• Fear of Starting Over

    By Jennifer Claire, Full-Time Faculty
    School of Health Sciences 

    “Go back to school.”

    “Return to school, do something!”

    It seems like that is all I heard for a number of years in my life. While the thought of being stuck in classes, listening to lectures, and everything that comes with college life didn’t seem like it was for me, I knew I needed to do something. I would come across people every day who mentioned they wished they had completed a degree—either they regretted not finishing college when they were younger or couldn't get a promotion at work because they didn't have that diploma.

    In today’s competitive work environment, I often wonder how someone can try and get ahead in this world without that piece of paper. But then I wrestle with other questions:

    • What about the time all of this education will take?
    • What about the cost—who is going to pay for it?
    • How do we better ourselves as well as our partners and children's lives?
    • How can earning a degree possibly be worth all of the time and sacrifices?

    Can anyone reading this relate? I know I did relate (and still can)! Returning to school can seem like an impossible task but it can be done. By sharing my story, I’d like to encourage you to make that first step towards your future—a future you will not regret.

    My Educational Journey 

    The year was 1997, and I was a single mom with a 6-year-old daughter. I made $9.00 an hour as a medical assistant, and lived my life as best as I could, along with everyone asking me—or rather telling me—how I should have completed my degree. I was basically content, but knew deep in my heart I was created for something more.

    I was channel surfing one day when Oprah came on the TV and, while I normally did not watch her show, something she said caught my attention. She looked at the camera with a look I had never seen before on her, such seriousness and kindness, and she asked, “If you were told you had 30 second to live, what is the one thing you regret not completing?” This was not about regret, rather it was something you had always wanted to accomplish and did not.

    My response without skipping a beat was: “Finish my degree.” The short version is that on that very day, I enrolled in college! I knew the time, money, and sacrifices would be high, but I also knew my future would be bright, and if anything, my daughter’s life would be better one day because of my degree.

    Challenges and Rewards  

    While school was a challenge, I was given a piece of input that also changed my life, and helped me stay the course to earn my degree. One day my brother and I were talking about bills, mortgages, and my student loans. I complained about going into debt, and he said, “But, I just bought a $35,000 car that will only depreciate in value, and once I’m done with this car, I will have nothing to show for it. My house has depreciated too because of the market, but you, you have invested in your future and in yourself, and you will have something to show for it.”

    I not only have something to show for it, but eventually my own daughter was able to earn her degree from Kaplan University. The online flexibility allowed her to work full time while progressing in her studies.

    Another challenge many may face is how to pay for college. I encourage you to research the many are grants, scholarships, and assistance available. For example, I received numerous scholarships which helped immensely and I’m so thankful. Even today, when that automatic loan payment comes out of my account, I think to myself, I’m paying myself back. I’m paying back into my own future, and I wouldn’t be here now typing this, encouraging YOU to return to school, had I given up or just worried about the cost.

    Go earn that degree—it will be so worth all of it!


     Jennifer Claire is a faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University. 

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