Let’s face it. In most cases, the road to earning your degree as a young adult in a traditional undergraduate program is fraught with a lot fewer challenges than trying to complete a degree as an adult. The older you get the more responsibilities seem to pile up on your plate, hopefully more good than bad. If you’re like me, I started my graduate degree program not knowing that before I finished I would meet my husband, get engaged, get married, change jobs twice, and have two babies. These are all wonderful blessings and I wouldn’t do it any other way, but it did create some unforeseen hurdles that I had to overcome. Those are the good things. On the other end of the spectrum there are those negative challenges that arise as well. Declining health of parents. A spouse losing their job. You losing your job. Financial aid falling through making continuing on in your program impossible for a period of time. And the list goes on because every journey is different. Being an adult student is no easy feat, and it requires a significant amount of “sticktoitiveness,” or “dogged perseverance.”
I’m proud to say that I will be graduating after SIX years this May. So here are a few pieces of advice I’d like to share with you that helped me continue on when I wanted to quit.
1. Interruptions in your coursework are sometimes inevitable, and if you need to take a semester off —it’s OK. The important thing is that you start planning for your comeback almost immediately. Don’t feel intimidated to register for the next course. Just keep plugging away, even if it’s one course at a time.
2. Some courses are really going to shake your confidence in your ability to get through to the end. Everyone feels that way at one point or another, and the classmate who breezes through the course you find impossible will struggle with one that you find easy. Use the support services that Villanova provides because that’s what it’s there for! Talk to your professor and express your frustration, ask for extra help, get a tutor if you need one. You may not get an “A,” but hard work and determination pays off.
3. Plan through the end. Utilize the resources within CPS and make plans to meet with your advisor at least once each semester. Sit down and chart your path to completing your degree so that you have the end goal in mind and within your view. Setting a goal for the semester you graduate can serve as compelling motivation when you want to slow down or take a break.
4. Make connections with your professors and your classmates as much as you can. Apart from the obvious benefit of becoming a part of the community, building your network can open up all kinds of opportunities in the future.
5. Cut yourself some slack…this might be the most important yet the hardest to remember. You are taking on a challenge and working towards a goal that is not easy, and not everyone is brave enough to do it. But you are! And you’re setting yourself up for a bright future.
So here is the bottom line…you will face a challenge while you work to complete your degree. In those times, lean on your loved ones, utilize the network you’ve built at Villanova, and “stick to it” through the end. Good luck to you all, my fellow adult students! Feel free to share your experience with CPS (firstname.lastname@example.org)—we’d love to hear it!