Getting a degree in CS over 30….

Okay I admit it….. I waited too long. I graduated high school, got a job and got comfortable. Weeks, months and years flew by before I faced the fact that while I have a good job now, what I am doing today is what I will be doing in five years. No growth, no  opportunity, no challenges and no fulfillment. So I decided to make a change in the old routine and go back to school……at the age of 34.

I knew when I started that it would be more difficult because I waited so long. One reason is that I had to do this part-time while still keeping my full-time job, another reason was because I had a brand new baby girl at home who needed attention. I am not gonna lie, I was intimidated but things have a way of working out when you put effort into it.

My first challenge came when I took my placement test to see where I stood with math and English. My English was fine, but when I looked at the Algebra problems a panic came over me. I realized I had forgotten most of it and in case you don’t know….Computer Science involves a lot of math. So I just kept chipping away at the math courses one at a time beginning with: Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra, PreCalculus, Trigonometry, Calculus I, Calculus II, Discrete Structures I, Discrete Structures II and I have yet to take Probability. It was a lot of late nights and early mornings and weekends at home but looking back at it now, it wasn’t that bad. The symbols and formulas that looked like some strange alien language just a few years ago I can now understand (well some of it anyway). And in case your wondering, you will use math in other CS courses as well.

The core courses are the most fun. Learning programming languages like C/C++ and Java and getting to design systems from scratch has been a blast. I have worked with databases and built simulations as part of a group project.

After just a few years I received my associates degree. The next step was to move on and pursue my Bachelors degree!

So far it has been a great experience. The professors at UMass Dartmouth are great! It has been more difficult as the University doesn’t offer night courses. This means I have to go to work early in the morning, leave in the afternoon and drive 45 minutes to the university, attend lecture, drive another 45 minutes back to work, work late to make up the hours and then drive 45 minutes back home. Its been difficult but I’m doing it. I am now three semesters from graduation and I am getting great grades. I start my next semester January 22 and I can’t wait. I am taking a few electives: Software Testing and Bioinformatics as well as Ethics which is a required course. I am looking forward to Bioinformatics the most because using computer algorithms to analyze DNA sequences is fascinating to me.

So as scary as going back to school past 30 may seem, I am so glad I did. I have goals that I am working toward and I am achieving them which gives me confidence. The fact that its been so challenging adds to the satisfaction every time I finish a semester. I look forward to a new exciting career after graduation and who knows maybe I’ll even pursue my Masters degree in the future!

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