Image via WikipediaI recently got to interview Jameson Owens, a non-traditional student via email to get a better perspective on the challenges, sacrifices and hurdles of everyday living. After reading this Blog, you will appreciate your own college experience a little better. Jameson attends Murray State University in Murray, KY.
Please give a brief personal history:
I spent just over 10 years in the Army. I had it good. I was financially stable with a great and supportive wife and 5 kids. I got to travel all over the world. I was completely unprepared for the outside world when I finally got out, especially the way things are today. So after about 2 years of working at a cable company and driving a bus for the city, I felt it was time to go back and finish up what I started so many years ago. I took advantage of the GI Bill to obtain my degree in Occupational Health and Safety. With the stress of attending full time, I still have responsibilities at home. I still had to support my family. So working part time for peanuts driving a bus was getting harder to do due to my academic schedule so I began to look for a 3rd shift position. I now work nights as a security guard full time.
How long will it take to complete your degree?
It will take about another 3 semesters plus a summer of internship to completely finish up.
When did you start?
I have been working on getting my college education off and on since 1994. I took a long pause from about 1996 or so to do the “young and dumb” thing and then the Army. I took a few classes while I was in, but as busy as Army lifestyle can be, I took another break. It wasn’t until Fall of 2009 that I enrolled in Murray State to finish it up.
By having the responsibilities of providing for a family while in college, what obstacles have you encountered?
Some of the main obstacles would include being able to handle things at home. I really like my yard to be nice. It has suffered. I still get out there to mow when it’s needed, but there are other landscaping things I want to do that have been put on hold. Another thing is house and vehicle maintenance. I do the things when I have the time. Thankfully, my family has stepped up to help a lot. Another obstacle would include being available to take the kids to extra curricular activities. I usually can get to a football game or soccer game while it’s in progress but getting there on time is rare these days.
What sacrifices have you made?
Aside from missing or being late to sports, probably one of the biggest sacrifices is being able to spend the quality time with my wife and kids. Sleep is a big sacrifice as well as trying to stay in shape. With a family, it’s not just me that makes the sacrifices. My wife works full time as well. It’s not too bad while the kids are in school, but during breaks, my kids are burdened as well. My two oldest have taken a giant step up to help care for their younger siblings. They have managed to get around some of those obstacles as mentioned in the previous question.
If you learned just one thing that you would like to pass on to others that will face a similar journey, what would you tell them?
Get that college education as early as you can. If you wait as long as I did, it will be harder to do everyday. Even if you have a good job without your degree, you should take the time to get it. That job may not be guaranteed for life.
Looking back since starting college, what would you have done differently?
If I had to go back and do it again, I would have at least tried to finish my degree as soon as possible after high school.
What advice do you have for young parents in college to stretch their budget?
I used to live out in the county when I started back to school. Driving back and forth 4-5 times a day with today’s gas prices is crazy. If you can, move into town as close as possible to your school. It doesn’t have to be permanent, just until you finish school. I now live across the street from mine so I walk to class. Not only does it save money in gas, it helps you somewhat stay in shape if you don’t get the chance to exercise. On top of that, I live less than 5 miles from my job. I could ride a bike to work if I wanted. 2nd, it is not necessary to have the best things in life, 55 inch flat screen TV, 3 or 4 game systems, etc. There isn’t really a big need to buy brand name groceries all the time. The Walmart or Kroger brands are cheaper (sometimes) and sometimes the same as quality and taste. Some things I think taste better. Of course that is a personal preference. Pasta is cheap. Also, with the size family that I have, we tend to do a lot of crock pot meals. There are so many different ways to stretch a budget. I had to learn that the hard way.
Thanks Jameson and good luck finishing your degree.
We would love to hear from any of our readers and followers who have great advice on how to take care of a family, job and college all at the same time. Please leave your comments.