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There is financial help out there, and it isn't as confusing as you think.

My father is a tattoo artist and my mother is a factory worker. My sister was also a tattoo artist and worked for my father at his shop. No one in my family went to college. I was not expected to go. The expectation was that I would graduate high school, work at the tattoo shop, and live my life close to my family in Jackson.

I wanted a career doing something I loved, and I wanted to be able to provide for myself and live comfortably. I went to the guidance counselor and began talking to her about college and what my options might be. I told her my biggest fear was that I wouldn't have good enough grades to get in to any school. She looked at my grades and my GPA and she began to laugh. I immediately wanted to crawl in a hole and die. She could tell from my expression that I was embarrassed. She asked, "Richie, why do you think your grades are so bad?" She smiled and said that I actually had a pretty good GPA, only .2 away from graduating with honors. She advised me that if I was worried about school that I might want to start at a community college and transfer to a university later. I did, and transferred to MTSU in 2003.

My advice for anyone interested in going to college is to just do it. There is financial help out there, and it isn't as confusing as you think once you start applying for that assistance. The most important thing I could tell anyone is to never let anyone say that you can't do it. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it's true.

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Education, and finishing my college degree was very important to me.

My graduation happened a year after I had planned for it to originally... because of all the things I had to get done in order to graduate. It was a great day for me, I was surrounded by friends of mine that I had been going to school with for several years and it was something that I feel like everyone should experience. Everyone should have that moment when they're proud of what they've accomplished.


Create your personal plan to go to school. Just follow the three steps outlined here and you’ll be on your way!

My Dad was a college graduate and he always supported me in that path of going to college. I certainly don't feel like I would be where I am at today had I not been so lucky to have gone to college. It made me see life in another way. It made me work harder.


I'd always loved music... but I knew education was really important as well. I was able to put the two together and get into a school in Nashville so I could really focus on the music but try to get a college education as well.

"By getting that secondary education, by going back to college and getting that degree, its really a special thing. I would definitely not pass it up 'cause its kind of a once in a lifetime thing."


Education was high on my list of things I had to get right. I'd love to tell you I had [many] colleges to choose from, but I only had about three.

"College was probably the best adventure ever in my life. Not only was it an opportunity to meet my lifetime, life-long friends forever, but I also met the Commodores on that campus... It was an experience I'll never forget because its college life, you learn about yourself, about things you never thought that you would do and say and how to handle yourself, it was just the best of discovery."


To say you can't afford it and give up is simply not an option. It didn't stop me or my mother, and it should not stop you.

Although they were intelligent, hardworking people, my family always struggled with money because of medical bills -- my father suffered from pancreatic cancer when I was a baby, my mother was diagnosed with lupus after she had my sister and I also struggled as a child with Larsen's syndrome, a rare disease that affected all the joints in my hips, legs and feet. As I entered high school, college seemed like a luxury that would not be available to me.

From my mother's point of view, college was non-negotiable. It became so important to her that, in her forties, she enrolled in the local community college with a disability scholarship. Though her health had started to fail, my mother was determined to get that degree - she took her last exams as a college student with my father by her side carrying her oxygen tank and I.V. pole into her classroom. At 46 years old, my mother became a college graduate. My senior year, she died. College looked like it was farther and farther away. However, a week after she died, I got my acceptance letter to the University of Florida. Since the day I moved away from that small town to go to college, my life has been filled with blessings. On my graduation day, my father wrote me a note about how proud my mother would be to see me graduate, and I knew it was true. She taught me to follow my dreams, and since the day I moved away my life has been filled with blessings. I am now fortunate to not have to live paycheck to paycheck, and education has everything to do with this.

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The first day, I was terrified that I would be the oldest person in class.

While serving in Iraq in 2003-2004, I was injured and my spine separated, leaving me disabled. The job I did for the Federal Government as a diesel mechanic was no longer an option. The VA offered the opportunity to attend college and get a degree in teaching, and I could not refuse the chance to start over. I have full custody of a 14 year old daughter named Kayla and a 12 year old son named Austin. Both have helped me with my homework on rare occasions. Getting my Associates Degree has been a blessing, and when I receive my Bachelors Degree it will be a win for all of us.

The idea of going to college as a 45 year old single Dad was enough to make me back out. The first day, I was terrified that I would be the oldest person in class. Much to my amazement, I was only in the top ten. I found that being older gives you more life experience than the younger students, and that an older person gives a sense of balance to discussions. My children are proud that I'm attempting to get my teaching degree and become an elementary school teacher. The reason I want to teach in elementary is the fact that 19% of teachers in elementary are males. Students at that young age need male role models. If I can go back to college and succeed anyone can. I am a single, disabled veteran, 47 years old. In high school I was a C student, and now I make A's and B's. You can do it.

