A Letter To My College Self...

If I had to pen a letter to my college self it would most likely start with:  Why in the world did you wait until you were 30 years old to go back to college?!  Yes, for those of you who know me well, you will remember that I had my four children and then went back to finish my last four years of college.  Earnest, a company that provides student loan financing, inspired me to write a letter to my college self, however,  I was not sure they would be interested in the story of a non-traditional student.  To my surprise, they were.  So...here it is; a reflection of my college years as a wife and mommy.

                                          A LETTER TO MY COLLEGE SELF

     I jumped right into college right after high school and never realized how difficult it would be.  Being a music major I had an unbelievably difficult schedule to adhere to.  Not only was I expected to study for my basic classes, I was also taking piano and music theory classes along with accompanying three voice students.  I was quickly overwhelmed at not being able to manage my time.  It seemed there were not enough hours in the day.  And so I did as most college students do and changed my major.
     I did not think getting married before finishing my degree would be an issue.  Because I always intended to complete college.  And for a while, I continued to take evening classes while I also held a job during the day.  What I didn't account for was getting pregnant.  With four children in the space of six years!  Well, needless to say, that put college on the back burner for quite a while.  But the yearning to complete my education never went away.  I knew that with a college education came empowerment.  It gave me something tangible that no one could ever take away from me.  And I was fortunate enough to have a very supportive spouse who encouraged and helped me along the way.
     If I thought time was difficult to manage as a single girl with no outside demands of a family or job then I soon realized that this task I had before me was definitely not going to be simple.  My schedule went a little like this:  I would get up in the mornings and fix lunches for my children who were either in school or pre-school, drive them to their respective schools and then head to my classes.  At that time we were just living from paycheck to paycheck since my husband had decided to go into business for himself.  Between classes I would sit in my car, eat lunch and try to get ahead on my homework assignments.  After my classes were over, I would pick my children up from school and head home.  Once there, I would tackle their homework assignments with them, cook dinner, give baths and finally start on my studies around 10 pm.  I would then start all over again the next day.  It was a very difficult four years.  I was not sure I could get through them with a college degree at the end,  but I never gave up.
     My children witnessed me constantly with a book in my hand studying and I would always tell them to study hard because their education was so important.  My husband and I had very little money at the time but we had all of our children enrolled in some sort of school.  They were all private institutions so we spent our money on their educations, choosing to do without a few things for ourselves.  As they grew older and got into junior high and high school I began to talk to them about their plans for college and how they could achieve whatever they chose to put their  minds to.  I encouraged them to stay focused and to get their college degrees before their got married because I did not want them taking the same difficult path I had taken; I was the first in my family with a college degree and I wanted to break that cycle for my own newly formed family.  Apparently my constant conversations with them took root because they all four have college degrees.  They all have a bachelor's degree, one also has a master's and two are doctors.  Yep, proud mama here!  We were able to provide financially for all of their bachelor's degrees but for the advanced ones, I told them they would have to get loans and pay for them themselves.  They did just that.  That's why I would encourage any of you out there who are not certain you can afford to go to college to check into Earnest to see what they have to offer in the way of student loans.  Don't put off getting your education and empowering yourself because there IS financial assistance available to all who are willing to pursue their dreams.
     But back to what I would tell my college self...Congratulations!  Because you persevered and never gave up.  It's the end game that matters.  I hope that my college journey as a non-traditional student has somehow encouraged others to go for what they want.

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