Finding Success as an Unconventional Student

UNCW is a lively college with a variety of students attending and taking advantage of all the university has to offer. Besides the 18 year olds straight out of high school, there is a fairly high percentage of "unconventional students" who are coming to UNCW from different places and stages in their lives. Navigating a system that is geared to those barely out of adolescence, and their first time out of their parents home, can be frustrating but with a calm head and some good advice it can be accomplished quite successfully. Here are the steps that have helped this full-time student who also happens to be a full-time husband, father and legal assistant:

Time Management is Paramount: in order to be successful, knowing how long your assignments are going to take you and when you have the time to complete them is essential. Be honest in this respect; don't tell yourself that an hour long homework assignment will take 20 minutes. You will only end up frustrated and in the end taking more time. Develop a routine and stick to it. Create a reward for yourself; a beer (or 2) after a long day of work, classes and dirty diapers will taste that much better when you know you stuck with your plan and really deserve it.

Get the Blackboard app on your phone:
In fact, get every link between your phone and school possible. Get your UNCW mail on your phone, save important phone numbers, save teachers contact information, etc. Having all this information at your fingertips makes it that much easier to communicate with your professors, financial aid office, your advisor, etc. when you are up all night with a sick baby, your wife is in the hospital or you have to work overtime.

Communication is Key: Develop a relationship with your professors from the very start. Don't be afraid to approach them and tell them about your unique situation, that you really want to succeed in their class and to ask for opportunities for extra credit if you think you might need it. The UNCW professors are real people and constantly show genuine understanding and compassion but they have to know you.

Your Advisor is Your Friend: Invest a small amount of time in the beginning to get to know your advisor and let him/her get to know you. They can be your biggest advocate and offer invaluable advice about what classes to take, which professors to seek out, and many of them are successful in professional fields outside of UNCW and can help you start a solid networking base for when you get out of school. You never know who you meet now that could offer you a job in three years.

Use the Resources Available to You: Are you stressed out? Colleges are geared towards dealing with people who are stressed out and have myriad ways to help you. Go talk to one of the free counselors, hit the gym for a little sweat equity, attend a free Peer Educators lecture or join a support group.

Put your PED 101 Experience to Good Use: We all had to take it and we all complained about it. The sad part? Everything they were preaching was pretty dead on. Take the idea of a lifetime wellness plan to heart. Being well is more than eating right and exercising. Examine and invest in the personal relationships in your life. Attend to your spiritual needs. Go out and have a little fun every now and then.

Sleep: Get sleep whenever you can.