Sobriety opens up doors for previously missed opportunities and allows a second chance to accomplish former and new goals. For many, this involves returning to or starting college. No matter your age, you can always pick up where you left off in school or to begin a path toward a college degree. This is a commendable and highly attainable goal to set for personal and professional development.
Follow these tips if you are considering school as an option:
Think about careers, degrees or both. Maybe you want to go to college to become a therapist or to earn a Bachelor’s Degree so that you can attend grad school on the East Coast. If your education is to advance your career, you may know right away what you want to go to school for. If you don’t know what your major should be but you’re ready to get the ball rolling, start in a general studies program and narrow it down as you discover what you love most. Community colleges like Santa Monica College and Pierce College offer many non-traditional paths to completing a Bachelor’s Degree.
Ask for help. You are not expected to plot out your courses and path of study by yourself. Navigating general course requirements to apply to a UC or Cal State college can be confusing and overwhelming. You may need to cross-reference or ask more than one source. But don’t let this stop you! Getting help on your path is easy and usually free unless you visit a private counselor. Make an appointment at school to see a counselor for a plan of action in applications, course selection and extracurricular activities.
Apply for financial aid. There are scholarships for every field of study and for students from all backgrounds. Apply for as many as you can – you may wind up earning several smaller scholarships for $500 here and there that will add up to saving you plenty toward tuition and books. The financial aid office at school will have lists and resources for tons of options you can apply for. If you are a recipient of any scholarship, this is also a great accomplishment to be proud of and include in applications for 4-year universities and graduate school.
Don’t compare and despair. There is no single path toward a degree or certificate in any field of study. It’s easy to feel that you should be at a certain place by a certain age, or to be intimidated to begin because you feel like that ship may have sailed. Your path is yours and isn’t meant to be the same as what others around you have done. You have a chance to make anything you want happen now that you have the tools to stay sober. Make the most of it and don’t worry about what others have done or what you haven’t done yet. You have the power to make it happen. Remember, everybody else in your classroom is there for the same reason: taking a step to achieve a longer-term goal.
Remember what you want. You aren’t being forced to go to school anymore like your high school days. This is your choice to achieve something you were previously unable to. The longer you stay sober, the easier it becomes to act in delayed gratification. Keep your mind open and remember – even when you have assignments you don’t love or are in a less interesting class to fulfill a requirement, there are great things in store if you persist. You will learn so much and gain the most from this experience by working hard. Be proud of yourself when you improve, when you study and get a good grade back or when you complete a course. If it becomes difficult, your school has endless resources to offer from tutors to study groups and office hours with your professor.
Be your own person. That means you also can make a college experience your own.
You don’t have to choose a dorm and a roommate anymore, you don’t have to feel pressured into living a college lifestyle that can often involve heavy drinking and parties. You can skip the frat houses and hazing. You’re there for a different purpose now and aren’t at school just because it is the next assumed step. You created this step and it’s yours to define. Without the pressure to fit in, you wind up meeting incredible people who share your interests and don’t have to identify with a group at school.
Continuing your education in recovery is a big step and a commitment that leads to great rewards and is fun to do. Don’t feel pressured to start this path until you’re ready, but remember you can go at your own pace!