When I was avidly studying the college brochures that flooded my mailbox as a high school junior, I looked at every detail. Which college had the best majors. Which one looked like the most fun. Which one would be at least two states away from home.
In the end, I was swayed by a slick marketing brochure and an incredible financial aid package and went to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. It met all my requirements. They offered both theater and astronomy and I was determined to study at least one of them (I ended up as a Biology major). It looked like fun (I call it deceptive marketing). And it was definitely two states away.
At the time, they had a pretty competitive admissions process but I was sure I would get in. Going to college was a foregone conclusion for me. Even though no one in my family had ever attended college, I already had it in my head that I was going places and those places required a college degree. But I didn’t have that “Aha!” moment until graduation day in 1992.
Me and my friend and roommate Penny (who was two years younger than me) on graduation day!
As I donned my black cap and gown and prepared to cross the stage, I had several thoughts racing through my mind. The first one being I NEVER HAVE TO TAKE ANOTHER TEST AS LONG AS I LIVE.
Of course, I have taken a few tests since then and written many papers. But usually they were a professional means to an end. For example, I earned a teaching certification for Biology and General Sciences for grades 7 – 12. And I’m a certified on Teradata V2R5 (yeah, it doesn’t mean much to me either).
But the biggest moment of the day hit me like a ton of bricks.
I can be a doctor if I want.
Now, let me explain the significance of this. Case Western also has a medical school and a lot of students attend as an undergraduate and follow a pre-med course of study. Unfortunately, as a Biology major and Chemistry minor, I was in a lot of the same classes as these cutthroat pre-med students. When exam time came, it was not pretty. (Oh, the stories I could tell of the students trying to weasel their way into higher grades.)
But I completed the same course of study as those pre-med students. And even though I never even had the remotest desire to do anything related to the medical field, knowing that I achieved what I needed to for admission to medical school made me feel unstoppable.
Even though I didn’t want to be a doctor, I had this moment of Wow, I could be a doctor if I wanted to. Me. Little old Fadra from a small town in Southern Maryland.
It was like a literal door opened and I suddenly realized that I had been empowered all along. I could have done anything I wanted to. But that one single moment is something that has stayed with me since then.
I think of how many people would love to have the chance to make a better life or simple make a different life but they’ve never had the time or opportunity to do so. That’s a big part of why I didn’t hesitate to write about Western Governors University, an online, accredited, nonprofit university.
Admittedly, I used to think that “online education” had a certain stigma attached to it. But this is no correspondence school. WGU was founded by the governors of 19 U.S. states who believed there needed to be easier access to higher education for working adults. It’s a competency-based curriculum so that is focused on learning and not “seat time.”
WGU currently offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, education, information technology, and nursing. (I will admit than an MBA sometimes calls my name late at night).
After I completed my undergraduate degree, I went to many informational sessions about pursuing a degree in Biology, or going for that MBA, or even taking up law school. In the end, I decided that I was exactly where I wanted to be. If you’re interested in WGU and maybe achieving your Aha! moment, I encourage you to take a look at what you can do from the comfort of your own laptop. And if you decided that you want to apply, the $65 application fee is on me using the App Fee Waiver code below.
And before you go, let’s talk education. I started this conversation on my Facebook page last week but I’d love to hear your thoughts now. Did you go to college? If not, why not? And what would you change if you could?
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Western Governors University. The opinions and text are all mine.