My goal: to receive my bachelor’s degree by the age of 30. Yes, you read that right. Typically most people receive their bachelor’s degree within 4 years of graduating from high school. Not me. My original plan after high school graduation WAS to go to college, become a doctor, get married and have kids all by the time I was 30. But man, did God have a better plan for me.
My parents didn’t have the financial resources to allow me to be a full time student after completing high school so I did what a lot of people do – hustle through college. Thankfully, I learned first hand what a strong work ethic looks like through my dad. I was working 40+ hours a week and taking night classes. As I was gaining real-world experience, I was able to move up in a company that required me to focus less on school and eventually I was forced to put school on hold. After three years of putting school on the backburner, I made a promise to myself to receive my bachelor’s degree by the time I turned 30. I quit my job and became a full-time student.
Although it would’ve been easier and more convenient for me to attend a four-year college and graduate in my early twenties, I wouldn’t change anything about the timing of events in my life. In fact, I’m so grateful for these forced “gap years” and here’s why:
As I was working full-time throughout college, I gained real-life experience leaving me with a lot of skills that most new college graduates don’t have. I learned how to manage a team, build reports, slay at presenting, how to have difficult conversations, among many other things we aren’t taught in school. I landed every internship that I’ve ever applied for and I’m 100% sure it had a lot to do with my experience.
When I first graduated from high school, I wanted to become a pediatric oncologist. After a few semesters, I changed my mind and wanted to become a dentist. I quickly realized that science and math are not my jam. This is the time in my career that I began to devote myself to work and put school on hold. After working in the corporate world, I realized that I shouldn’t choose a career based on what my friends were doing or what makes loads of money, but to pursue something I’m truly passionate about. I also learned how important creativity is in my life. I love business and I love creating things. Creativity + business = marketing. After working in the marketing industry for the past three years, I know I made the right decision. I want to live 8+ hours out of my day genuinely happy at work. I don’t simply want to “live for the weekend” and I have the feeling that that’s how it would have been if I had pursued my original career plans. As you grow and mature your interests and goals change. Happiness is what is important to me and that means following my career goals regardless of what the world thinks they should be.
In college you obviously meet a lot of people – students mostly. Working my way throughout college, I met tons of professionals who I was able to count on for references, knowledge, leads, and career opportunities. I didn’t realize the importance of networking until my senior year in college. It’s major, you guys! A lot of times, in order to score a job, it’s about who you know!
It was hard for me to understand why employers require a certain amount of experience to land an entry-level position. I mean, that’s why it’s called an ‘entry-level position’, right? Since I had worked full-time throughout college I gained a great set of skills that most recent grads don’t have. This experience put me at a major advantage over other students who didn’t have as long of a professional experience as I did.
You need to read another advantage? Less debt! I don’t know about you, but debt gives me anxiety. The less I owe, the less stressed I am. I also feel that when you pay for your own school (which is a lot of freaking money) you value it a lot more than if it was given to you. At least that’s how I felt. You are spending thousands of hard earned dollars so you better pay attention in class and value that education, girl!
Yes, it was harder to work full-time while also going to school, but it only made me set bigger goals for myself, more motivated, more competitive, and more driven.
I’m not saying that I’m better than anyone that finished school within four years. If I had been given that opportunity, I would have taken it in a heartbeat! But I have learned to embrace the path that led me here.
Today, I’m a social media strategist. Not a doctor. Not a dentist. I’m a creative entrepreneur living a life that I’m excited about. Just because I took longer than others doesn’t mean I failed. Heck, I’m probably happier with my current career status than most people.
So for those of you who have been out from school for a while or are feeling discouraged. Don’t give up. Your story is unique and so so different. It’s better late than never — and sometimes, it’s just better late.
PS: Just for clarification…I’m NOT 30!… YET! But almost.
Disclosure: I actually didn’t attend my graduation ceremony because I was sick with the flu.I was so bummed.
2nd disclosure: I shot these photos about 2 weeks ago yet graduated this past December. Just thought I’d be real with you!
Did you take some time off from school? Are you currently on a break? What’s stopping you from going back? How many times did you change your major? Ok, that’s probably enough questions…for now. Lol.