Grads Share Secret To Success In Online Degree Programs
For online degree program students, earning a college degree has meant balancing family and work responsibilities with educational goals.
Gromyko Scott is a stay-at-home mom who pushed herself to overcome the fear that she would not be a successful student so that she could model the importance of education for her three children. She is graduating with a degree in sociology and a near perfect 4.0 GPA.
As a software sales consultant, Rusty Halm spends a lot time on the road, and when he is at home, he is busy with his 10 children. He is graduating with a business-management degree and as a member of the National Honor Society.
A single mom, Jeannette Holmes postponed college for 20 years to take care of her family. She has now earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and has been accepted into Saint Leo's rigorous and highly competitive M.S.W. program.
While every Saint Leo University student who persevered in his or her online studies and graduates this year has a unique story, there is a common thread that runs throughout all of their experiences.
As busy adults with numerous commitments and responsibilities to family, work, and volunteer and community organizations, they became masters of time management – their most commonly cited obstacle to earning their degrees – and achieved success.
"The biggest obstacle has been juggling family, my career and school work," says Linda McClean, a sociology major and behavior specialist with Virginia Beach's Department of Human Services.
"The biggest obstacle was time," says Robbie Smart, a data analyst and computer information systems graduate.
So what's their secret to success?
"Trying to fit work, family and school in took a learning curve," says Rusty, "but you adapt."
Or as liberal studies major Shelby Bender says, "I simply made up my mind to achieve the goal and went after it with my all!"
Here are some additional thoughts and words of encouragement from these, and a few other, members of the Class of 2014 – online learners who gave it their all and succeeded.
Gromyko Scott, Stay-at-home-momBachelor of Arts in Sociology
Why was earning a college degree important to you?I'm a stay at home mother who is focusing on raising three sons to be productive citizens within our society. Earning my degree was very important to me because we often tell our children that education is important. Therefore, I wanted to lead by example and show them, as well. It is also important because it will allow me to have more opportunities in life.
What was your greatest accomplishment as a student?Achieving all A's with the exception of two B's that snuck in there. Needless to say, it is still not bad because I almost have a 4.0 GPA.
What obstacles did you overcome to earn your degree?One of the obstacles that I had to overcome was fear. I was frightened that I would not do very well and, at first, I had to push myself to overcome that fear. I plan to utilize my degree hopefully in the social work, counseling, or education fields. I want to help others and chose this degree because it afforded me that ability.
Do you have any advice for other students?Stick with it and give the degree the time it deserves. It will pay off in the future. Good luck and push forward!
Michael Hendricks, Front-line manager for financial advisersBachelor of Arts in Accounting
Why did you choose Saint Leo?My wife encouraged me to pursue my education at Saint Leo because of the flexibility that it affords to balance my educational pursuits with my home life (married with 4 children) and professional life (full-time manager).
Describe your experience at Saint Leo University.In particular, I have enjoyed the ability to focus on a couple of subjects every 8 weeks and to spend time late in the evening tackling school work. I was also attracted to – and am still impressed by – Saint Leo's mission and core values.
Why was earning a college degree important to you?For one, it helped me to expand my knowledge and be a more complete individual (academically, socially, etc.). It also provided a sense of personal accomplishment, while demonstrating to others that I have the discipline and commitment to develop myself.
What was your greatest accomplishment as a student?Maintaining a high GPA in light of competing time demands.
How do you plan to use your degree?I'm already using the academic insight professionally. I've learned to be a better manager and broadened my knowledge. Just as importantly though, I've adopted the Saint Leo culture and the core values, and I feel a real calling for (the core value of) Responsible Stewardship. I am seeking (and will always continue to seek) ways in which I can employ my newfound resources to develop my communities and the university.
What advice do you have for other online students?Consider the time at Saint Leo University to be much more than an academic endeavor; see it as a cultural experience and keep an open mind and heart tuned to the message of Saint Leo's mission and core values. You can choose to make this a point in time, or a springboard to make a rewarding, significant impact for others.
