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SENSE & SENSITIVITY, A COLUMN BY HARRIETTE COLE

40-year-old should put social life on hold in return to college

Friday, January 18, 2013 - 6:08 am

Q.: I recently turned 40, and I have decided to go back to college to finish my degree. I can truly say that I have saved my life.

Here's my question: I'm taking 16 credits, and I know it is a lot since I haven't been in school in almost 20 years. I would like to know if it is possible to create a healthy balance of college and a simple social life and, if so, how? –Mr. Midlife, Chicago

A.: Congratulations on making such a huge effort to reset your life's course!

I recommend that you do what most successful freshmen do: Focus solely on your studies. Sixteen credits will be a lot of work – work that is different from that performed at most jobs. You have to go to class, study, write papers and be evaluated on your work constantly.

For your first semester and possibly longer, put your social life on hold. If you go to church or have another regular spiritual commitment, you can do that, but don't volunteer for extra activities.

Look at your class schedule and mark the holidays. You can socialize during spring break and any other time when your school is not in session.

After you get a sense of how you are managing your course load, you can gradually add a few simple activities.

Q.: This is my first week in a new job at a prestigious hospital in New York City, and I feel uncomfortable wearing my current wardrobe to work. In my management role, I do not have to wear a uniform.

Here's my problem: I'm a size 16. I wear a size 11 in women's shoes, and I am curvy. Can you suggest colors and designer lines that would be suitable for me to wear? – Fashion Plus, Manhattan, N.Y.

A.: It's wonderful that you have a new job and want to look your best.

There are many options for professional plus-size fashion these days, and at virtually every price point. Nearly every major designer has a plus line, not to mention the traditional plus-size companies.

Don't be limited by color other than what seems appropriate where you work. Being large does not preclude you from wearing colorful or printed clothing. And, by the way, your size in clothing and shoes is more common than you may think.

It sounds like your current style is a big part of your challenge. You may want to engage the help of a personal shopper or stylist. Many department stores have them on staff at no extra charge. By all means, have someone give you feedback about the different outfits you try on so that you find silhouettes that flatter your curvy figure.

If necessary, have your clothing altered to ensure that it fits your curves just right. Good luck.

Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or C/O Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.