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I’m sure you read the title of this piece and rolled your eyes. “Change management? After the year we’ve had? Please don’t talk to me about managing any more change in my life!”

Coping with change is no easy task, especially when it is forced upon you. But what about when you intentionally seek out to make a change to your life, like when you chose to pursue your education? Shouldn’t that be easier? It can be, if you recognize that the decision to change (pursue your education) is just the first step. Once that decision is made, you will find change easier to embrace if you follow these tips…

Know your goal and clearly define it. Why did you go back to school? Was it to complete your degree for a promotion at work? Was it to get a teaching certification so that you could change careers to one you love? Whatever your goal, define it and work toward it.

Cindy Miller
Cindy Miller, director, Columbia College Region C2 and Kansas City

What about speed to degree? There is no rule that states you have to complete your degree at full speed. If you have other circumstances that limit your ability to take a full load of coursework, that is okay! You have to find the pace that works for you and your family. In fact, be flexible and adjust your journey when needed (speed up or slow down as your life changes).

That being said… you MUST sustain a sense of urgency. Your academic path will not get you to your goal if you take one class every year. Defining your estimated degree completion date is as important as defining your educational goal.

While the ultimate objective of getting your degree or certification is important, take time to pat yourself on the back for small victories. Did you pass your first exam? Celebrate! Did you login and complete your online homework on time this week? Celebrate! Did you finish your chapter reading before class? Celebrate!

Enlist cheerleaders in your life for inspiration and motivation to quell the naysayers who say you can’t achieve your goal because you are too old, too busy, or too poor. Prepare for external resistance by bolstering your “posse” of supporters. This also means to ask for help when you need it – ask your academic advisor, instructor, classmates for assistance when you are stumped. Ask your family and friends to step in with outside obligations if you feel overwhelmed.

Know that the journey will be uncomfortable at times – you will get frustrated, tired, and disillusioned, but powering through those rough times will make you stronger and more self-confident. Talk to our alumni – there isn’t one who will say they didn’t have at least one setback as they worked toward their degree. Persistence in the face of failure is what helped them succeed.

Change is hard. Change is messy. Change is scary. But we must continue to do it because we know it is often the best thing we can do to improve our lives. Stay the course.