Rusty Halm, Enterprise Software/Pre-sales Technical ConsultantB.A. Business Administration - Management specialization
Describe your experience at Saint Leo University.My experience has been one of professionalism and prestige. No matter whom I connect with, I am always provided excellent information and a willingness to help as much as possible. Everyone is very professional, energetic, and positive. This was one of the main reasons I chose SLU. I was also impressed with the school's history, quality of academics, the high caliber of the online learning systems, and Saint Leo's ranking among other universities.
Why was getting your degree important to you?Getting my degree was very important because it is a major step in my career plan. I have always been a hard worker but being able to advance in my career takes more than just hard work – you need the academic qualifications. It also has taught me to work efficiently.
What was your greatest accomplishment as a student?My greatest accomplishment as a student was time management. I have a big family with 10 children and a job that requires about 40 percent travel. Being able to effectively manage my time so I could squeeze in school work was challenging. It has paid off so far with my being accepted into the National Honor Society through the SLU Delta Nu chapter.
What obstacles did you overcome to earn your degree?Many obstacles. First was time management; actively trying to fit work, family, and school in took a learning curve, but you adapt. Having a supportive family definitely helps. An unexpected obstacle was being assigned to a new project at work, which increased travel to about 80 percent and lasted the better part of a year, even though it was originally an eight-week assignment.
How do you plan to use your degree?I plan to use my degree to execute my career plan and advance my career to the executive level and eventually own my own company.
What advice do you have for other online students?Have a career plan and stay focused on it. As time goes on, obstacles and challenges will present themselves; staying focused and being determined will help you make it through them. Your career plan may change and you may end up in a place that you didn't expect, but without a career plan, you won't be able to direct your career; you want to be the boat with an engine, as well as a ruder.
Linda McClean, Behavior specialist, Virginia Beach Department of Human ServicesBachelor of Arts in Sociology
Why did you choose Saint Leo?I chose Saint Leo because I liked the academic programs offered, the classes fit in with my already busy schedule and, most importantly, I wanted to attend online classes at a school with a reputation for being more than an online university. It is important that my degree mean something in the working world, and I was confident that would be the case with a Saint Leo education.
Why was getting your degree important to you?I put off getting my degree for a long time because I put getting married, starting a family and raising children ahead of what I needed to feel accomplished in my life. This degree proves that I am smart and capable and, with hard work, able to finish what I start.
What was your greatest accomplishment as a student?My greatest accomplishment was being inducted into the Alpha Kappa Delta, National Honor Society for Sociology. This honor was another affirmation of my hard work and dedication to my education.
What obstacles did you overcome to earn your degree? The biggest obstacle has been juggling family, my career and school work. It has been important for me to receive good grades, so I have missed a lot of sleep and free time with my family as a result.
How do you plan to use your degree?I intend to continue to work with adults with developmental disabilities. My desire is to support them with finding ways to increase their independence and become a part of their communities rather than watching life from the peripheral.
What advice do you have for other online students?Keep the faith. As difficult as it may seem, as impossible as it may look, if you remain faithful and hold fast to your goals, you will achieve them. I would often check my program evaluation taking note of the remaining credits as inspiration. Bit by bit, those credits ticked down and success was within easy reach.
Shelby Bender, President & Executive Director of The East Hillsborough Historical SocietyBachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies
Why did you choose Saint Leo?I chose Saint Leo University online simply because I could complete my BA while working full time and still have the flexibility to maintain my very active community involvement service to non-profit boards and civic and community boards – all while retaining my primary focus, which is my family.
Why was getting your degree important to you?At age 56, my lifetime career made a sudden change, and I found that starting anew required proof of education on paper. Experience was no longer valued at what it was always built up to be.
What was your greatest accomplishment as a student?Sharing my lifetime experiences with the professors and students in the classrooms, which allowed myself and them to see different perspectives and views on many different topics.
What obstacles did you overcome to earn your degree?I cannot really say that there were any obstacles that I had to overcome. I simply made up my mind to achieve the goal and went after it with my all!
