The Irascible ProfessorSM

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
Academic life is not a choice between perfection and failure; rather, it is a walk along a continuum where results will vary.....  ...Carole S. Fungaroli, Traditional Degrees for Nontraditional Students (2000).
Commentary of the Day - Feb. 24, 2000: Traditional Degrees for Nontraditional Students - A Review:
If you have been contemplating finishing that college degree that you left behind a few (or maybe more than a few) years ago, or if you never went to college and now feel that you are ready to start that adventure, then you must read Carole Fungaroli's new book Traditional Degrees for Nontraditional Students.  Before you sign up for that ersatz degree from Online U. that promises you a quick B.S. in "organizational dynamics" or some such phony discipline, don't walk - run to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of Carole's book.  This friendly paperback can be had for about $14 at most booksellers, and for less than that from Internet sources such as and Barnes and Noble.

What you will find between its covers is a treasure of information for the adult "re-entry" student.  Professor Fungaroli returned to college to finish her bachelor's degree in English at the age of 30.  She then went on to obtain her Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Virginia.  She now is a faculty member at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  Her book documents her own experience as a returning college student along with those of dozens of other adults of all ages who decided to go to college years after leaving high school.

Traditional Degrees is both a survival guide and a "how-to" manual for the returning student.  It provides dozens of reasons for returning to college, information about how to choose the appropriate college or university, and information about how to apply even in the face of poor grades from an earlier attempt that might have turned sour.  Not only does the book provide the advice that one needs to be admitted to a really good college or university, it also provides the information that is needed to survive once you are there.  She gives practical advice about how to obtain financial aid, how to cope with your studies, and how to manage the other aspects of your life (your boss, your job, your spouse, your children, etc.).  This advice is based on Professor Fungaroli's own experiences, those of other re-entry students, and on interviews with college financial aid officers and advisors.

Most importantly, Professor Fungaroli explains the value of a real degree from a real college or university.  As the Irascible Professor is fond of noting, an education is much more than a collection of courses.  Yes you can find those Online "Universities" that will give you credit for "life experience", and even provide you with the courses that you need to obtain a degree.  Yes some of these outfits even are accredited.  But, the degrees that they offer in narrow specialties provide only a pale imitation of the real thing.

At a real college or university you will have a chance to meet and talk with your professors, you will get to know and work with other students, you will have the opportunity to participate in formal and informal extracurricular activities.  A real college or university will have a library that you can browse and explore, with librarians who will help you with your research assignments.  In fact, the opportunity to explore your intellectual interests is one of the greatest benefits a traditional degree has to offer.  At many of the best colleges and universities students have numerous opportunities to work side-by-side with faculty on research projects in their major, or just in an area of interest.

At a real college you do not have to decide on a major at the very instant you sign up.  Instead, you can try a variety of courses until you find your true interests.  You also will have far more flexibility to include courses outside your major.  As Carole points out, deep down you may want to obtain a degree in philosophy or history, but know that you need to prepare for a job upon graduation.  At a real college or university you can include courses in another area such as business while completing that philosophy or history degree.

A traditional degree is much more work than most online degrees; but, it is also worth much more in the long run.  While adult re-entry students have to struggle with many issues, most have an important factor working in their favor - maturity.  They have reached the point in life where they value their educational opportunities.  The reward that they receive for their perseverance is a not just a degree but a true education, the value of which is much greater than the sum of the courses that they have taken.

For those of you who are about to return to finish that degree Carole Fungaroli's book well may be the best investment that you can make for under $20.

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