College is taking longer than I thought. Should I give up? | Ask Kelly

A decorated graduation cap reads: I was this close to dropping out

Dear Kelly,

I was recently told that while I thought I was beginning my senior year and would finish in May, I actually have three more semesters before I will graduate. This was a shock. I need to find the motivation to keep going because, to be honest, I feel like I want to give up. Do you have any advice that might help motivate me?

Friend, this isn’t only advice. I’m going to challenge you to fight for your future! I’ll start out by saying, I get it. You had things all planned out. As you were finishing spring semester, I bet you were thinking, “This time next year, I’ll be graduating.” I completely understand, and while I am not aware of why there was a discrepancy between when you thought you would graduate and when you actually will graduate, I want to challenge you to change your frame of thought.

Rather than telling yourself that you have to stay in school longer than you thought and beating yourself up over it, I want you to go back to the moment when you decided to earn a degree. What was that moment like? The truth is, we’ve all experienced that very moment when you consciously decide to enroll in college. You’re anxious but excited and optimistic. You purposefully filled out those applications with the thoughts of future successes and achievements. You knew school would be a challenge, and you welcomed it. You were elated when you got accepted and were there at orientation, taking notes and making sure you had everything you needed for your first day.

Take a moment, seriously, and ponder on those memories. How did you feel? What inspired you? What were your hopes and goals? What did you aspire to do after you finished your degree program? Do you have it in your head? Can you recall your emotions and hope for the future?

Now, with those memories in mind, examine your thoughts about dropping out. What would that person back then say to you now? School is rigorous, and, to be completely transparent, you want it to be. We build who we are by meeting challenges head on and figuring out a way to conquer them. What will you have to gain by quitting? Sure, you won’t have to worry about assignments, papers, or exams, but will you be where you truly wanted to be? Now, what will you have to gain by forging ahead, putting in your absolute best effort, going that extra semester and finishing victoriously?

When I say I understand, I really do. I was nearly a complete disaster the first time I tried college and ended up dropping out during my sophomore year. A couple of years later I re-enrolled, but eventually it got too hard. I was juggling a lot of things, and with just one year left, I dropped out again. Both of those attempts were in my 20s. It took me over two decades to gather up the courage to go for round three, and while my determination and commitment to succeed has carried me through, I keep thinking, “What if I had just kept going?” Here I am, at 48, and I just graduated, and my career has just begun. While I am phenomenally proud of my accomplishments, it’s always in the back of my head: “Where would I be if I hadn’t quit?”

You, in the last three years of going to school, have proven to yourself that you have what it takes to succeed. You are almost there. Although the completion of your program may be taking a bit longer than expected, don’t forget you are about to complete a goal that you set for yourself, one that you persistently labored to achieve. When you walk across that stage with a sense of accomplishment and pride as you are handed that degree, you will know that despite hurdles, you were triumphant in finishing the race.

So I challenge you to have some one-on-one time with yourself, dig deep, find your strength and determination, and fight for the future goals that you set for yourself. I promise, you will be glad you did.

As always, I wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journey.

Kelly Browning, a master’s student and student ambassador at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.


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