With two of her children in college, Cheryl Wojcickij finds that Saint Leo's online programs enable her to add education to her own busy schedule.

Three people in Cheryl Wojcickij's family are working on college degrees: her two children, Alexander and Natalie, ages 21 and 20, respectively, and Cheryl, who recently turned 50.

Returning to school wasn't a decision Cheryl made lightly. After spending years at home raising Alexander and Natalie and their older sister Daniela (30), Cheryl says she found herself at a crossroads.

Cheryl currently works from home, managing social media and websites for a local business and for her community, but she wanted to find something that was a better fit with her nurturing nature.

So she started looking into earning an online psychology degree and turned to her alma mater, Saint Leo University. Cheryl had earned an associate degree in business administration online ten years ago while living in Thailand.

Looking for flexibility

Cheryl's husband has been with General Motors for 35 years. His position led to frequent moves, which were an important reason why she initially chose Saint Leo.

"I was drawn to the university's online program because the flexibility allows students in the military posted all around the world to participate on a schedule that works for them. With our frequent relocations, I needed the same flexibility."

Even though Cheryl and her family are "seemingly settled," returning for a second degree, she was again drawn to the flexibility of an online degree program.

"I wanted to be able to maintain a relatively normal, day-to-day schedule while adding education without sacrificing too much time with my husband or family."

Now, she's working toward graduating with a bachelor's in psychology in 2016, preparing to go back to work full-time.

Her family, she adds, has been a great support system. While her children were at first a bit surprised by her decision to return to school, they are proud of her hard work and dedication.

Establishing an effective routine

While balancing work, school and a family can be a little overwhelming, Cheryl says a little discipline goes a long way.

Her day starts early. She sees her husband off to his job, and then she gets to work monitoring and updating webpages. From there, she completes her coursework and manages the household, as well.

Organizing the week's tasks, including course assignments and required reading, ahead of time has been a lifesaver for Cheryl. She says simple steps like reading your course syllabus and creating a space to study within your home that is away from distractions can help students stay focused.

"I have always asked my professors lots of questions no matter how silly I may have felt," she explains. "Generally, I have found that I am never alone—if I am confused by something, odds are someone else is as well."

She admits there have been times when she is pulled in multiple directions at the same time. However, placing value on her time, learning to say no, and avoiding procrastination have helped get her through those challenging periods.

Community and camaraderie in the classroom

Individuals considering online degree programs may have concerns about feeling a bit isolated, but Cheryl says engaging courses, extremely helpful advisors and great faculty at Saint Leo give her a sense of community.

"My professors have a genuine interest in getting to know their online students," she says. "There are also discussion boards within the classroom, and these have been the best way to connect with others. The open exchange of ideas – and even the occasional disagreement – gives me a feeling of truly belonging to the classroom."

She also appreciates the diversity of students in her courses – adult learners who continually inspire her to persevere.

"This semester I am in class with a gentleman who works full-time with disadvantaged and troubled youth, and his insight and comments in class are always so relevant and heartfelt," she adds. "This aspect of being an adult student is what I enjoy the most—what adult learners bring to the educational experience is their life experience and a true desire to learn."

Cheryl says that she learns from working with other students and being open to their perspectives, and also participating in extracurricular activities. She is active in Saint Leo's Online Psychology Association, attending meetings, giving presentations and even assisting with the association's holiday gift drive. She is also in the Psi Chi Honor Society, which she says is not only motivating but validating as well.

An invaluable investment

For anyone considering higher education, Cheryl says take the leap.

From single moms holding down full-time jobs to servicemembers deployed in every corner of the world, she says online programs like those offered at Saint Leo make learning more accessible.

"There is never a perfect time to do something that takes time and energy away from the things that are important to you like family, friends, work," she says. "However, you are making an investment in yourself and your future, and there is truly nothing more important than that.

"I want my children to see you are never too old to change your career path, to learn something and to accomplish your goals."

Image credits:
kozirsky on Shutterstock.com and Tony DiLorenzo courtesy Cheryl Wojcickij