5 Things I Learned On My 10-Year Path To A College Degree

by Beth DeSimone

Under no circumstances did I accept the fact it could be too late for me to become the first person in my family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the amazing place I consider home, The University of Florida.

Ten years have passed since I graduated from high school, but I’m still a student.

I'm working my way through school to fulfill the promise I made to my parents, to myself and to God.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy from the moment I started down this path, and it certainly wasn't the most traditional route.

There were times I worked three jobs at once to pay my way through school, taking only as many classes as I could afford.

I muddled my way through loss and heartbreak, but through it all, I never gave up.

Here are the ways I learned to achieve my own success:

1. Stop making excuses.

I’ve experienced plenty of moments that have left me feeling completely broken. But, my past does not define my future.

Every young adult should know it's possible to balance school with a full-time job and a (really) limited income.

My mother always told me, “Now Beth, I know God would not give my baby girl anything she couldn’t handle. I just wish he wouldn’t trust you so much.”

Everyone has been dragged through the mud at some point, but it’s what you do afterward that is so vitally important.

So, stop making excuses, and let it go.

2. Be your own cheerleader.

Boyfriends come and go. Friends get wrapped up in their own lives.

You can always count on family, but they can’t do the work for you.

You have to push and condition yourself.

It’s just like sports; it’s all about your mentality.

If you act like a winner, you have a greater chance of winning. Stop trying to prove your worth to others, and instead, realize it for yourself.

3. Find something you love, and do exactly that.

Did I mention how much I love sports? It’s not just a job to me; it's my passion.

I can’t imagine a weekend without softball or Gators football.

It’s only natural I would choose to follow my passion and make it a career.

Find your passion, and do it. Challenge yourself to become something bigger than you ever imagined, and nothing will hold you back.

This includes your college education and future career.

4. Reward the small things.

When I was a Girl Scout, we got these patches for accomplishing tasks like building a fire or meeting a new friend. I want those same patches for life.

I want a courage patch, a successful patch and even a patch for falling in love with my best friend.

Perspective is important. Remember: It all builds towards something bigger.

Don’t get so overwhelmed by the goal that you forget to take pride in what you’ve already accomplished.

5. Rely on others.

I'm not the smartest, most technologically advanced or even the best test taker, but I will have that diploma in my hand on Dec. 19, 2015 at 2 pm (not that anyone's counting).

Surrounded by a crowd of people who have been my support system through it all, I will take that long walk in my cap and gown to proudly receive my degree.

From throwing an impromptu car wash to just being there for me when I needed a shoulder to lean on, my friends became my family.

Don’t shut out the people you love.

Don’t be so proud that you can’t turn to those around you and admit you need help from time to time.

So, here I am, 10 years after high school.

I will proudly walk into my 10-year class reunion with a degree, mostly debt-free and with nothing in my way.