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I would have never dreamed this could happen to a little girl from a working class family, one who thought college was only available to the privileged.

My mother worked in a factory, and my father was a painter. My parents had five children—two boys and three girls. I am next to youngest. I married my husband during my senior year and dropped out of college. I went to work for a local bank instead of completing my degree. I held an entry level clerical position though I had more education than most employees of the bank. I just could not be satisfied with that. I was in a constant state of unrest, because I knew I had the ability to do more.

We reached a point where we both knew I needed to go full-time and work part-time so I could finish college. First Citizens National Bank let me worked part-time at a bank while I completed my degree. I graduated in 1991 with a BS in Education and a major in business. I took the challenge of managing the largest department in the bank while beginning an MBA program. I managed loan operations for a couple of years, then was promoted to Vice President and Branch Manager. After a few years, I was moved to the Corporate corporate office, positioned to take over as Chief Administrative Officer. I was blessed to be appointed as Dean of Continuing Education for Dyersburg State Community College, a position that required a masters degree. A few years later I was asked to serve as Interim Dean of Business and Technology. In 2008, I was promoted to Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Continuing Education for DSCC. I would have never dreamed this could happen to a little girl from a working class family who thought college was only available to the privileged.

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Being out of school for almost 12 years before I saw the inside of a college was intimidating.

After high school, I started working in a factory and began a modest climb up the corporate ladder. I soon realized that my climb was limited by a lack of formal education. As a third shift supervisor, I was not going to run a department without a degree. I was doomed to work the night shift for the rest of my life.

Being out of school for almost 12 years before I returning to college was somewhat intimidating. Going back at 31 and wondering how to balance full time work, a family and studying for school was overwhelming. I thought, "To get a 4 year degree at this pace, I will be 40 or older before it's over!" Someone told me this: "You'll turn 40 with or without a degree anyway!" After taking my basics in a local community college, it was a privilege to go to a University only an hour from home. The doors that have opened because of my continued education have been nothing short of miraculous. Over the last 15 years I have been Vice President of Human Resources, Corporate Vice President of Human Resources and Vice President of Operations for a 50 million dollar automotive supplier. I currently manage a Grammy winning gospel artist in Nashville named Jason Crabb. None of this would have happened without my formal education.

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I knew there was something else.

I had a good job, but I knew there was something else. By continuing my education I got to decide what I want to do in life. Passing state boards for nursing was amazing. I have enjoyed taking care of people for 15 years now.

I was not ready to finish college after high school, leaving college after a year and a half. I worked a few odd jobs then found employment at Baptist Hospital as an admissions representative. It was a good job, but I knew there was something else. After moving to Indiana with my husband and 2 children, the job search was not easy. I was 30, and it was time for me to finish my college education. Our children were very young. I studied after they went to bed. We budgeted so that we would not have a lot of debt. I learned how to study again. At 30, I was one of the "older" students. I was fortunate to have a supportive husband, and my children, ages 5 and 7 were very supportive, too.

By continuing my education I got to decide what I want to do in life. Passing state boards for nursing was amazing. I have enjoyed taking care of people for 15 years now. My advice is to go to school whenever you are ready AND find your support system. I really don't know where I would be working if I had not gone back to college.

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In high school, I didn't do well. Let's be honest! I did terrible.

Somehow, I managed to graduate from high school. I barely got by. I knew I wanted to go college. My parents suggested that it was best to further my education in a program that utilizes my strengths and weaknesses. I enrolled into High-Tech Institute. I poured my heart and soul into massage therapy. It was a 18 month program. I graduated with high honors and received an A.S Degree in massage therapy.

Before I became a licensed massage therapist, I had to overcome one obstacle: the license exam. It had 160 questions on anatomy, physiology, law and ethics - you name it. I can't tell you how much time I spent at Starbucks, studying and drinking iced green tea. I studied so much I developed test anxiety. I failed the exam three times over the course of two years! On the fourth time, I passed. I learned that perseverance pays off.

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I knew that I would never be able to provide the kind of life my daughter deserved unless I graduated.

I was born and raised in Nashville, TN. I'd say I had a pretty "normal" upbringing. I spent most of my time hanging out with friends, going to school and working a couple of jobs during high school before it came time for me to head to college. I started my freshman year at University of TN- Chattanooga in 2005. Until 2007 I had the typical college experience. Then I found out I was going to have a baby, so I said goodbye to Chattanooga and headed home to Nashville.

