Choices, Decisions, and Consequences

Every choice in life we make has a consequence, either a good one or a not-so-good one. Some of those “not-so-good” ones come with the worst words to say when you look back on your life: “What If?

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I have made it my life’s mission to not have any regrets, or any What If’s in life, even though I haven’t always had good consequences of my actions. I have learned to take them in stride and use them for my future. An example of this has been my education. My choice to go to a private university in Kentucky for my undergrad had a not-so-good consequence of extreme student loan debt. My choice to move home to Illinois for grad school had a good consequence of saving money and having the support of my parents readily at hand.

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Until recently, I was considered a “traditional” student–I went to college immediately after high school, grad school immediately after that. But upon graduation with my Master’s, I had some choices to make. Do I want to continue on and get a PhD? Or do I want to start looking for a job? I chose to start working, because from the time I started Kindergarten until the day I finished my Master’s, I had been in school for 19.5 consecutive years, with only summers off (until grad school). That’s a long time to go through school, and my best friend went on to get her PhD immediately after her Master’s, so it’s amazing she hasn’t burned out yet. That’s the issue with a lot of “traditional” students these days.

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When I was little, I was obsessed with Law and Order: SVU and that show gave me the desire to be a lawyer and help people. Going through junior high and high school, I didn’t get the most stellar grades, but I was a solid A-/B+ student. In college, I started struggling a lot with my grades while working, taking an insane amount of credit hours, and being a music minor [which required a certain amount of practice hours per week], and it took me a year or so to learn time management skills, but by that point, the damage was pretty much done. However, better late than never on those skills (wait for it…). It was during my junior year of college when I realized I would never be able to get into law school. My grades were nowhere near good enough, and I’m such a horrible test taker, always have been, so I knew I couldn’t get a high enough score on the LSAT to make up for my GPA. So I had to start looking at other options.

Again, the choices I made gave me a fair amount of “not-so-good” consequences. Upon looking at my options with my major, I chose to pursue a career in Sport Psychology. In that field, I could still help people. I graduated with my Master’s Degree in Education with a specialty of Kinesiology, but I was told too late I needed a PhD. On top of that, I kind of felt like I had wasted a ton of money in student loans and I still wouldn’t be a lawyer.

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I moved to Arizona a month after getting married. We made 1 huge life choice, why not overwhelm ourselves by adding in more big decisions! We were here for about a year when I got the job with Brighton. I found, as I was going through the catalog, that they offer an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies! I could at least receive the training to kind of be a lawyer. But the downside of that? I went back to school (even though it’s online) at the age of 29. While we have students across all ages, a common theme is “I’ve been out of school for a while so I’m worried about getting back into the swing of things.” I know exactly how the students feel now, because wow, even though it’s only been a little less than 5 years since graduating with my Master’s, it’s hard to get back into the groove of studying and homework!

It’s nice that I can do it when I have time to, as opposed to having to work around a class time with a brick-and-mortar school that has set meeting times, exam dates, and less flexibility in general. What I’ve found amazing with being a non-traditional student is the knowledge I’ve gained over the years and the ability to apply it when I never thought I’d need to. Our students, like me, have {sometimes} multiple degrees that have given them a set of skills and knowledge, plus their real world experiences. In addition, our instructors are fantastic and understand that we are working individuals, with children/families and other responsibilities and sometimes we even like to sleep. So they’re flexible on submission dates and are more than happy to provide assistance as much as they can.

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While you can take online classes with us at your own pace, you are subject to a specific time frame. For instance, our Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies program has a maximum time frame of 3 years, even though if you went to a community college, you could finish it in 2. But then you have to take into account the fact that we are flexible, you don’t have to go to an actual class, you can do your homework and quizzes in yoga pants (which also happens to be how I dressed my entire senior year of college), and if something happens or you get sick or have to take a break, we offer a lot of options to help out. We help people send out resumes to get jobs. That’s not something a lot of colleges, especially online colleges, do on a regular basis.

So looking back on my life, have I made some decisions that didn’t always turn out so great for me? Absolutely. But those experiences made me the woman I am today, the hard worker I am today, and the student I am today. Without those decisions, I might never have found Brighton, and I might never have been able to get as close as possible to my dream without actually going to law school, all while helping people at the same time. While the road of life is bumpy and unpaved, the journey is worth the ride.

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