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Montgomery College Excalibur

The Student News Site of Montgomery College

Montgomery College Excalibur

The Student News Site of Montgomery College

Montgomery College Excalibur

Finding My Why as an Adult Student


When I decided to return to college in 2023, there were many things I knew would be a part of my educational journey. At the top of the list were a tough reintroduction to the world of academia, a rocky road full of obstacles on the way to my goal, and at the end of it all, the degree and open doors I had worked so hard for.

It had been 24 years since I had set foot in a classroom so, naturally, I had some worries. Would I fit in at my age? Could I remember material I had learned decades ago? How would I find time to complete class- and homework, given all of my other responsibilities?

Most of all, I worried about time: the time it would take to complete my degree and the age I would be when I graduated. Would it be worth it? Why would I even attempt such a feat at my age?

“I’ll be 47 when I graduate with my bachelor’s degree,” I told a former colleague.

“You’ll be 47 anyway,” they said. “Would you rather be 47 with a degree or 47 without one?”

After much thought, I decided the former category was where I wanted to fall. So, I enrolled in classes at Montgomery College and began my journey. I learned a lot of valuable information in my classes. One of those things was that my “why” was very important.

In Intro to College Writing, it was, “Why should the reader of your essay care?” In Digital Tools for the Visual Arts, it was, “Why this design?” In Freshman Seminar, it was, “Why is this important?” In my mind, it was, “Why am I doing this?”

Obviously, I wanted a degree, but I found that “why” wasn’t enough to buoy me up in rougher waters.

Throughout my first two semesters, my resolve often faltered through struggles with a particularly vicious bout of imposter syndrome, debilitating shyness and anxiety, demoralizing battles with perfectionism, and persistent trouble with external- and internalized ageism.

A “you don’t belong here” narrative, fueled by my struggles, was a rainy, gray cloud sprinkling cold droplets on my head wherever I went. It persisted despite good grades, friendly student encounters, and a supportive college environment.

However, growth can’t happen without rain. It also can’t thrive without light. If my struggles were the droplets, my classes were the light.

The first two rounds of classes I took were painful and transformative. I was consistently challenged and constantly questioned, “Why?” Why, when it came to what I was learning academically, and why, when it came to what I was learning personally.

My knowledge was tested, along with my commitment, tenacity, courage, and strength. Out of those trials and tribulations came exponential growth, a new perspective, and firm, tangible whys.

I wish I had known how important my answers to the why question would be, and how great a role they would play over the course of my time as an adult student.

Since college will never stop being a challenge, and I will often be faced with the “why am I doing this” question, I have to revisit my whys on a regular basis: because I want an education; because I want more opportunities; because I can do this.

And I now know that I belong in college. It was as simple and as complicated as deciding I do. Without being pushed to parse the why question, I may have never arrived at that conclusion.

I have to admit that when the rain starts to fall, my gut instinct is still to race to pull out an umbrella; to shield myself from the storm. However, my choice these days is to let the rain fall.


Because I want to keep growing.

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About the Contributor
Jennifer Norris
Jennifer Norris, Staff Writer
Jenn Norris joined The Excalibur as a staff writer in the spring 2024 semester with the goal of enhancing her writing and communication skills. She is a code nerd with a passion for sharing information in engaging and creative ways. Her interest in working at the intersection of design, technology, and human behavior has led her to pursue a degree in Information Science and a career in front-end web development. When she isn’t working on a coding or writing project, you can find her immersed in a non-fiction book or the songs of her favorite artists.

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