The Life and Times of an Invisible Student

In 2012 at the ripe old age of forty-eight, I lost my mind — or so some folks would have me think — and returned to school as a student at Hudson Valley Community College. I hadn’t stopped to consider my age or the fact that I had been away from school for over thirty years. I just jumped in with both feet and took up a full schedule of classes.

classroom-379214_960_720   My first semester consisted of evening and off-campus classes so I was not so unusual as a few others were also over forty. It was sometime during my third semester as a student at Hudson Valley that I realized that I was invisible. Not in a literal sense but in a figurative sense. By this time I was taking classes on campus during the day. Now I WAS pretty much the only one of my age in my classes — sometimes even the instructor was younger.  I did well in my classes and made the President’s List, but outside of classes I was a non-entity. There are no groups for a student of a non-traditional age. All of the activities are geared towards the younger crowd that make up the majority of the student population and often assignments are geared towards the eighteen to twenty-five year old set.

invisible-man-154567_960_720  At this point I must digress and tell readers a bit about myself. I graduated from HVCC with honors and transferred to UAlbany two years ago where I am now a History Major and English Minor with U.S. History being my concentration. I am a commuter student who doesn’t live anywhere near campus and I have a life outside of being a full-time college student.

With all of this in mind I am also excited to be a part of the MyStory project. FINALLY! There is a place where I don’t have to be invisible! I can share my triumphs and my woes with anyone else out there who is over thirty and invisible! I hope my writings will help others who may be feeling alone in a sea of traditionally college aged students. Maybe some traditional students will read my work and tell a parent or an aunt or uncle that they, too, CAN achieve a dream of going back to school. My main hope is that by writing about my experiences I will be able to help someone to feel like they are not alone and their experiences and struggles are not entirely unique.

phoebePhoebe E. 
Class of 2016
Major: History
Minor: English
Blog Theme: Trials and Triumphs 
of a Non-Traditional Student... 

Please Note: The views of our student bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the UAlbany Advisement Services Center. These are their stories and their voices.


It’s About Time

As I sit here in the campus library at the beginning of the third week of classes for this Fall 2016 Semester, I find myself already feeling a little stressed over issues of MY time and how and where to allot it. You see, when one is a non-traditional college student it literally is all about TIME . There are so many aspects of your life demanding a share of your time. Classes/Homework, family/home/relationship, work, YOU — they ALL want a share of your precious time. Continue reading “It’s About Time”


Gnats are tiny insects that annoy us. For the most part they are harmless and we can carry on successfully with whatever we are doing in spite of their presence. Gnats are what I like to call all the little stuff that annoys us that we encounter all the time. Nothing major just stuff that-if you will pardon the pun-bugs us.

I figure since this is MY STORY I may as well share some of my college life gnats with you.

hatena-1184896__180Very annoying for me have been the things that no one tells us about directly. In fact, there are things that I have no idea HOW other students know about them. No one told me about Senior Seminar and Capstone papers. Every now and then a Capstone paper would be vaguely mentioned but I had no idea what it involved.  I also had no idea what would be involved in doing an Honors Senior Seminar until it was too late in my student career to participate in it-even though I was qualified to take the course. Continue reading “Gnats”


History majors have to write a Senior Thesis on some historical topic (duh, what else would we write it on?) , many of us are finding it difficult to pin down a topic. Our topics need to be something unique, of timely interest, and we need many primary sources (first person accounts of events surrounding our topic which can be letters, journals, court proceedings and various other things that are directly related to what happened WHEN it happened).

As you may have guessed, we can’t just pick a topic out of the air because it interests us and run with it. We have to be able to BUILD a factual story using reasonably reliable evidence.  This can be quite difficult. We may be interested in something but there simply may not be the material we need to research it. Continue reading “Decisions—Decisions”

Hitting the Re-Start Button

     Currently, I am struggling with my Senior History Capstone Thesis paper. Never in my life have I had so much trouble coming up with a topic, finding resources and getting started in general! Honestly, I can’t even tell you why this is being so difficult. I’ve written dozens of papers and never had a minute’s trouble with them. I love to write and I enjoy research of historical topics.  Not sure what is different about this one. Continue reading “Hitting the Re-Start Button”

Squirrels, Fountains, and the Non-Traditional Student

squirrel-111258_960_720As a non-traditional student I have sometimes felt left out of the full college experience because some aspects of college life are simply not open to me at my age/in my situation. I won’t have fond college memories of going to sporting events with my friends or of living in a dorm and making new friends, or of joining a sorority or other on-campus type group. Those things just don’t happen for the non-traditional student (and I must also add they often don’t happen for a commuter student who lives in a community more than a few minutes from campus from what I’ve heard several commuter students talk about). Non-traditional students simply don’t make the — well traditional types of connections— to their college that on-campus students in their late teens and early twenties do.
For some reason I’ve thought a lot about what memories I will be taking away from my college experience as I have entered into this, my last semester, as an undergrad student. I’ve come to realize that I will have unique and lasting memories of my college years that go beyond simply going to classes and writing papers. While none of these experiences are likely to be unique to me as a non-traditional student, they may be unique as “college years” memories. Continue reading “Squirrels, Fountains, and the Non-Traditional Student”

Advice From Aunt Phoebe

The deadline to apply for Spring 2017 Graduation is THIS FRIDAY!
Will you be ready, when your time comes?

It is time for your dear Aunt Phoebe to offer some words of advice gentle readers. I offer it as a Senior just a few weeks from graduation. As I look back I see that there are some things I should have done differently.

I needed to ask many, many more questions. I have been a relatively passive student. I knew what I wanted my major to be, and to that end I simply found out what I needed to do in order to get the necessary classes that would lead to graduation. I never asked questions beyond that. I just floated along through the semesters doing only what was needed to pass my classes. Continue reading “Advice From Aunt Phoebe”