Your Perfect Time for College? Try Now!

You want a degree and you have waited for the right time to get started. Supporting your spouse’s military career, raising children, a move on the horizon – it’s easy to postpone your goals when you’re taking care of others.  When will it be your turn?

Now can be your perfect time for college, if you commit to these ten steps to find the success you desire.

1. Make a commitment to yourself - then write it out.

It may seem silly or superfluous, but put your promise to yourself on paper. Sign it, date it, and put it with important documents. There is enormous power in being intentional about any endeavor you undertake.

2. Be realistic about the demands of an education.

Earning a degree will take time and effort – if it didn’t, everyone would be doing it. Not everyone has the tenacity needed to sustain a long-term goal. The demands of being a military spouse add to the need to be focused. Earning a degree requires persistence and work. For me, it took a long 4 years to earn my master's because my husband was often on TDY and my kids were toddlers.

3.  Create the space you need – both mentally and physically.

There is no perfect time for college. When you add something new, you will need to take something off your plate. Be kind to yourself by making room in your life for school. In addition to schedule space, you’ll need physical space dedicated to meeting your academic goals – a table, room, even a traveling file box you can grab and take to a library or coffee shop if you need to get out of the house. Create space so school will become integrated into your life.

(Find more tips for arranging your family life to suit your education here.)

4. Secure real support.

Identify those who will cheer you on, celebrate your victories, and encourage you when the routine of school leaves you fatigued. This can be your family, classmates or a student group, a best friend, or a close sibling.

5. Delight in demand.

Going to school will push you intellectually and requires you to hone old skills and acquire new ones. Your writing will become stronger, thoughts deeper, and ideas more multi-faceted. Find delight in these changes you see in yourself. There is unmatched satisfaction in noticing personal growth.

6. Picture yourself graduating.

Images are powerful motivators, so create a picture of yourself in cap and gown. Ask one of your children to do this as a great way to support you. Place that in your workspace to keep your final goal front and center.

7.  Learn self-discipline--it is never too late!

We all have a self-discipline muscle; the more it’s used, the stronger it becomes. Self-discipline will be key to achieving your goal.

8.  Seek balance.

All work and no play is not a sustainable routine, so remember to have fun in life. Balance will keep you happier, more centered, and more able to go the distance. Sometimes you need to walk away from textbooks and enjoy a sunset, your family, or a weekend camping with friends.

9. Set a timeline that works for you.

No two people have the same set of circumstances. Reflect on your circumstances, decide what you need, and figure out a plan that’s workable for you.

10. Jump in! Action is empowering!

Earning a degree is within reach. Make this the perfect time for college by approaching the goal like your personal mission and you will succeed.

Kim Bessolo, a former military spouse of 20 years, has taught first year students at APUS since 2004. She holds a Master’s in Education, a graduate certificate in online teaching, and participates in university initiatives related to her field whenever possible.

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