Having the Conversation About Going Back to School

conversationHaving the conversation about going back to school is not an easy one, but it is an essential one. Some of you might have already sat your family and friends down and told them about your decision, others may still have yet to do so. Regardless, it's important that the people around you understand your reason for why you want to go back to school and that the conversation isn't one that you have once and forget about.


Mike Hatton lending a hand at the York U Red Zone.

I wanted to get a fresh perspective on this topic in order to provide you with the best insight possible, that's why I decided to speak to Mike Hatton, a mature student and a well-known face at the ACMAPS office. For those of you unfamiliar with Mike, he was the president of YUMSO (York University Mature Students’ Organization) and appeared on the student panels for our Mature Student Orientation as well as the “Re-framing Challenges” event.

Mike manages to participate in the governance of a student club, while studying at York University and taking care of a family. As you continue to read you’ll learn how Mike approached his family about his decision to go back to school and how he manages his time to ensure balance within his life.

Interviewer: Nicole Taylor (NT)

Interviewee: Mike Hatton (MH)

NT: Why did you decide to go back to school?

MH: Having been out of school for many, many years the decision to go back to school was influenced by the birth of my first child, Josephine. Being a first generation student, the decision was naturally a tough one considering the lapse in time between high school and university and the fact that no one could shed light on what to expect. The rationale/motivation for me was that my daughter would be starting school at the same time I obtained my 4 year degree, and due to my educational experience I would be able to support her throughout her academic career. I also wanted to bring to light the importance of education and all of the encompassing social relationships that can be developed both inside and outside of the classroom.

NT: How did you tell your family and loved ones about your plans to return to school?

MH: Telling family and loved ones that I was going to University at this point in my life was an interesting situation. The reaction from my parents and extended family was different than that of my spouse. My parents were of the belief that you get your Grade 12 diploma and you get a full time job. So naturally, questions and comments were along the lines of: “What is that going to get you?” or “Then what?” and of course the famous “I know lots of people that have degrees and they are unemployed and with big debt.” In contrast, my spouse was very supportive and encouraged me to become a better person and embrace the opportunity.

NT: What responsibilities did you have to shift to make school work with your schedule?

MH: Having a strong support system has been the most important factor in my return to school. Having to shift childcare responsibilities and other household duties has been a huge transition. For instance, in regards to childcare and household duties I had to sort out where one parent steps in and the other picks up. Having a solid team working together is the only way this experience can happen for me.

Essentially, my close, supportive network of loved ones are all in ‘university together’ with me. If one part breaks down, I have to compensate and school suffers which causes stress and anxiety.

NT: How do you balance your social life with your school life?

MH: Balance has been crucial in my success as a mature university student. Having a family and working part-time has been challenging. Learning essential self-management skills has allowed me to juggle all the pieces that make up my life. In some ways a big part of my social life is intertwined with my school life. I believe that staying connected to the university outside of the classroom has attributed to the great success I have had as a student. My connection to the Atkinson Centre for Mature and Part-time Students (ACMAPS) has provided me the opportunity to provide mentorship to fellow mature students and to access many resources that I would have otherwise not known.

NT: Would you say that having the conversation about going back to school was difficult?

MH: Yes, for sure. However, as each semester passes I change and grow as a person, and this is evident. My family and loved ones are more understanding and supportive. Some things tend to take a little bit of time to be fully understood, and patience is key.

My advice would be that although having the conversation to go back to school may initially be difficult for some, revisiting the conversation as your academic career progresses will make initial perceptions more clear. Family will become more supportive and accepting, and see that education plays an important role in your new life.