March On - Becoming Resilient in the Face of Challenges

Alisa Affleck

My name is Alisa Affleck, and I am a mentor in the Secondary Science program. I have experienced WGU as a faculty member, as a student, and as the spouse of a student. WGU is a marvelous and innovative institution, and I'm grateful to be a participant in bringing about our shared mission.

When I meet with new students, I make them all a promise. Life is not going to politely accommodate their return to school. The grass will still need trimming, the car will still break down, children will become ill, work schedules will certainly be busy and unexpected tragedies might even occur. At times they may find school challenging and believe they cannot be successful with all the distractions and problems in their complex lives.

In addition to stating this difficult reality, I also share some wonderful news with new students! In spite of opposition, every day I see students thrive and realize their dreams of completing a degree. What is the key to their success? They are resilient, even when circumstances are tough.

Do you want to become more resilient? Follow some advice:

  1. When unexpected challenges arise, modify your school schedule, but don't abandon it. If you lost your three hour study block, because you had to fix a leaky pipe, put the kids down early and still get an hour in before bed. Avoid the trap of regularly excusing yourself from your academic responsibilities, just because some work, health or family challenge is present. Challenges will always be present.

  2. Make sacrifices. During your schooling years, eliminate non-essentials. Disconnect the T.V., delete social media accounts, limit extracurricular activities and community involvement, and even set some boundaries with extended family and friends. Remember, it is temporary. Those things will all be there waiting for you after you've earned your degree. Twenty hours a week to study will not magically appear. Some things have got to go.

  3. Recognize the value of mastering something hard. Don't fall into, "When am I ever going to use this?" when content becomes difficult. Remember, there is value in disciplining your mind and completing something hard, even if that content doesn't appear to be directly applicable to your chosen career path. A degree is valuable in the workplace because employers know every college graduate has demonstrated the ability to persevere, even when they don't feel like it or when it isn't easy.

Remember, time will pass whether or not you choose to pursue a degree. The perfect opportunity and circumstance will probably not come. You might as well buckle down, learn to be resilient, and do it now.

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