How do you plan to use your degree?I plan to continue pursuing being a success at whatever I set out to do, meet new and old friends and make a contribution that says, "This counts for something good!"
What advice do you have for other online students?Set goals, be disciplined and stay on top of your plan.
Jeannette Holmes, Hospitality industry employeeBachelor of Arts in Psychology
Why did you choose Saint Leo?I was presented with many options when I began my research for a transfer from Florida Keys Community College and I chose Saint Leo because I was impressed with the history of the university and the curriculum. I was especially impressed by Saint Leo's core values, which is what I yearned for, both in my academic life and personal life.
Why was getting your degree important to you?Achieving my academic goals at this period in my life was very important for me as I was unable to attend college when I was younger due to being a single mother for 20 plus years.
What was your greatest accomplishment as a student?In every class, I attained valuable knowledge pertinent to my career choice in my field. Also, I achieved the Dean's List in my first semester.
How do you plan to use your degree?I have been accepted into Saint Leo's Master's in Social Work program and will be starting graduate studies in August. My goal is to provide counseling as assistance to individuals afflicted with substance abuse issues.
What advice do you have for other online students?My advice to other undergraduates in Saint Leo's Center for Online Learning would be to always reach out (you will always be helped) and to never give up. Commit to your academics and you will reach your dreams and goals!
Robbie Smart, Data analystBachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems
Why did you choose Saint Leo?I chose Saint Leo because of the online format. I was working full time and my daughter had just been born.
Describe your experience at Saint Leo.My experience at Saint Leo was very positive. The time allowed to complete assignments enabled me to do work at my pace and helped me reach my ultimate goal of completing my degree. There are too many positives to list here about my time at Saint Leo, but I would do it all over again if I had to choose again.
Why was getting your degree important to you?My mom always wanted her kids to get a bachelor's degree and so that was the original focus. After starting a family, my focus became bettering myself so I could provide a better life for my wife and daughter.
What was your greatest accomplishment as a student?Finishing my degree with the amount of extracurricular activities I had going on.
What obstacles did you overcome to earn your degree?The biggest obstacle was time. I work full time, I am married to my beautiful wife of almost 14 years, and I have a daughter who will be four years old soon. I also coach high school baseball, which is full time, six days a week during January through May. All of these added together make it very hard to juggle the time needed to study and complete work, focus on my family and give time to baseball. Luckily, I have an awesome family that understood what I needed to do and was able to push me through to the end.
How do you plan to use your degree?I plan on using it to further my career in information technology.
What advice do you have for other online students?Stay focused on your personal goals and get work done as early as possible. It is easy to get sidetracked and let assignments sneak up on you, if you are not planning ahead. Also, if you have any doubts or questions contact your professors early and establish an open dialogue with them. The professors at Saint Leo are very understanding and want you to succeed.
Eddie ThurmanBachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems
Why was getting your degree important to you?It will allow me an opportunity to get back into the technology world and do what I like to do the most. It is important to me because my daughters have pushed me, and I refuse to let them down. Also, I need this for me personally. This will show others that I never quit.
What was your greatest accomplishment as a student?Passing all my classes – especially the Decision Support Systems and Finance for Managers classes!
What obstacles did you overcome to earn your degree?I encountered a lot of obstacles during the time I was working on my degree. I went through divorce proceedings and had to move. I had to use WiFi in public places like McDonalds and the library many times for Internet connect to do my coursework. My computer caught a virus that destroyed my laptop. And then I had a viral attack that hindered me from connecting to take the MFT test, which is a part of COM498, the final class in my major.
Although, these walls were up, I continued to pray and allowed Romans 8:38 ("All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose") to minister to me. I also thank God for the compassion and understanding of my professors.
How do you plan to use your degree?I plan to use my degree as a door opener to get me back in the technology world, perhaps earn a master's degree. Also, I am going to use it to start my own mobile computer service.
What advice do you have for other online students?My advice to all online students is "You can do it!" and "Never give up!"
Congratulations, Saint Leo Class of 2014!
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