Freshman year can be an overwhelming experience. For many, it’s their first time away from home, their first time managing their own lives, and their first time living as an adult. For those looking back on their freshman year, there is undeniable growth. Confusing, exhilarating, and for some, difficult, the experiences freshmen have are transformative at 18 or 19. However, being a freshman later on in life is a completely difference entirely, at least, it is for Lauren Gnoinski.
For Gnoinski, a freshman education student, her first year experience is unique in with her fellow classmates. Graduating from Nutley High School in the spring of 2015, Gnoinski’s future path led to Monmouth University. College was the next step for the majority of her friends and classmates, but ultimately was not hers, at least, not for years to come.
That summer, Gnoinski decided that she needed to follow her heart and her dream of attending cosmetology school. Growing up with a passion for doing hair and makeup, she knew it was something she had to do or she would regret it for the rest of her life. “I wanted to work in a salon and I followed what interested me the most. You don’t have to write an admission assay but you still apply and have an interview process but you don’t test or anything. I went to Parisian Beauty Academy in Hackensack New Jersey. “
Gnoinski was able to study hair, skin, and nails, but enjoyed doing hair the most. “Doing hair gave me the power to be creative and transform people and make them happy. When other people are happy, I am happy.” Even though she was happy doing what she was doing, Gnoinski still felt that she wanted to expand her education in makeup.
“I really wanted to do makeup so at the point I decided to continue my education at Makeup Designery in New York City.” This was a huge change for Gnoinski, and commuting to the city was unlike anything she had ever done. “I always thought that going to the city would be a really amazing thing, but in reality it was a really hard task and I learned a lot from my experience that most people my age at the time wouldn’t know,” she said.
Makeup school helped Gnoinski significantly and really helped her with her skills. “It was good because a lot of the time you’re doing hair and makeup together, like say, for a wedding or prom,” she said.
Gnoinski received her degree in high fashion makeup in November of 2016 and did freelance work and worked at a salon briefly. “I always knew I wanted to do more, but after graduation I wasn’t sure what. I was always good at school and didn’t want to give that up. I thought about my future and I just couldn’t see myself at 60-years-old doing hair and makeup, even though it was and still is something I am really passionate about.”
In summer that 2017, Gnoinski enrolled at Monmouth University. She said, “I was really excited to finally go, and I really wanted to do school-work again. I was ready to escape city life and have a real college experience. ”
She was really nervous to start college again, especially when she had been out of school for two years at the time. She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to adjust.
Almost midway through her second semester of freshmen year, Gnoinski is happy to report that adjusting wasn’t so bad after all.
“It was tough staying organized and keeping up to date with assignments. But socially, it was difficult adjusting. Being older than almost all of the kids in my class, I didn’t think there would be much of a difference, but there is.
“I feel like students coming fresh out of high school don’t realize the importance of a college education. I came here because I wanted my education, not because my family forced me to, and not because that is something that is supposed to happen. Coming to school was entirely my choice.”
Gnoinski’s claim was supported by Michael Phillips-Anderson, associate professor of communication and a professor of first year seminar, “What’s so Funny.” Having experience with teaching freshman, who, for the most part, are straight out of high school, he agreed with Gnoinski’s statement on older students possessing the maturity and desire to take education seriously.
Phillips-Anderson said, “I think it is definitely helpful to come to college with more experience and a higher maturity level. I think it facilitates classroom discussion environments as well as participation, and they can offer different perspectives than younger students might have. They also have a different sense of where they are in life, which is helpful.”
While Gnoinski isn’t sure what the future will hold, she is positive she will be successful and will live her dream. “Who knows where the future will lead me, but at least I know I did everything in my power to set myself up for a well-rounded career.”
PHOTO COURTESY of Lauren Gnoinski