Monday, December 05, 2005

The light in that tunnel isn't a train

For those that know me, you already know that I have been attending the University of Phoenix to finally get my bachelor's degree. I started in October 2003 and will be done in January 2006. This will happily mark the end of my undergraduate experience part deux. It's been a lot harder and a lot easier than I expected it to be. I'll get into the how's and why's in a moment. First, it's important to understand my experience with the educational system. It's shaped my views and outlook on my current situation.

School, until college that is, was never all that difficult for me. My background was such that I was very motivated to do well in the eyes of my teachers. I worked to get my assignments done and had good grades all through my elementary and middle school years. It was in high school that I realized that I didn't have to work as hard as others. It could be said that I coasted toward the end, but ended up graduating from high school with a 3.89 GPA. Not bad, considering that I didn't have to spend a lot of time doing homework and I completely blew off a large project my junior year and got my only C in any class. It was an F in the middle of the year, so I did pretty well.

When I hit college at the University of Washington, I soon found out quite a few things. Some I suspected. Others were new. The biggest shock was that I actually HAD to study. I thought I wanted to be an engineer of some kind. The competition was fierce. I ended up barely making it into the Mechanical Engineering Department when I realized that I didn't want to be an engineer. Luckiliy, events helped me on that path and my first attempt ended with me leaving the U.W. 32 credits short of my degree.

My decision to enter the University of Phoenix (UoP) was born out of a missed job opportunity and my wife's urging. I didn't want a repeat of my experience at the U.W. I also didn't want a degree that I wouldn't use. My decision to pursue a B.S in Information Technology was, in retrospect, the right choice. I mentioned that I would get into the why's and how's of my gauge of the difficulty. The most difficult part was time management. For the last 2 years, I've been going almost non-stop. Here's a brief synopsis of my typical weekday.
  • 4:50AM - Get out of bed.
  • 5:15AM - Sit down in front of computer to read previous nights posts (UoP uses news groups for online discussion).
  • 5:45AM - Leave for work, a 40 mile drive from my home to the office in Seattle.
  • 7:00AM - Get to work.
  • 11:30AM to 12:30PM - Work on posts, readings and assignments when I could.
  • 4:15PM - Leave for home.
  • 6:00PM - Get home, have dinner, spend time with wife & kids
  • 7:30PM - Get kids ready for bed, read stories, etc.
  • 8:15PM - Finish up posts, work on homework, team projects, etc
  • 10:30PM - Go to bed.

Rinse and repeat for most weekdays. Saturday nights were usually free and Sunday nights I was able to get more done. This schedule was DRAINING, with a capital D. Suprisingly, the easiest parts were the actual work. Yes, the papers and assignments could be tough, but as a whole, they weren't as difficult for me as for my classmates. The curriculum worked well with my chosen career and enhanced my skills.

I am now on the brink of being finished and actually having a 4-year degree. The only real regret that I've ever had will now be gone. I'm currently wrestling with what to do next. My wife and I have talked about a Masters or MBA. I'll do what I can to get that going. I am, however, going to enjoy not having the UoP cloud hanging over me.

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