College 2.0: Lessons from my return to Academia

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After co-founding a social media consulting company and learning the ropes in the business world, I decided to return to college this fall so I could devote 16 months to earning a Programming for Web Development certificate.

Many times during my social media marketing at the Puget Sound Blood Center, and while helping local businesses revamp their Facebook Pages, I realized how useful it would be to have Web development skills such as XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript; and app development skills such as Java, C#, and C++. With them, I would have developed QR Code apps, Blood donation apps, and mobile pages without relying upon expensive developers or limited WordPress plugins. Now I have that chance.

For those seeking to revitalize their careers in academia, here are helpful lessons I’ve learned by my return to college:

  1. Talk to a graduate of the program. I was fortunate: A friend already had earned the certificate and was eager to share his experience. Several informational interviews with him helped convince me that the program taught strong skills at a reasonable price. He gave me forenotice on the best instructors, on course challenges, and on which resources to study ahead of time (e.g., the FireBug debugging app for Firefox). Since he graduated, I also have the benefit of hearing first-hand about the very job market I will apply to in 10 months.
  2. Skills take priority over grades. If I’m forced to choose between i) Earning B’s and leaving sufficient time to network with other students, study the job market, do informational interviews with developers, and have a social life, or ii) Earning straight A’s and having no life outside of school; I will choose the former.
  3. Skills take priority over theory. General erudition, philosophy, and heady speculation have a place during one’s first round of college, but now I’m in school specifically to master a trade. Theory matters only in so far as it helps me to understand the job.
  4. Sufficient sleep is essential. In college and in some business circles, pulling all-nighters on a regular basis is grounds for bragging rights. Now four years wiser, I agree with Arriana Huffington when she said that lack of sleep leads to boring conversations and poor decision-making. It also inhibits one’s ability to learn and think flexibly. The older you get, the truer this becomes.
  5. Watch for subject-matter experts. In class, at business meetings, and on Listservs, I watch for people making especially intelligent comments about Web development. If someone understands an important facet of the Web development industry, I get to know him and eventually ask for an informational interview.

To those of you returning to college, don’t let school interfere with your education!

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  • ryan kane

    I wish I would have read your blog before last quarter. I jumped in b/c I. Wanted to learn about programming; my information came from someone that talked the game and convinced me I needed to learn C and nothing else.

    Being cheap like I am I just jumped in by driving to the closest book store buying Ubuntu unleashed and not finding any books on C found myself stuck. I took an inventory of Barns and Noble’s book colection while researching on my phone what my next move was.

    Long story short: I crashed my mac several times messing arround in Linux, could not get past the first assignment (hello world) in my textbook after months of trying every angle, my “friend” was of no help so I gave up that angle.

    I landed on Java, Itunes U and Eclipse. I took a stanford intro course in Java with no textbook and a syllabus/course material that started to schism.

    I was fed up and from my independent sprinting through the woods at night bumped into C++, Java, and the fact that one language was not enough. I forgot to mention I wanted to write an android app for fun to get me started (still hasn’t happened a year later).

    I decided that computer science was what I wanted to do. I quite my job selling Fords, sold my ford, and re-enlisted after a 2 year break from what was BCC.

    I thought since this is a major life move giving up a miserable career I should get advice. So I emailed someone at BCC’S comp. Prog dep. Since I. Didn’t have any other advisors on the subject in my life.

    I planned on finishing my transfer in business and get th C++ cert. In the process. I already had 1 of the 4 classes covered and long story short I ended up enrolling in C++, C#, and Access 2010.

    I had a Mac and hadn’t used windows since XP. I was on OS #3 trying to learn french and spanish living in mexico.

    I was all about the grade until last quarter after crash #3. I gave up on that ideology and couldn’t have writen “Returning to Academics” better myself.

    On your last point I think it’s most important of all. I set my life aside to become a part of the technologic boom and I found out the hard way it’s a path better traveled wth others who are disapointed class is cancelled. I was all online because of the lack of car situation but a bus pass and a classroom is much more useful than a car; for learning at least sucks for everything else.

    P.s. this was writen on a cell phone I can only see one line so if it doesn’t make sence shrink the font to size 6 and put you’re face right up to the screen.

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