If you are like me, the thought of going back to school is completely overwhelming. But I am here to tell you that it is possible and you can succeed.
I graduated undergrad in 1998, worked for six years and then my husband (who is active duty Navy) and I decided to start a family. For reasons that worked best for our family, I stayed home for 12 years with our children. Around 2014, during a particularly challenging sea tour, I started a Master’s program online; I needed an outlet and something for myself.
However, I quickly figured out online school was not for me. Finding time for class wasn’t the problem. I missed the interaction with fellow students and listening to lectures. In the winter of 2016, when we found out we were heading to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., I started thinking about applying to a traditional in-person school. For the first time in six years, my husband would be on shore duty and maybe, just maybe, it would be possible for me to attend school in person at night! I looked into schools in the area and applied to George Mason University.
I was accepted into GMU and was excited and nervous all at the same time. Would I be up for the challenge? Would I feel out of place because I was older than most of the students? Could I balance family and class?
Fast forward two years and I just graduated with a Master’s of Public Policy! I am not going to lie: there were times that I wanted to quit. There were nights when my husband would call just as I was about to leave for class and tell me he wouldn’t be home on time, but we military spouses have amazing support systems and I “phoned a friend” and worked it out. Leaving my kids at night was the hardest part because I had always been the one to put them to bed. But we all gained something from this experience. My kids would have taco Tuesday and mac-and-cheese Thursday with Daddy, and he read the bedtime stories. My oldest, who is 13, really stepped up to help, which filled me with pride.
I gained such a personal satisfaction going back to school. I always wanted a Master’s Degree; to me, it was a huge feeling of accomplishment. My middle son asked me often why I wanted to go back, and all I could say was that it was important to me. I hope through this process I instilled in my children it is never too late to follow a dream and hard work pays off.
So, what’s next? I am not sure. I work for the National Military Family Association part time and plan to continue to do so. At this point in my life I am looking for a job that fits into my family life and where I can feel like I am contributing to a greater good. I want to know that my time is going to a cause I believe in.
If you are thinking of going back to school, whether undergraduate, graduate or just to further professional development, I would say go for it! There are many different education pathways out there and you can find one that fits your personality and needs. Whatever you choose, you’ll have plenty of people in your corner, rooting for you–even NMFA (hello, military spouse scholarships)!
Have you gone back to school? How did you overcome the challenges you faced? Share your experience with us in the comments!