I started my college education 23 years ago at my local community college. I never really liked school, but in my family, it was pretty much expected that I go. This is the story of how i graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree in four months.
For the first few semesters of school I did okay but I really wasn’t learning anything I hadn’t already learned. College, especially community college, felt like an extension of high school without gum under the desks. The biggest mistake I made was not have a drive to succeed. It was good enough for me to just get by.
After four semesters of community college, I transferred to a four year program at a university. By this time I should have had at least my associates degree, but I didn’t have the required amount of credits. So on to the university I went. What a party! I was living on campus in a dorm with a buddy of mine from high school and I was quickly introduced to a whole new set of friends. Friends that liked to party! To say that I did horribly is an understatement.
There were a couple of courses that I really did well in. One was a computer programming class and the other was, surprisingly, an English literature class. I probably did well in the English lit class due to the fact that the instructor was a good looking graduate student, but I digress. Half way through the programming class, the professor decided to quit to go write a book. The new professor was a hippy looking dude with a long pony tail that didn’t care if you came to class as long as your lab work was good. The rest of the classes I had, I pretty much slept through. By the end of the semester, my gpa was very low. It was so low that the university politely asked me not to attend anymore.
Back to community college I went. By this time I was working full time and trying to go to school. I would work all day and go to school at night. I did okay because I really liked some of the teachers I had, but my heart was not in it. Quitting school was the only option that made sense to me at the time. My overall gpa was under 2.0 and there was no way I was going to graduate in any meaningful time. It probably would have taken another four years to get back on track.
Fast forward a couple of years later. I had moved to the other side of the country and landed an okay job in a machine shop working in customer service. While working, I decided to go back to school. I enrolled in the local community college and actually did well for two semesters but I just didn’t have it in me to complete school. After all I was flying high on my mediocre job and getting by okay.
Fast forward again to 2017. I had some really good opportunities that I took along the way and ended up working in my chosen field of software development. I did all the normal life stuff like getting married, buying a house, etc. But there was still something missing. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great life, but it seemed like everyone else had that something extra. Every time I applied for a job I would usually lose out because I didn’t have a degree. I had been looking around for college for a few years and even enrolled in another school. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the classes I needed to graduate because I didn’t have any seniority and the school was overcrowded. I appealed to the class instructors but was ultimately denied. I started looking for online schools but the cost was ridiculous, so I gave up.
One day my wife told me about an encounter she had with an acquaintance of hers. She had gone to a school online that was affordable. I didn’t really believe it at the time but I decided to check it out – Western Governors University (WGU). Western Governors University is accredited by theNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). And indeed, WGU was a very affordable alternative. The tuition was like $3,000 per six month term and you could accelerate through as many classes as you could handle in that term. What a deal! I got all of the information I could get on the school and my chosen program from their website and Reddit. The very next week I applied for admission. I was starting the journey again but with a different mindset. This degree was for me personally, not for anyone else or for any job.
Admission into the school wasn’t difficult for me since I had close to 20 years of experience in my chosen field of Information Technology. You are assigned an enrollment mentor that helps you on the road to admission. They interview you to make sure you are right for the school and handle all of your questions and track things for you like college transcripts. I was only able to transfer 22 credits from the other schools I attended.
After so much school you would think I would have had more transferable credits than that, but I had really bad grades throughout my school history. After about a month I was accepted and on my way to start my first term. WGU has a great support system. You are assigned a personal student mentor and have access to course mentors throughout your term. The student mentor talks to you at least once a week by phone and is the person that handles all of your questions, enrolls you in classes and helps keep you motivated to get through your term.
After transferring 22 credits from my other schools, I had 98 credits to complete. Looking at the classes I needed to finish, I came up with a plan that had me graduating in 1 1/2 years. This was an aggressive plan considering the average student at WGU takes about 2 1/2 years to finish. But I was determined. I was studying non-stop every night and weekend and finishing course work at a break-neck pace.
A month into my program I revised my timeline to just one year and I kept on plugging away at the course work. This was not an easy task. I was literally doing nothing else except work and school, but I was happy to do it. My wife was super supportive of me during the process which was important. I started my term in September of 2017 and by the time December rolled around I was sure I wouldn’t finish in my first term. I had revised my projections again to at least 9 months total. However, I kept going and persevering through it all. As a surprise to many, I ended up finishing by Christmas – four months.
If you are thinking of going to school online, be prepared for a lot of hard work and many late night hours studying. My program at WGU was very difficult but I had a lot of experience with the subject matter that helped propel me to the finish line. It took me over 20 years to get my degree and four very long months to actually earn it. I graduated at the end of December in 2017 and walked in my graduation ceremony a few months later.