not to think about school. And while I am working on something for school, I often think of what my family is doing.
I have many calendars to help with time management so I can make sure everyone's needs are being met -- including my own. I pride myself on my school work and often feel guilty about being away from my family to complete it, but I know that I am setting a good example for my kids. The light at the end of the tunnel has been my motivation for this last year and thankfully I have had the support of my family to help me through.
About.com: What has surprised you most about going back to school in the Bay Path College One-Day Program?
Melody Aquaro: What surprises me the most about going back to school is how much I like it. It has really become part of who I am. I thought it would be difficult as an adult to "relearn" things, but I look forward to the challenge of the classes. I thought it would be hard, but I actually became part of the Maroon Key Honor Society for making Dean's List [for] four consecutive semesters.
I wish I had done it right out of high school, but I think waiting helped me to appreciate it even more. Honestly, I look forward to entering the next phase of my learning with the master's program and I am mulling over going on for my doctorate.