2013-06-05

Uni: On the downward slope of the mountain

Continuing to share posts from my educational journey at St. Louis University.

(photo of Mt. Rainier in Washington, from the back yard of my Gram's house. I took this in 2005 on my last trip out there.)

Originally posted August 30th, 2010: 

I always wished I’d been able to complete my Bachelor’s Degree. I’d even gone as far as requesting degree and class details from different schools over the years. [edit: even ones that couldn't tell the difference between Engineering and English when sending me information on the requested degree program. ~eyeroll~]

But, once I sat down and counted up the credits I needed and thought about how long they would take me, I was too discouraged to seriously consider starting. It didn’t seem even remotely feasible.
Then I heard about a new educational initiative at work. At the kickoff, they held some informational sessions explaining how the program worked. They were going to partner with SLU’s School for Professional Studies, and we would take five compressed classes per year in order to get all of our prerequisites out of the way. That sounded far better than taking one class per semester at a traditional school, which would only get me three classes per year.

I was more than a bit scared at the beginning, because I’d never done all that well in school before. But, being able to take one class at a time with my coworkers seemed much less intimidating than striking out on my own. I told myself that I could do just about anything for nine weeks, so I could get through the class.

I spoke with my husband and told him this program would last a couple of years and would only get me part way, but we agreed that I’d never be able to finish if I didn’t start.
So, I signed up for the program through BJC*. Then, I got through the SLU paperwork. Then, everyone’s favorite…we took Math and English tests to gauge our skills.

And I got through the first class…then the second one…and by the time I was close to the end of my first year, I’d realized I could do it. I could take classes at the University and even manage to do well.
Of course, then I realized that if I only took five classes a year, I’d be in school a lot longer than I really wanted.

Time to speak to my husband again! I told him I wanted to increase my course load. That meant a little less ‘me’ time to help out with the house and the kids, but it meant I could finish school in three or four years, rather than seven or eight, and he said he was willing to take on more of the load at home.

So, I filled out a FAFSA. I got a Pell Grant and arranged student loans (to cover the additional classes, which were not covered by my employer).

Then, I went in to schedule my courses. I wanted to take two at a time. But, I only scheduled two at once when I could take one on the campus and one entirely online. Some semesters I only had one class, but the remainder I was taking two at once.

That’s a lot harder, I’ll admit it.

The terms when I have two classes are more tiring, more stressful and sometimes overwhelming, but I still feel like I’ve managed to process and retain the information. It’s not easy, but, it’s attainable. I take my quizzes or tests online at night after the kids go to bed. I write discussion group posts and papers during my lunch hour at work. And one night a week I’m in class with my peers.

Now, here I am, two and a half years into this experience. I’ve just started my 19th and 20th classes at SPS, and I hope to graduate with my Bachelor’s in Organizational Leadership and Technology at the end of 2011.

Looking back, I remembered how daunting the task in front of me seemed.
Along the way, I remembered how tired and occasionally frustrated I got.
Approaching the end, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I can read job postings I’m not quite qualified for and think how much closer I am to meeting their qualifications.
I can look at my kids and think of them watching me graduate and completing this great goal.
I can look at my husband and think how my greater income will improve our quality of life.
But, mostly, I can look at that mountain I was so daunted by a couple of years ago and realize that I’m on the downward slope, all as a result of having taken that first step.

* all opinions expressed on this blog, and anywhere else I write online, represent my own opinions and not those of my employer nor it's affiliates.
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