I moved back in with my mom, got a job and enrolled in MTSU. I was working full-time waiting tables while going to school full-time. It was tough. I completed a summer and fall semester at MTSU before my daughter was born. I took the next semester off for maternity leave. Then I was faced with the decision of whether or not I would return to school.

With the support of family, I decided to look at things long-term, quit working and take online classes full-time. I finally graduated in May 2010. About 5 months after graduation, I got my first "big girl" job. I know there is no way I would be where I am without my degree. If I hadn't gone back to school, I would probably still be waiting tables and regretting it. If there is one thing I could say to people who are in similar situations, it would be to persist. Keep your eyes on the end goal. No matter how long it takes or the sacrifices you make along the way, you owe it to yourself to graduate.

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Anything is possible. Anything.

Before I even graduated from high school, I had a full time job. It appeared that would be my life -- a minimum wage job. I worked many jobs as a young adult - at a department store, as a data entry clerk for a trucking company, a cashier at a grocery, in a pet department.

I attended a for-profit school and earned a two year degree in one of their limited programs. I didn't really like what I was doing, but I did graduate with honors. I began to research ways to fund college. I found a program that would allow me to get a bachelors degree in business. After five years, I graduated with two majors and a minor. I decided to go to graduate school. I applied and was accepted as a graduate teaching associate. Before I graduated with my master's degree, I was selected as both the Top Teaching Associate and Top Graduate Student from the Kentucky Communication Association. I graduated with my master's, applied to other programs and was accepted with full funding and a position as a teaching associate. I moved to Ohio to attend one of the top communication programs in the United States. During graduate school, I met and married my current husband and I had a child. I graduated with my PhD in 2003. I'm a professor now.

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I had a 5 day meal plan for a 7 day week and less than $100.

My parents divorced during my junior year of high school. Before I completed my college degree, I was working 2 two jobs and barely made ends meet. Without an education, I was lucky to make $7 an hour.

My parents had checked out on me. I started at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with a car that would barely run, a 5 five day meal plan for a 7 seven day week and less than $100. I flunked out of UT, worked, struggled, and then started night classes at a community college. I made great grades, transferred to MTSU, and majored in Television Production. I delivered pizzas at night and ended up finishing my bachelor's degree in less than 5 five years.

Graduation day was one of the best days of my life and one of my proudest moments. It has given me self-esteem, self-worth, and most importantly, it opened the door for me to freelance in production. I am now a staff producer at CMT.

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My advice is to grab on strong and enjoy the ride. You will come out on top if you stick it out.

I am from Detroit. I come from a very hardworking family, but the economy in Michigan started tanking. Before I went to college I was making very little money and barely making ends meet.

Financial aid was the biggest obstacle. Tuition is so expensive. I apparently 'made too much money' to qualify. I was working full time, going to school full time, and starting up freelance work, too. It was very stressful, but I remembered what the end result would be. I'm still in school, but it feels very rewarding to know I am working towards a better career and better life. I have a lot of experience with work in my field and I am passionate about it. My advice is to grab on strong and enjoy the ride. You will come out on top if you stick it out.

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My biggest obstacle was fear.

I am from Punta Arenas, Chile. My family is very close. At the age of 12, I moved out to chase the dream of becoming a professional athlete. Before I went to college, I was playing tennis 8 hours a day, away from my family. I was part of a selected group of young tennis players in Chile trying to become pros. Many of those kids never made it or are still trying. Others, like me, realized that college was the best way to build adult lives.

It was a big move to come from Chile to a country I had never visited, where everyone spoke a language of which I knew little. I was going away from my family once again. This time, they were very far away. My parents weren't able to afford to pay for college, so I had to rely on scholarships. Besides playing tennis and going to classes, I worked at the library at school and a language learning center. It wasn't much money, but they were about the only jobs I could get. International students aren't allowed to work off campus. I now feel a great sense of accomplishment. My college degree has opened new doors, I decided to go to grad school and continue my education. I now have a beautiful wife, a house, a job, and a happy life.

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It gives me a sense of pride to watch a patient walk out of the hospital fully recovered from an illness, knowing that I made a difference.

My parents were divorced. My stepfather had two boys, and we were all very close. I got married young and had two girls of my own. I went to college after high school, but dropped out after a year because it was too stressful having a new baby and trying to go to school. After my second daughter, I divorced and was trying to support both children and work a full-time secretarial job for $7.00 an hour. I met my current husband, Eric, at the chemical plant where I worked. He kept encouraging me to go back to school. I kept making excuses, but God sent a way. A local farmer named Harley offered me a bookkeeping job.

