The overwhelming number of college graduates who attain a bachelor's degree take the traditional route of four years to complete the coursework for it – if not longer in some cases. But one Saint Leo University student who is set to officially earn his diploma this summer reached the finish line for a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems in a mere two years.
Choosing Saint Leo's Morrow Education Center
Gelso Rosa, who hails from Brazil, finished with a GPA just shy of 4.0 and is set to attend his commencement ceremony in July. Rosa primarily attended Saint Leo's Morrow Education Center in the Atlanta area but also took some classes online. "It was a lot of work, a lot of missed weekends," he admits. "But I was committed to it and mainly just wanted to get it done and move on." It was a recommendation from an alumnus and the center director who helped him ultimately enroll at the university's Morrow location. "I knew it was accredited, which is unlike some other schools," Rosa says. "When I went to the Morrow Center, I met with Michelle Myrick-Simmons, who I like to call my 'secret weapon.' She is absolutely outstanding and checks all of the boxes for me in my book. If it weren't for her, I doubt I would have gone there." The 57-year-old, who has worked in information technology for most of his career, resides in Atlanta. For the past decade, he has worked for a company that produces gift cards sold in grocery stores worldwide. "I help to connect the retailers and partners, like getting Apple iTunes or Google Play gift cards into certain stores," he explains. He started working on his bachelor's degree in the fall of 2015 and wrapped it all up by the fall of 2017. "I never let an assignment slide until the 11th hour," he says. "I'd always get the syllabus for my next class as soon as I could, read through it, e-mail my professors to get the names of any books we'd be using and then prepare myself for that semester. I'd even start writing the research papers early in the semester so I could just fill in the gaps by the end of the class, and I wasn't scrambling to get things done." He recalls seeing some of his fellow classmates struggle simply because they didn't pay enough attention to detail. "Whenever students have problems, it's almost always caused by the fact that they don't read the syllabus for a class correctly. They also don't take the time to read materials sufficiently, learn the correct formatting styles of MLA or APA and sometimes forget how long a paper is supposed to be." He has nothing but praise for the instruction he received. "Every single professor I had was so supportive and just outstanding," he says. "One professor e-mailed us every day to wish everyone a nice day and to wish us good luck on our assignments. It's the little things like those e-mails that make earning a degree a little easier." Rosa also notes that while he didn't take courses at the school's University Campus in Florida, he still very much felt like a part of the Saint Leo community. "They bring the campus to you," he says. "Sometimes we'd get pens, notepads, koozies or t-shirts that were branded with the Saint Leo name and colors. It was always a reminder that we were part of something bigger."
The Secret Recipe to Scholarly Success
Rosa, who is fluent in five languages, offers up some friendly advice on how to succeed in college, whether you're in a hurry to collect your diploma or prefer to go at it at your own pace. "The first thing is to look at your toolbox of skills," he advises. "If you already have certain skills and experience, take as many exams as you can to get credit for classes you don't actually need to take. This immediately cuts off time from the process. Then if there are skills you want to add to your toolbox, take classes in those areas." Sticking to a strict schedule is also imperative. "The other thing is that you do have to commit yourself to doing it. In my case, I worked on assignments and studied every weekend and several evenings throughout the week. For example, I'd study for one class on Saturdays, a second on Sundays and a third throughout the week. I had a quiet space with the technology I needed to study, and my spouse always offered to cook dinner or do laundry if I needed to focus on schoolwork."
Online vs. Traditional College Classes
He offers some perspective on what it's like to take online classes compared to his experience learning in a traditional classroom environment. "Some people think online classes are easier, but that's not true. It's basically the same whether it's in a classroom or online. You have to keep up a rhythm with both types of classes, or things will start to snowball on you."
The Power of a College Education
According to Rosa, earning a bachelor's degree transformed his life. "Getting a degree has honestly changed me as a person. It has given me more self-assurance and confidence in the type of work I'm doing now and what I hope to do in the future. I've had a lot of 'a-ha moments' along the way. I say you're never too old to go to school." He hopes to pursue a master's degree at some point, potentially from Saint Leo as well. As a nice gesture, he donated his textbooks from the classes he took to the Morrow Education Center. "It's all about paying it forward," he says. #SaintLeo