Why I Chose the New Year to Go Back to School

Posted: December 11, 2017 12:00:00 PM CST

Rosanna Vail staff photoIn January 2015, over a decade after my bachelor’s degree, I took a leap and went back to school for a master's program. Now, freshly graduated as of this week—and extremely proud of it—I can see how the excitement of a new year is what motivated me to start my graduate education. But it was much more than a fleeting resolution.

For years, I had my eye on an online master’s degree in my field. But full-time employment, finances, and personal obligations filled me with doubt about applying. Do I have time to commit to a graduate degree? Will it really help me? Am I even good enough to be in the program?

Something clicked for me in the fall of 2014. I had just finished a large research project with a colleague in my free time, which gave me both confidence and some personal time back. I was also at a point professionally where I knew I needed to rise up in ability and leadership. Suddenly, the time was right to go for the degree—I just needed the nerve to take the leap.

I had only a few weeks to study, as diligently as I could, for an entrance exam approved by my program. Very fortunately, and rather miraculously, I passed. Within a month, I updated my resume (yikes), flew together a portfolio of my work, and requested letters of support from (and profusely thanked) my letter writers. Most importantly, I applied. It was a haul to coordinate the application requirements so quickly, but I have never regretted it. A few days into January, I was a graduate student.

The first of the year is a great time to take the first step in what you want to do. After that, it’s a matter of keeping yourself motivated and determined to keep going until graduation. Here are a few lessons I learned along the way to my degree:

Use new-year motivation to your advantage. We all have goals and aspirations that have been in the back of our minds for as long as we can remember. What are yours? They tend to surface around this time of year, but don’t let them fizzle out. Reminding yourself of the purpose behind what you are doing makes it a lot easier to keep going. That motivation and success can last year-round.

Don’t wait to get started. If you are feeling compelled toward a certain goal, go for it now. There are many reasons to start college in the fall, at the beginning of a new academic year—but that schedule isn’t for everyone. Fortunately for students like me, starting semesters are pretty flexible. Because of “nondegree” status, it is possible at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) to apply and start courses right away, and then become fully admitted into a program later. 

Be confident, no matter what. I was petrified going into my first graduate course. I had been out of school for a while and had no idea what it would take to study at the graduate level. But there are so many university resources and services to support students, both on campus and online. The most important thing is to believe that you can do this.

Choose what’s right for you. Admittedly, my degree is not from UNK. I moved to Kearney from another state, and at that point I was already halfway through my degree program. Because of the online format, I was able to continue my degree no matter where I lived and while working 40+ hours per week. An online degree was the best choice for me.

It’s all worth it. Those years of balancing school with work and personal obligations, the countless late nights studying, the sacrifices made for my education—both on my part and by my family—it’s really all worth it in the long run. I started using what I learned right away, and I could take on new professional opportunities that arose. The sense of accomplishment in finishing my degree is unparalleled. I have absolutely no regrets.

If you’re interested in going back to school, I encourage you to go for it now by exploring UNK’s program offerings, including online programs. I could not be more proud to finish my degree, and it all started fresh with a new year.

By: Rosanna Vail, UNK eCampus

Category: General, eCampus

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