A President's Reflections

A student letter

Posted on January 27, 2015

I receive a lot of student communications, but I was struck by this one in particular.  It captures so much of the reality of non-traditional students screwing up their courage and confidence to return to study.  It also captures the way we do admissions — focused on students, understanding their goals, support without pressure, and taking the time to make sure they have all they need to go forward.  As I often say, the major issues facing non-traditional learners are rarely academic.  Sure, they often come needing to work on ther academic skills (isn’t that our job?), but they often come simply needing the reassurance that they can indeed be successful if they put in enough time and hard work.  And they know if they are willing to give it their all, we are too.

I’ve changed the names below to ensure confidentiality.

There are moments in everyone’s life that will forever be etched in that person’s memory. The birth of a child, a marriage or a death, or anything that is life changing, are all things that stay with you forever. Sometimes it’s dramatic, sometimes it’s as simple as someone being kind and paying for something when you were a dollar short. I had been thinking about returning to school for many years but because of my job I really had no way to attend a physical campus. I began looking at online education and in the past several years it has advanced quite a bit. I looked at CTU, ASU, Univ of Phoenix and the list goes on, traditional universities with online degrees as well as for profit schools. Always in the back of my mind was, “Will this really be worth it?”

Then I came across SNHU, saw the commercials, looked at reviews, read what other students had said and decided to make the call. I spoke with a very energetic, enthusiastic and motivated woman whose words and advice, but most importantly her focus and attention to me, finally pushed me to make the decision. I asked her about everything, what SNHU was like, the types of students, the instructors, my program, and transferring existing college credits. She is actually attending graduate courses herself and that was a huge deal for me. Someone who is not only promoting the school, but actually attending says a lot. She advised me that for my first online term I should only take one class. That would best allow me to get used to how online education works, would let me explore and navigate the system without impacting my course study. Her focus and attitude was all about getting me comfortable with SNHU, letting me know the resources at hand from advisors, financial, library and technical resources, to being able to call her anytime I had an issue and that she would try to help resolve. She answered all my questions. When she didn’t know full details, she got me in contact with someone who did. And she always followed up with everything she said she would. Not once did she ever pressure me into attending, she only always spoke of how finishing up my degree, along with my experience and work history, would serve to enhance my future opportunities.

So for me, Sally was the one that helped me make a life altering decision. She was able to make me feel comfortable and safe in making this choice. An investment in yourself is never a bad thing, but when you eventually have to pay for it, making the decision to commit mentally, physically, and financially is a huge step. Everyone there at SNHU makes me feel like I’m the focus, even though it’s all students SNHU focuses on. It still feels good to have a team behind your efforts. While I would like to nominate another advisor, Tom Smith, Sally is the one who got me started. You need to start somewhere, you need to make that first step, and when everything in your gut is saying do it, sometimes we hesitate because we just aren’t sure enough. Sally made me feel sure enough, safe enough, confident enough, and informed enough that I had nothing to lose by trying, so I did. That initial advising, about courses, resources, help and people, was a lot, but everything else about her put a human touch to my conversations with her; it wasn’t scripted, it wasn’t rushed and there was no pressure.

It seems like such a simple thing, going back to school. But when life is happening, it’s not always so easy. Sally is smart, energetic, enthusiastic, funny, motivated, and encouraging, but the most important thing about her is she listens. She listened to my concerns, my fears, the hopes and dreams I have for myself, without criticism or judgment. What happens from here on out is my responsibility, but Sally will always be etched in my memory as the person who helped start my new life’s journey.

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