Help! I enrolled in college, but now I’m not sure I have what it takes | Ask Kelly

graduate holds degree
A Class of 2023 graduate shows off her degree at the Atlanta commencement. Photo by Paula Heller

Dear Kelly,

What is your advice to keep going even though you think you’re not ready for this? I enrolled in college because I always had a dream of earning my degree, but my first semester just ended, and I just don’t know if I have what it takes. I don’t want to give up, but this is really harder than I thought it would be.

I am so glad you wrote to me because in your question not only can I hear your fears, but I also hear your desires. The first thing I want you to do is go back and read what you wrote as if someone you truly care about wrote it to you. I’ll give you a moment to go back, read and reflect.

Now, my reply. I encourage you to change your way of thinking. A dream, as Cinderella taught us, is “a wish your heart makes.” Enrolling in any degree program isn’t a wish; it’s something you truly want to accomplish. That is called a goal. A goal, in contrast to a dream, is something you play an active role in. Dreams just happen. Goals happen because we work, sacrifice and persist.

Next, I want to share something that I say several times a day to many students, and, quite honestly, to myself: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” You didn’t enroll at Mercer University to one day walk across a stage as the same person you were when you started. You want to rise above what you think is possible. You want to become an even better version of yourself, someone who knows regardless of challenges, you can accomplish anything you put your heart and soul into. Every ounce of who you are was formed through learning and overcoming obstacles. We either become who we are because of people in our life who guided us or because of the challenges we faced and conquered.

At the new student orientations for Mercer’s working adult students, Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management Theo Anderson always asks this question, “Why did Mercer choose you?” Ponder that. Did Mercer just pick you at random out of a stack of applicants, or did we see your accomplishments and potential? Mercer chose you because we saw you for the spectacular individual that you are and for the person who you can become based on your past accomplishments.

Recently, I was honored to attend commencement for our working adult students. In the arena, I sat in the second row in the section that was directly facing the graduates as they came across the stage. I didn’t see one individual who skated across that stage as if getting a degree was easy.

Rather, I saw graduates, each one with a smile that went from ear to ear, head held high, shoulders back and walking tall. They knew they weren’t given that degree; they earned it.

Each one of their faces said, “I did this. I accomplished this despite the challenges. I accomplished this although I faced great adversity, family situations, work responsibilities, or even hardships that had nothing to do with anyone or anything else. I did this. I did this despite long nights of studying, countless hours in the library researching, and professors who challenged me beyond what I felt I could ever accomplish. I did this although there were group projects where partners didn’t pull their weight, and in many classes I had no idea I could perform the way I did. I did this despite family members who said I couldn’t do it, friends who said I wouldn’t do it, and coworkers who said I shouldn’t do it because there was no way I could juggle the responsibilities. I did this!”

That’s what I saw walking across that stage.

Reaching this goal isn’t going to be easy. There are going to be moments when you sit back and wonder, “What was I thinking?” But I promise, if you fight through that negative self-talk and push forward, there will come a time when you walk across that same stage with your head held just as high, knowing that you did this. It was not given to you.

You do not want a degree that is given to you; those are not worth the paper they are written on. Any degree worth its weight has challenges and self-doubt followed by determination and fight behind it. Use the resources that are available to you, such as free tutoring offered both face-to-face and online through the Academic Resource Center. Contact your professors; let them know when you are struggling and don’t understand. Ask for their advice. They may not choose to guide you through the process because they know that you can learn this; however, they will encourage you to lean on other resources, such as classmates, tutoring and the library. Your professors will encourage you to find a way to figure this out because that is part of you reaching your goals.

You can do this. Show yourself that in the face of adversity, you can find a way to be successful. Never forget that you earned your acceptance to Mercer based on your past accomplishments and who you are. Now, lean into your own potential.

As always, I wish you health, happiness and success throughout your journey. You’ve got this!

Kelly Browning, student success coordinator 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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