Diane Franklin is a prime example of how it is absolutely possible for someone to successfully pursue a college education later in life. This online human services administration graduate student at Saint Leo University didn't finish her associate degree until after the age of 50. She now finds herself just a few classes away from earning her master's degree.

Franklin, a native of Pensacola, Fla., currently calls Tallahassee home.  She is the proud mother of two successful children – a 31-year-old daughter, Alexandria, who is a NICU nurse, and a 28-year-old son, Gabriel, who works in the oil industry.

Entering College as an Adult Learner

Franklin first started her college career by earning an associate degree from Tallahassee Community College. She says this was a wonderful experience, finishing on the dean's list. In the fall of that same year, she began coursework toward an online bachelor's degree in sociology at Saint Leo University, a program she would go on to complete in March 2018. 

"The sociology bachelor's program was a wonderful experience," she says. "It laid the foundation for the human services administration master's program that I am currently pursuing. The sociology program taught me a lot about different types of cultures, neighborhoods, how people are viewed by their socioeconomic status and the assumptions and prejudices that accompany them."

Before enrolling with Saint Leo University, Franklin had never experienced online classes. But she says that she was pleasantly surprised at how it's possible to become more disciplined, focused, organized and determined to succeed when it comes to online learning.

"My experiences with financial aid and being advised proved to be a smooth process. The only stress that I can say I encountered was writing papers and experiencing 'writer's block.' But then I had to learn to take a break or go for a walk and come back with a fresh mind and try again." 

She talks about how making connections with fellow students in her online bachelor's program helped her get through it.

"Being a student in online degree programs can feel lonely at times because of the lack of communication you can have with the instructor and other students," she says. "Every once in a while, you may encounter a student in the course who feels that they need support making it through the class, so you exchange e-mails to discuss the personal difficulties faced with taking online classes. I can say that I have made three friends throughout my time at Saint Leo University."

Starting the Human Services Administration Master's Curriculum

According to Franklin, there was little hesitation about diving right into a graduate program as Saint Leo did a "great job" preparing her for the next level of education. She enrolled in the online human services administration master's curriculum in the fall of 2018 and has successfully maintained at least a 3.6 GPA, a number she hopes to maintain upon graduating.

Why Top-Notch Advising is Key

Franklin believes that advising is a very important factor for the success of a student at Saint Leo University. She has her undergraduate advisor, Courtney Caton, to thank for being one of the best advisors a student could have.

"Ms. Caton understood the students' fears and reached out to ensure that they maintained well in their courses, constantly reaching out to offer positive words of support. She is certainly an asset to the students."

She currently has Alexis Braziel as her graduate advisor with whom she has formed a great bond. 

"Ms. Braziel is a great listener and is very proactive in meeting the needs of the students," she says.

Advice to Prospective Adult Learners

In spite of being a 54-year-old graduate student, Franklin has proven that anyone, regardless of age, can attend college and thoroughly enjoy their experience.

"I had no idea how pursuing higher education would change the course of my life, but what's really exciting is that I had the courage to step out on faith and not turn back. What I would tell someone my age who is considering attending college as a new or returning student is to turn that fear into perseverance. Maybe it's easier to just start out with one class at a time, but do actually start. Once you pass that class, be courageous and take two the next time and eventually you will find yourself with a full course load, whether you're in an online degree program or in a regular classroom. Be sure to lean on your family, friends, professors and even fellow students for support." 

She offers up a unique view on life in general.

"I have learned that if you are afraid of doing something, you should go for it because once you've accomplished it, you will feel stronger and more courageous."

A Varied Resume

Franklin has held several different types of jobs. The one that has shaped her life and is most memorable thus far was with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) in the economic self-sufficiency department. She spent a little over 10 years in this role. 

"Working with this state agency confirmed what type of career I would like to pursue." 

A few years ago, she was a staff assistant at Saint Leo's Tallahassee Education Center, working for center director Elizabeth Heron, which she says was "a great experience."

She has also worked with several nonprofit organizations and recently volunteered at the 2019 Veterans Stand Down event in Tallahassee. 

She is currently employed as an administrative assistant in the office of the provost at Florida A&M University.

Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Diane Franklin and is used with permission.