“Dear Non-traditional Student,” Carol Combs (2018) — Inquiry 5

Dear Non-traditional Student,

     Here you are at the end of your very first semester in college and you have rocked it!  Not only have you conquered all those fears that started the moment you signed on to be a full-time student at Miami University, but you have somehow managed to find the balance between school and that insanely busy home life of yours.  Remember all the crazy looks you received when you proudly announced that 17 years after graduating high school and three children later you were going to college? Remember how those looks made you question for a moment if you were in fact making the right decision?  I hear your worries loud and clear about the balancing act that this new adventure entails but just remember you have an amazing tribe rallying behind you and you have their full support. I hope you realize the power behind what has inspired you to return to school and I hope that despite how many times people tell you that you can’t change the world, you never stop trying

The fear of not being the perfect mom will always be there lurking, but rest assured; even when you are smack dab in the middle of finals week, you will still succeed at filling your children’s hearts with holiday magic.  You will learn quickly into the semester that your oldest child is watching you closely and is already making plans to attend Miami University when she graduates high school in seven years. As for your wild and crazy toddler: while you both may experience some separation anxiety at first, you will both learn that the break away from each other isn’t such a bad thing after all. There will be moments during your school career where your son will throw you curve balls and leave you feeling torn between going to school and remaining by his side; these feelings will come and go and the best advice I can give you is to follow your gut.  Don’t feel guilty when you decide to leave him in perfectly capable hands so that you can attend that last math class before finals. If there is anyone in this world who understands the mission that you are on, it is that sweet boy of yours.  

Do not be afraid to tell your story!  It is a powerful one and you are sitting alongside the future, individuals who will one day be the driving force behind policy change.  Your first writing assignment in English 111 will assist you in overcoming the fear of sharing your story and will encourage you to reflect deeply on how you have come to be where you are today.  Upon completing the piece, you will read it a million times. You will worry about sharing it in small groups and you will question whether the piece you have written has hit the requirements for the assignment, just write it!  You will be happy that you finally wrote this part of your story down and your first peer workshop will be exactly what you need to ease your participation anxiety. This assignment will also help you to grow your understanding of ways to paint a picture using only words.  You will learn the power of adjectives and verbs and how they add to picture you are trying to paint.   

Inquiry 2 will pose a ton of challenges for you, one being topic choice.  While you may try and stray away from disability-driven topics, the reality is it is a huge part of who you are and why you are here.  Don’t be afraid to let your story drive your topic selections, it is ok to stick with what you are passionate about.  Don’t be afraid to get creative with your title because it is not just a placeholder; it has a purpose and that purpose is to draw your reader in.  I will not lie, you will struggle along the way especially with this inquiry; the biggest piece of advice I can give you here is to slow down and take it step by step. This inquiry will provide you with a wealth of knowledge about rhetorical devices that will help you in the immediate future and in your advocacy work.  

Speaking of immediate future, all those rhetorical devices you just learned about will come into play for your third inquiry.  While the research aspect of this inquiry is right up your ally, being able to disconnect yourself from the topic of the Affordable Care Act and write an unbiased paper will pose the biggest challenge for you here; but you will get it done.  This is the inquiry where the light bulb finally comes on and you will realize just how important the thesis statement that your professor preaches about, really is. Covet this light bulb moment, as it will make writing papers in your other classes less time consuming.  This inquiry will also develop your confidence as a writer and serve as a reminder that you are exactly where you are meant to be.  

As the semester ends and your asked to reflect on how your writing has grown and changed over the last 15 weeks; you will realize that you are selecting your words more carefully, ensuring that they support the message you are sharing.  You will have more confidence in all your writing assignments and you will quickly begin to put your new understanding of rhetoric to use beyond the walls of English 111. You will also realize that your knowledge base about writing has grown tremendously in such a short amount of time.  Most importantly though, you will realize that the words you choose aren’t simply to fill a page but rather a way to reflect, make an impact, and yes even entertain the reader from time to time.  

Warm Wishes,

Carol Combs