How to find the courage to go back to college | Ask Kelly

Four female students look at a paper

Dear Kelly,

My daughter is a Mercer University student. I have been working in my job for 24 years but have always wanted to go back to school. I read your article last week and want to apply, but I’m scared I just won’t succeed. What would be your advice to help me find the courage to finally try to accomplish this goal?

Let me begin by saying that you already took the first step: you stated what your goal is. You want to go back to school. Write that goal down and take time to ponder it. Visualize what you would gain by putting forth the effort to accomplish this goal. 

Just by attempting to accomplish this goal, you will discover that you have the ability to change your stars. This is a phrase I adopted a few years ago after watching the movie, “A Knight’s Tale,” and it basically refers to the fact that our futures are not written in permanent ink; they can be changed. We, as individuals, have the ability to determine the direction our future goes in. 

A few years ago, I felt like I was in a rut, and I needed to change my stars. It took a lot of courage and a long talk with myself in the mirror. If I wanted things to be different, I had to take the steps necessary to change things. I was nervous, and I wondered if I would prevail. But the truth is, a runner can’t win a race if they don’t sign up and compete.

In contrast, by allowing yourself to fear whether or not you will succeed, you deny yourself the chance to be successful. 

Stop telling yourself what you can’t do, and begin reminding yourself what you are capable of.

One of my mentors, Jamie Brown, who is the assistant director of center operations at Mercer’s Regional Academic Centers, once shared a quote with me that has truly changed the way I handle a challenge: “Always say yes, and then figure out how to accomplish it.”

Adopting this quote has opened up a world of opportunity to me that I never could’ve imagined. My journey changes on a daily basis, and there are no limits to what my future may hold. Sometimes, honestly, I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe that I am in the place I am in, based solely on finally saying, “Yes,” and making the choice to stop denying myself of future opportunities.

The truth is, going back to school and being successful simply relies on your determination to succeed. As a student, I haven’t always had the answer and have, from time to time, needed additional help to learn new concepts. What I have discovered, however, is that all of my professors have been more than willing to help me when those situations arise. Plus, Mercer students have access to tutoring through the Academic Resource Center, and the Online Writing Lab provides amazing feedback and guidance when writing papers.

Additionally, as a working adult student, classes are more intimate. Everyone in your class shares a common goal, and you will find that we all support one another. You will develop friendships throughout your classes. You will help each other, encourage each other and celebrate victories with one another.

The other advantage of being a working adult student is that classes are scheduled in the evening, and each class is only one night a week. Furthermore, most classes only last eight weeks, rather than 16.

Your goal, which you stated you have always had, is much closer than you think. You just have to finally say, “Yes,” and click on the following link: This will take you to the Working Adults Undergraduate Admissions page. There, you will be able to browse the programs that are available, request information or schedule a visit. 

You have the ability to change your stars and make your goal a reality. You can do this, and as a Mercerian, I can promise that you will have a team of cheerleaders along the way. 

Good luck to you! As always, I wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journey!

Do you have a question about distance learning or coping with school in these challenging times? Each week Kelly Browning, an early childhood education/special education major 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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