Student Stories

Over the past 15 years we have had the opportunity to advise many amazing people who’ve decided to go back to college later in life.  Each person’s journey is unique and special.   What is similar about every adult who goes back to school is that they each took the first step to pick up the phone or send an email so they could start the process of getting their degree.  Below you will find a few truly inspirational stories of some of the adult students we have had the privilege to meet and work with.  We hope that their stories inspire you to take the next step. 

Dan & Sarah

Missy

Missy P. had been thinking about going back to school for nearly 25 years. She had enrolled in a community college right out of high school, and had almost completed her associate's degree, but quit when she was just a few credits shy of the degree to get married and start working. She worked her way up to the position of flight scheduler at a Fortune 500 company, where she makes executive travel arrangements, but she always felt like she had missed out on something without finishing her degree.

Missy was 45 when she made the decision to return to college. She and her husband were visiting family in New Jersey, and the couple was taking a walk past Princeton University. They stood in front of beautiful wrought-iron gates, and she peered at the ivy-covered buildings beyond the gate. Suddenly, she turned to her husband and said, “I’m going to go back and finish my degree."

In one way, the timing was not good. Her husband was undergoing treatment for liver cancer, and their lives revolved around doctor's visits and chemotherapy sessions. In another way, however, the timing couldn't have been better. School became therapeutic for her, offering refuge from the medical offices, the illness, and her work, and it allowed her to focus on something positive.

Missy completed three classes at the local community college to finish her associate’s degree, and then enrolled at a nearby four-year college with a dual-degree accelerated program. This way, Missy was able to finish a bachelor’s degree in communication management and an M.S. in integrated marketing communication in just three years. Her commitment to school was so great that the only classes she missed in over a year were the week when her husband was hospitalized for a liver transplant.

Through the ups and down of her husband's illness, she was able to find motivation and rewards in her schoolwork. The accomplishment was much more than just gaining a piece of paper — it was putting her life on a new track. And the day she received her diploma, her husband was at her side cheering her on. 

“Work is work, because you have to pay your bills and your mortgage,” she says, looking back, “but I completed my degree for me. I’m so proud of what I accomplished, having graduated with a 3.8 GPA. I felt that I succeeded in my life for the first time at something for me.”

 

Monika

When Monika V. came to the United States from Slovakia at the age of 19, she spoke no English. Her plan was to work for a year as an au pair, and then return home having learned some English.

The first course she took was English as a Second Language at a local adult school. Soon, she had a dream —  to learn English well enough to go to college and become a teacher.

Monika spent the next 16 years working full-time as a nanny, and for 12 of those years she has been going to college. Unsure of how to begin the process of going back to school, Monika enlisted the advice and support of the family she was working for in her search for programs. They were also flexible in scheduling her hours so that she could continue to care for the family's children and go to school part-time. After mastering English, she applied and was accepted to a local community college, and in five years she completed her associate's degree by attending part time in the evenings.

In 2007, she graduated from the community college with a 4.0 GPA and a degree in early childhood education. Monika was admitted to a dual-degree program at a four-year college, which would allow her to earn credits toward both a bachelor of science in behavioral studies and a master of arts in teaching. Monika finished her B.S. in 2011 with the highest GPA of all undergraduate adult students and received the college's Provost Award for achievement.

Monika started taking graduate level courses while completing her undergraduate degree, and this year she will receive her master’s degree and her teacher’s certification in the state of New York. When she started college, the children she was watching were 6 years old, 3 years old and an infant. When she receives her diploma at the end of May, the children will be 17, 14 and 11. While working full-time caring for the children, she was disciplined enough to complete her homework on the weekends and in the little spare time she had.

Monika’s advice to any adult student returning to school: “Focus on the journey, not the destination.” Her journey began with an airplane ride from Slovakia, and will end with her master's degree in education. This philosophy has allowed her to enjoy the schoolwork and embrace the people she has met along the way. With her degree, she will be able to take her love of children and pursue her new career as a teacher.

 

Donna

Donna R. decided at a very young age that she wanted to be an actress. She put a lot of her life on hold, including high school, to pursue this dream. On the advice of her high school guidance counselor, Donna took and passed the GED in 11th grade, and she was pursing her dream before most of her peers had completed their senior year. 

While auditioning and acting in small roles in New York, she enrolled in Queens College's theater program and completed more than half the credits toward her degree. But as is the case with many adult students, life got in the way and it would be 25 years before she returned to college.

Like many aspiring actresses, Donna ended up needing to make a living, and she left college to work for a check-cashing operation. “As I became more involved in working and making money, I even stopped doing theater,” Donna recalls. She worked for the check-cashing company for 15 years, and in those decades, got married and had a daughter.

Things began to change after her baby was born. First, Donna realized she had to leave the check cashing business. While lucrative, it was also dangerous work. She knew she wanted to finish her degree and advance her career. Also, watching her daughter grow up and start school made Donna realize how much she wanted to return to college.

Donna's biggest challenge was motivating herself to take the first step. She was uncertain if she would be able to succeed in school after so much time off, so she started by taking a one-credit class. This helped her build her confidence and be successful. By the time she was finished with her degree, she was taking 18 credits over a fifteen-week period and she had earned the highest GPA of all the students in her graduating class.

“Once I started, there was no way I was not going to finish,” she recalls.

What Donna learned in the classroom has increased her confidence in all the areas of her life. She also can offer great advice to her children about studying and working toward a goal. “If I had not gone back to school, I would not be the person I am today. I really believe that my confidence, my forthrightness, everything about me, it’s from finishing school.”

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