Online Student Stories: How I Got My Bachelor's Degree 35 Years After Graduating From High School

Sonya Krakoff

As non-traditional learners, all of us have a story of what it took for us to get to graduation, whether you were working one or more jobs, caring for a family member, struggling financially, dealing with health issues, raising a family, or all of the above. We all overcame these challenges while furthering our education.


Going Back to School As an Adult

I’m attaining my bachelor’s 35 years after graduating high school, and the path I took to get here was challenging. I come from a family of college graduates, but I didn't think it was the right choice for me. During my high school years, while all my classmates were planning their futures and combing through college acceptance letters, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. I dabbled with college in the mid- to late 90s, while working a full-time job. However, a few weeks into my first semester, I had an accident that resulted in me eventually dropping out.

A few years later, another series of events impacted my life journey: 9/11 happened, and a few weeks later, my grandmother passed away. These two events lit a fire of strength and determination in me that no words can describe. This fire helped me gain clarity into what I wanted to do with my life, and I decided that I wanted to serve my country. In May 2002, I found my calling working for the federal government.

Fast forward almost fifteen years. Having built a meaningful career in public service, I knew it was time to finish what I'd started, and I made the huge decision to go back to college.

Support at Every Step of the Journey: My Champlain College Online Experience

I applied to Champlain College Online, and on August 24, 2016, I received an acceptance email.

Although I assume the email I received is probably the same one that all prospective students are sent, something in that message touched me deeply. It read: “You have been accepted to the online business management bachelor's degree program at Champlain College. We believe you have the drive and skills necessary to be successful in an online learning environment, and you'll make a positive contribution to the Champlain community."

Those two sentences may seem trivial to some, but they meant more to me than Champlain College may have realized. I can attest to the fact that Champlain stayed true to their word. They believed in me and supported me throughout my collegiate journey,  and further fueled my efforts of being my best self, respecting others, and just being a better human being. 

I found Champlain’s instructors and advisors to be extraordinary human beings who were with me every step of the way. They pushed me to reach my full potential, and helped me discover strengths I wasn't even aware of by challenging me to move beyond my comfort zone.

Overcoming the Challenges of Going Back to School as a Non-Traditional Learner

I’ll be honest: I didn’t know if I’d be able to pull it off. I’m not going to sugarcoat the struggles I’ve had. Balancing college with real life was so hard - there were times when the stress of my job and the heavy course loads felt like more than I could handle. I put so much time and effort into every assignment, test, and quiz, and my husband wouldn’t hesitate to tell you that I was an “overachiever by a long shot.”

I hung in there through all of the challenges I faced, and never lost sight of the prize. Looking back, I feel a little embarrassed that it took so long for me to finally get it - for me to finally realize what I wanted to be "when I grow up” and then to continue my education. But I know that in the end, it's okay, because it’s part of my story. 

Many of us probably feel as if we’ve climbed a mountain. Many of us may have had struggles. Many of us may have had our moments. Many of us may have gotten to a point when we nearly gave up. The anxiety around classwork, the stresses of balancing life and school, and the questioning of whether our decision to further our education was just plain nuts - it was a lot to overcome. But you know what? It’s all part of our story. 

You made it. I made it. We all made it. Now, it’s time to create more stories. 

About the Author

Sonya Krakoff

Senior Content Marketing Specialist

Sonya Krakoff is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist at Champlain College Online, where she is the voice behind the CCO blog and helps tell the school's story across multiple digital platforms. Sonya has extensive experience in writing, content marketing, and editing for mission-driven businesses and non-profit organizations, and holds a bachelor's degree in English (with a focus on creative writing) from St. Lawrence University.