Editor’s note: Non-traditional students sometimes face a set of unique challenges when they embark on the journey to obtain a college degree. Amanda Collins, a graduate of both Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) and Missouri State University-Springfield, knows those challenges well. In her column “My Non-Traditional Path to Success” on this page, she is sharing her story and providing insights into the higher education processes for others like her who are considering a return to the classroom. Collins works part time on several projects in the MSU-WP university communications office.
My non-traditional path to success: Registration, testing and orientation
After I applied to Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP), received my acceptance letter and filled out my FAFSA information for financial aid, I received a letter from university officials with details about Student Advising and Registration (STAR) Orientation.
My letter had a list of several STAR dates and times, so I called the phone number for the Advisement and Academic Coaching Center for Empowering Student Success (AACCESS) to set up the date when I would attend. I was excited because the idea of enrolling in college felt more real than it had during the first steps of the application process. Before I could attend orientation, though, I needed to take a placement test.
(A note about STAR: Since my experience with orientation, AACCESS officials have added more options. STAR Orientation dates my included sessions offered either on-campus or via Zoom video conferencing. Also, students have an alternative option to sign up for an online version of STAR. Contact the AACCESS office at 417-255-7222 for details.)
Despite taking a preparation class in high school, I never took the American College Test (ACT). At the time, I was overwhelmed with test anxiety and canceled my testing appointment. It was that moment I decided college wasn’t for me. I wish I had known about alternative options because I might not have delayed my higher education.
Fortunately, the MSU-WP testing center offers various placement options. I chose to take the ACCUPLACER because it only cost me $20 for both the math and reading section, and I could finish it in an afternoon. It’s an untimed, multiple-choice test that uses the tester’s responses to determine the difficulty of each additional question. What appealed to me is that it is not a pass or fail test. Instead, this exam measures a tester’s academic skills and scores the tester to help advisers register students in appropriate English and math courses.
I completed the test in about two hours. Once finished, the exam sent my score to the proctor, so I immediately received my results. I placed in a lower-level math course and knew I would need a lot of tutoring; however, I excelled in the reading component! With my assessment over, I was ready to attend orientation and sign up for my first classes.
Soon, university officials may discontinue the ACT and ACCUPLACER as placement tools on the West Plains campus and opt for better methods to implement in the placement process.
During STAR Orientation, incoming students tour the campus and meet faculty, staff and currently enrolled students who give informational presentations to help prepare students for life as a college student. While there, students can have their identification card created, set up their university email account, receive their parking permits, discuss housing options, and finish any pending documentation needed by the business office. Students also register for their first classes with advisers and receive information on financial aid, tutoring and support services, and degree planning.
Although I was nervous and wondering what I had gotten myself into, the STAR Leaders welcomed me and put me at ease. It was nice to visit with student workers because they offered insight on what it was like to attend MSU-WP. I also noticed the group included students whose ages ranged from their teens to their 70s and were enrolling in college like me.
The students were divided into groups and assigned to STAR Leaders. We each had an itinerary for the day and stayed with our group to listen to presentations from staff, faculty and student workers. The presentations were focused on student services such as student life, tutoring and housing. We also set up our student email and took our pictures for our student ID cards. After a quick lunch, each student in our group met one-on-one with advisers and scheduled their first classes for upcoming semester.
When it was time for me to register, my adviser called my name. The adviser saw from my file that I intended to seek a degree in elementary education, so she was familiar with the courses I would need to take. Since I had a lot of catching up to do in my math, she recommended I take a math course over the summer to get a head start.
Registration for summer courses was still available, so I agreed to sign up for a summer math class and registered for math, English and student success classes for the fall semester. Additionally, my English class was a combination of two classes as an accelerated learning program (ALP).
We compared the course schedule offerings with my own calendar availability, so I was able to take two classes while both of my children where at school. My youngest child was still in preschool and was only there from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday. I had one class on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 to 9:20 a.m. and two classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 to 11:50 a.m. This meant I had just enough time drop my son off at his school before my class started.
With my first schedule in hand, I was ready to start the next phase, attending classes, which I will cover in my next column.
To learn more about the MSU-WP admissions process, visit WP.MissouriState.edu/Admissions.
Visit our Programs of Study web page at WP.MissouriState.edu/Academics/Programs to discover what’s available at MSU-WP.