Starting college as an older student can be intimidating, to say the least. Many older students feel they've missed their chance, or that it's too late to change. But Julie Sandoval, a determined and ambitious 28-year-old, shattered these stereotypes when she embarked on her journey at Irvine Valley College (IVC).
Julie's story is one of resilience and transformation. She began her college journey at the age of 18, torn between attending Santa Ana or Irvine Valley College. Ultimately, she chose IVC, which boasts the number one transfer rate for community colleges in California. Her initial goal was to transfer to a California State University, with a dream of obtaining a Ph.D. in English.
Julie's passion for literature and the prospect of teaching at the university level fueled her pursuit of an English degree at Cal State Fullerton. However, as she delved deeper into the program, she realized that the academic path she had chosen might not be the right fit.
"I thought, oh, this is going to be easy – it’s what I love to do,” she confessed, “but as a career, I don't think teaching English at a university level was the right path for me."
After her first semester, Julie made the difficult decision to drop out. Over the next four years, she explored various jobs and eventually became a receptionist at the Mission Viejo Country Club. Little did she know that her career trajectory would soon take an unexpected turn.
Opportunities in accounting arose within the country club, and Julie jumped on the chance to switch careers. To give herself the best chance at success, she decided to return to IVC last year.
"Going back to school is a tough choice, especially while working full-time,” Julie shared, “but it all worked out for me."
Julie's journey back to college may have started at the age of 28, but it was her maturity and determination that set her on a path to success. Today, she sees her age not as a limitation but an asset that allows her to engage more meaningfully with her coursework and her boss.
One notable aspect of Julie's journey is her preference for in-person classes. She admitted that online education was never her preferred option. "I want to be in a classroom and be able to see the teacher face to face because that's the way I learn," she explained.
Now an accounting student at IVC, Julie is working towards building her proficiency in accounting while aiming for a Certificate in Proficiency in Accounting or an AA degree. Her ultimate goal is to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Julie laughs at the stark contrast between her previous pursuit of an English Ph.D. and her current accounting studies but also notes there are some surprising similarities.
“With literature, you’re doing an analysis when you’re reading and thinking about what a story is telling you,” she added. “With accounting, you’re analyzing numbers instead to tell the story of the company – what happened last year, what happened this year and what will happen in the future. It’s almost like reading a book.”
Julie's journey hasn't been without its challenges. Math-based courses are a challenge for her, as is balancing school with working full-time.
“Math does not come naturally to me and I was never really great at it in high school or college, just because I’m used to writing and I’m used to reading, but I’m not used to looking at the formulas to plug in,” she explained. “That was really hard and really challenged me. I was really worried about the math aspect but the teachers at IVC do such a good job simplifying it, I feel more comfortable with it.”
At IVC, Julie has found a supportive environment, with tutoring available for any accounting class and professors who genuinely want their students to succeed. She praised Professor Donald Bradshaw for his patience, accessibility, and dedication to helping students excel.
With this strong support system, Julie said she found ways to balance her commitments and make the most of her college experience. She emphasizes the importance of asking for help and knowing one's limits when taking multiple classes. Her journey from literature to ledger demonstrates the power of determination and the transformative impact of an IVC education – for students of any age.