By Danielle DeGroot - February 21st, 2019
Earning a four-year degree can be an imposing goal for any student, regardless of where he/she is in life. Understanding the real-world expectations as a college learner — the concept of paying for something and then having to work really hard for it — is intimidating. The high school perception of what college will be like can be a stark contrast to its reality for those just starting out as college learners. Non-traditional learners can find themselves suddenly feeling trapped by deadlines and high expectations of college-level work after years of being out of practice.
My own college experience began right after high school, as a traditional student with every intention of finishing college in four years. Life took me down a different path, and though I earned an A.A. in Liberal Arts, I never finished that goal of earning a bachelor’s degree.
Though an associate’s degree has set me apart from peers and colleagues in job fields that do not require a bachelor’s, it has not opened any doors or other professional opportunities for me. Certifications and job-specific trainings have moved me forward in specific fields and job situations, but stand-alone trainings haven’t proved themselves to have any professional value outside of those specific jobs.
Having a bachelor’s degree is the difference between higher- and lower-level professional jobs — for me, this has played a major role in the limits I’ve faced in my career and job opportunities. I have been passed over for promotions many times in favor of candidates who have a bachelor’s degree, despite my experience or time within a company. Upon his recent high school graduation, my oldest child went through the process of picking a college. While we worked through his choices and established some of his educational goals, I was inspired to revisit my 18-year-old aspirations. That’s when I began to look seriously into the options for nontraditional students, and I soon enrolled as a Communications and Marketing student at Colorado State University-Global to finish the goal I had set so long ago.
The time I spent studying Communications and Marketing at the collegiate level has prepared me to move forward in my career and has led to growth and opportunities that were previously closed to me. Learning how to become a highly-effective communicator has given me more confidence and clarity in my interactions with others. Professional-level critical writing is a must in almost every career field — learning the standards for that form of communication, as well as practicing those skills with real-life professional expectations has elevated my performance and contributions on a professional level, as I am already able to apply concepts from coursework in the workplace.
Understanding leadership from both a leader and follower perspective is a skill that involves critical thinking and comprehension of team dynamics. The experience of team projects and building virtual teams with professional-level expectations offers insight that is invaluable as one moves through today’s changing workplace. Virtual teams are more and more common as digital technology allows for business to be conducted on a global scale. Communication has evolved as digital technology, social media, and telecommunications advances, providing different and ever-changing platforms to connect. Understanding digital communications and its role as a tool in communication and marketing has given me insight and knowledge that will aid in publishing, marketing, PR and other professional communications careers. Confidence is an important ingredient in the mix of finding work, school, and life balance as a student. Returning to college, after taking time off to raise a family or pursue a career, can bring back all the stress you faced the first time you attended. But it’s imperative to maintain your confidence and know that you do have the ability to reach your academic goals, no matter what age or stage of life you’re in. For me, that confidence comes from the knowledge that, by finishing this degree, I am readying myself for a different and better career — and that I’m showing my children that pursuing a college education is an achievable goal for everyone; it is never too late to make that goal a reality. I look forward to the doors that a bachelor’s degree will open for me, taking the knowledge and skills I learned as a CSU-Global student and applying them to achieve real-world professional goals.
Danielle DeGroot is a current student at CSU-Global graduating this spring with a Bachelor’s in Communications and a specialization in Marketing. She currently works for a longstanding local educational publishing company in Denver, Colorado. She aspires to move forward in this industry and hopes that the skills she has learned in the degree process will help her to accomplish this goal. Danielle spends her spare time focused on her family, exploring the vast mountains of Colorado, and reading lots and lots of books.