Did you have an unconventional education?

And if you don’t mind I’d like some advice.

So are there any Dopers who didn’t go through the education system the usual way? Usual meaning going to school getting the right grades going onto college/university, I suppose.

Did you go back to education later in life? Reason I ask is I missed a load of school through illness have barely any qualifications because of this so am now 24 starting a maths course, starting an “Exploring Science” course and am training to be an opera singer (all time ambition). All of this is quite solitary, the science course will be long distance, my music lessons are done privately through a tutor and my maths course will be two hours a week in a class with other adult learners.

I would love to experience a university lifestyle as I feel I’m really missing out on the social aspect of education but to be honest don’t know what I need to achieve to get into one, I need basics in maths and science of course but what are unis looking for, really? I’m in the UK btw.

Um also not sure if this is in right forum :slight_smile:

The requirements will vary by college and by which course of study you want to pursue. FTR, the requirements/documents needed posted in their website may not be cast in stone: I undertook a graduate course in Translation recently and, while I did fulfill the requirements, there were many pieces of paper they asked for which I did not have available or which made no sense, such as recommendation letters from two of my teachers. Having been out of school for about 15 years at that time, the school agreed that letters from coworkers were much more fitting. The course was in the UK too, my previous schoolwork was in completely unrelated fields.
I think IMHO may be more like it, I’ll report for a mod to check. You can report your own posts in cases like this, if you have a typo in the title, or for other stuff that needs a mod’s magic wand: it’s the little “danger sign” icon to the right.

Sure, I’ll move this to IMHO, for sharing experiences and advice. From MPSIMS.

I did my undergraduate education right after high school, but then I waited 7 years to go back for my master’s, then taught for 3 years before I started working on my doctorate. So that was a somewhat unconventional path.

My attitude is: if it’s what you want to do, then do it when you’re ready to do it, even if it’s not at the ‘right’ time.

FWIW, I’d guess that, at 24 and having knocked around a bit, you’d find the social aspects of college less interesting now than you would have a few years ago. If you were in the U.S., I’d recommend something like Western Governors’ University, but have no U.K.-specific advice.

I went to school through about half of 7th grade (age 13), then dropped out. I attended a few classes for part of a year in a juvenile facility when I was 15, and then I got my high school equivalency certificate when I was 17. When I was about your age I realized I could take some community college courses, so I did that sporadically for a couple of years, and I’ve completed a couple of career diploma courses since then. I’m over 50 and I have holes in my knowledge base that you could drive the starship Enterprise through.

My advice to you: Go for the whole college thing now if you can. You’ll be a little older than some of the students but not too much older, and that can work to your advantage. Your university system should be able to work with you to make up any deficits; just be honest with them about your history. If they’re anything like universities here in the States, they want you to attend their school, so they should be the first people you go to for assistance. When you start school, get involved in college activities that suit your interests, hang around on campus, meet people face to face, learn and have fun, all of which are far easier at 24 than they are at 50.

This is all just my humble opinion, of course, but it’s the same advice I’d give to my grandson, who just graduated from high school this year.

I had every opportunity for a normal education but I was too interested in girls and cars so I was asked to take a break several times by the university before they finally stopped letting me attend altogether. After getting married, and with the arrival of my first kid, I decided that I should probably go back to school and finish that diploma. Luckily, I also happen to work for the same university and they allow employees to take one 3 hour class per semester so I did that for a number of years. Eventually, when I got closer to finishing, I applied for another plan offered by my employer that allowed me to go to school full-time for a year to finish my degree. I’m glad I put in the effort, it’s definitely been worth it.

I was a student in an rural school in the early 1960’s. My mother was a divorced factory worker with six children. From the seventh grade, couselors spent a great deal of time convincing me that I should go to vocational courses, despite the fact that I had been an “A” student up to that point. Hey, college isn’t for everybody, right?

Well, what the hell, who knew? I was just a kid, got off the college track and into the shop classes, ending up working in a factory. I started taking some technical courses at the local community college, and eventually decided to try for a four year degree, but because of my poor high school preparation they asked me to take the SAT’s.

If you want to feel out of place, try taking the SAT’s at the age of 30. I ended up surprising the college by scoring 1420 (that’s on the old 1600 scale) , and was accepted for a bachelor’s degree. By that time I had a wife, two kids, and a mortgage, and it took me ten years to finish, but I finished with honors.

Do I resent the son of a bitch that made me waste 20 years of my career, that put me in a position where people who were in diapers when I graduated high school were at the same level as I was when I started? Yeah, maybe a little, but you can’t let it spoil your life.

And then once my kids got into college I got a big career boost because all my colleagues had elementary school children that sucked up a lot of their time and I pulled ahead, so I’m pretty much where I would have ended up anyway. No harm, no foul.

I dropped out of high school. I went a few years later and finished via night school.

Went to community college for two years, with the intent on transferring to a state school.

Holiday weekend, I’m waiting for my advisor to sign off on my next semester’s paperwork. Another advisor was walking out (coat on, etc.), saw me waiting, paused for a moment (I could see the “oh crap, it’s late on Friday, do I really have time to stop?” in his mind), then asked if he could help me. Help me he did. About forty-five minutes later everything had changed.

I eventually got accepted to U. Chicago, Amherst, and a few other schools; I settle on Columbia University–an actual Ivy League school.

Couple years out of undergrad I go to Georgetown law, one of the top law schools in the country (mentioning because OP is in UK).

I started at Columbia when I was about 25, so things pretty much line up with the OP. My majors were philosophy and economics. Philosophy was easy background-wise, as most of it is critical thinking and in-class reading. Economics required countless hours in the mathlab (where we could get tutoring) to keep up on subjects. I was learning about derivatives and the like–items that most classmates had had lots of exposure to in high school–as we were relying on them in macro, micro, game theory, etc. I was also two classes short of a major in environmental science. That too took an enormous amount of office hour-attendance and tutoring. I was wholly unprepared in a general sense, but managed to graduate with honours by keeping up on the work and proactively studying (office hours office hours office hours, plus seeing profs ahead of a class to find out what I needed to learn over breaks).

Though I was seven to ten years older than most other students, I did find a niche and am still extremely close to a few college friends.


I’ll call Bill (my advisor’s name) and have him retroactively kick that guy’s ass.