You may have images of what a grandmother looks like. Maybe there is a vision of rocking chairs, apple pies and fresh-baked cookies. Not so. I am here to inform you this is false. Today women over 50 are not taking retirement lightly, or curling up in a ball—they are renewing a new chapter in life. So can you!
Women are going back to college in droves, to expand their horizons, and achieve their dreams. This is backed by statistics. Researchers found that students over 35 made up 17 percent of college students and graduate students in 2009, NBC reported. By 2020, it is expected to rise by 19 percent. There are various reasons for this such as layoffs, and older students are looking to sharpen their skills to start a second career.
Meet Liberty University grad Barbara Conner, who majored in psychology, and graduated in 2015. As a life coach, Conner decided the time was right to get her degree. She kept it a secret from many, until her name was called to collect her diploma. She didn't want to take the thunder away from her granddaughter graduating at the same time!
Not only that, but this articulate woman defies the odds of what roles women play in society after their kids grow up. Let this be a reminder to all to never give up on your dreams.
BN: Why did you return to school?
BC: It seemed like the perfect time! Our daughter, son-in-law, and “Grand Adults” were all working on their degrees at the time. Since I had always wanted to complete my degree, I asked myself the questions: “why not?” and “why not now?”
BN: What did you study and how were you led to Liberty?
BC: My major is in psychology with a Life Coaching cognate. Since I was already passionate about being a life and business coach, and was (and still am) certified in that field, pursuing my degree in Life Coaching seemed to be the natural choice. Also, as a coach, positive psychology is a natural fit when working with clients who want to achieve their dreams. I have always been open to learning more and applying those learnings to my life and my business. I was led to Liberty when my granddaughter chose Liberty University out of high school--she quickly fell in love with the campus and the programs being offered. At that time I was very impressed with the Liberty campus and also the people who were so polite and respectful.
BN: What would you say to others who feel they are too old to live their dreams?
BC: This answer comes from my personal and professional experience: If you think you are too old to go back to school and learn, I would ask that you reconsider that mindset. Life is too short not to follow ones dreams. My dream began when I was 18 and asked my mom about attending college. The answer I got at the time was that there is “no reason for me to go to college” because I would just get married and have babies. Well…I did get married that year, and had a baby one year later and then another baby. So, my mom was right about that piece. But, I always had that inner inkling about attending college. For many years, I remained the supportive wife and nurturing mother. In the 1970’s, I decided to take a few courses, and did get my associate degree at a community college when my children were teenagers. But then, life got really busy. Years later, when I stumbled upon an internet coach training program that I enjoyed, the passion for pursuing my degree completion began to come back into focus. Having a very supportive husband who encouraged me to “go for it” and a generous military discount provided by LU were deciding factors.
BN: What was the driving force of your college journey to keep going?
BC: The driving force? Everything came into alignment at the right moment! Liberty University holds to Christian values that I embrace as a follower of Jesus Christ. The ability to work online to complete my degree was attractive, and I was willing to work hard to achieve my goals. Plus, my instructors and fellow students helped to create connectivity so important to growth. Importantly, there is a lot of prayer support that goes on when one attends Liberty, whether a residential student or an online student. I graduated Summa Cum Laude, so you could say that I surpassed my original goal. Last, but not least, my husband has always supported me in everything I do, and that makes all the difference in the world!
BN: How has going back to college changed your life?
BC: Going back to college was exciting and scary at the same time. At first, I wasn’t sure I could do it! Initially, that is why I did not let anyone besides my husband know about my decision to attend. Then, when I realized I could do it, I still kept it a secret because I wanted the focus to be on others in my family who were working on their degrees. I felt it was “their” time. Plus, degree completion was a personal goal…mine! As graduation neared and I realized that I was eligible to graduate (at the same time my granddaughter was graduating (same day, same time, same university), I felt like I needed to tell her. So, three weeks before graduation, we Skyped and I broke the news. I didn’t want to take attention away from her achievements and her special day, so breaking the news to her really made me nervous. I needed to see her face-to-face to get her full reaction to the news. To my overwhelming surprise, she was elated! Our graduation was an amazing time shared!
Oh yes…no one else in the family knew until they saw both of us on the processional field in regalia. What a day! Today, I have my treasured diploma hanging on my office wall and a beautiful military spouse challenge coin awarded by Liberty University that remind me of a great decision made and an achievement for which I am very proud. From the business perspective, I am applying positive psychology in a more effective way to best support my clients. What an amazing journey!