After about two years, I was talking to Harley about wanting to go to college for Respiratory Therapy. He offered to pay my tuition and to help me along the way. My life started to fall into place. I graduated with my Associate's Degree in Respiratory Therapy - with honors, Magna Cum Laude. Without my college degree, I would be lost. I do not know how I would have been able to support my children and provide for them. It gives me a sense of pride to watch a patient walk out of the hospital fully recovered from an illness, knowing that I made a difference.

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After three and a half years of school I withdrew because I could not decide on a major and it was overwhelming. After eight years of being out of school, God began working on my heart to go back and finish.

I was born and raised in Nashville, TN.  My family was very loving and encouraging and I was a bit spoiled.  I grew up in a wonderful neighborhood and had many friends.  We had many caring neighbors and it was a nice community.

I started college in 1998 at the age of 17, and I changed my major four different times and changed schools three times. After three and a half years of school I withdrew because I could not decide on a major and it was overwhelming. After eight years of being out of school, God began working on my heart to go back and finish. I worked with children with special needs as an educational assistant for 2 1/2 years prior to returning to school and decided I wanted to get my degree in special education. I enjoyed my job as an assistant but the pay was not enough to live on my own and take care of myself without assistance. At the age of 30, I lived at home with my parents and brother, whom I adore, but knew I wanted to make a good living and gain my independence. God spoke to my heart in many ways to go back to college. I completed my first semester back to school Spring 2011. It was challenging and empowering and I'm so thankful I made the decision to go back to school.

The biggest obstacle I faced and still do, is fear of failure or not measuring up. I was told by one of my former teachers I put too much pressure on myself and I needed to do my best and be happy with that. Another obstacle I faced is learning my worth does NOT lie in my performance and making perfect grades. Each day I ask God to help me with the fear and anxiety and He does. I do my best to take each day and assignment as it comes. Because the Lord is leading me, He constantly places people in my life to encourage me. God, my friends, family, teachers and mentors continue to encourage and support me.

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My son and I study together, I take him to classes, and he is my biggest advocate and fan. And I am his.

I was adopted by my birth mother's aunt and uncle, since my mother was only 15 when I was born. I was smart in school and very ambitious. I got a lot of awards and was accepted to a magnet school where I did fairly well. But in my senior year, I was an emotional wreck. I hid a pregnancy for 8 months until the principal told my father her suspicions. I delivered a boy. My parents decided they would care for him as I went to college.

I got an opportunity to go to Spain to study abroad. I came back, left school and started working and speaking Spanish. I was thoroughly prepared for work because of my education and training in high school and some college. I have worked since 2000, sometimes with 2 jobs and tutoring Spanish on the side to provide for myself and my son.

It is my ambition to have an MBA. I bought my house in December of 2007. I quit my job in March of 2008 and enrolled full time, hoping to stretch the savings I had and close a big real estate deal. The deal fell through, the money ran out, and I was still in school. I came across a job interpreting over the phone in Spanish. Later, I was promoted to Managing Director, but I left the company to finish my degree. I plan to pursue my Executive MBA. My son and I study together, I take him to classes, and he is my biggest advocate and fan. Today, I'm also founder of S.W.I.M. (Single Women Inspiring and Motivating). I help single mothers with employment, job skills, enrollment, education planning and networking. I plan to be accepted to either Vanderbilt University's Executive MBA program or Tennessee State University's MBA program. I see an exciting future.

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My degree gave me the confidence to step outside of the box I had placed myself in.

My family was large – six children. When I graduated high school, I took a couple of college courses, but I was not ready. It was many years later when I fully realized the importance of a college education. By this time, I had two children in middle school. As they moved through middle school and into high school, I moved through college.

Prior to obtaining my degree, I worked mostly administrative jobs. Through promotions, I eventually held a position that would normally require a degree. But I always felt that having the training of a formal education would have helped me in broader ways, especially with the intricacies of running a business, human resources, marketing, accounting and economics. I began attending night school at a nearby community college. I transferred to Ohio University, eventually graduating. I graduated with honors. I was able to step into a marketing position writing proposals for a large engineering firm – a position that required a degree. I currently serve as the Director of Member Services and Education. My degree gave me the confidence I needed to step outside of the box I had placed myself in and grow as an individual. Now as a grandmother, I enjoy the flexibility that my employer has given me to be able to work four days a week and spend that extra day with my little granddaughter.

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