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Student Success: Advice from Current and Past Students

student graduating

When it comes to the idea of college student success, the definition can be very different depending on who you are, where you are at in life and what you want to accomplish. No matter what path you are on or what student success may look like to you, there are many resources available to help you achieve your goals.

Maybe you want to be the first one in your family to graduate with a college degree. Or maybe you are going back to finish your degree after your education got interrupted years ago. You might be a working professional looking to gain new knowledge to stay relevant in your field — or to position yourself for a promotion. Maybe you want to learn about something entirely new so you can change careers. Or perhaps you’re a recent high school graduate who wants to try a few college courses to help you figure out what you want to study and what kind of career you want to have.

Whoever you are and whatever your life goals may be, learning new things, gaining new knowledge and expanding your horizons by pursuing your college education will always be a positive step in the right direction.

With all of this in mind, we have gathered some student success advice and tips from UMass Lowell students who have worked hard, persevered, and succeeded in their efforts to pursue a degree — no matter how long it may have taken or how many challenges they may have faced along the way.

Be Open to Different Academic Interests and Pathways

Student success at UMass Lowell“My journey has definitely been an interesting one. I got out of high school thinking I was going to go for one thing, I had one degree in mind, and I kind of switched it along the way. When you start college, you’re so excited for it. And over those long four years, there’s so many changes, and so many things happen. Taking classes allowed me to grow so much and find out what my real interests were. Over time, I found out I really enjoyed my English classes — they were what I looked forward to the most — so that’s why I ended up pursuing an English degree.”

—Alyson Desmarais, B.A. in English

Give Yourself the Opportunity to Succeed

“My career has been pretty set thus far but earning this degree will give me more freedom to have a professional career. Without a degree, it’s possible but there is no mobility. Now, I’ll feel more comfortable applying for jobs I wouldn’t normally apply for and taking a step up in a way I never have before.”

—Jason McGuide, B.L.A., Economics and Political Science

secrets to college student successLearn from Your Mistakes and Move Forward

“It’s been a roller coaster since I came out of high school a while ago, going through classes, changing majors, starting all over again. I spent a year doing criminal justice but it wasn’t for me, so I changed majors and started again. When it comes to college, you might fail or retake some classes but you learn from your mistakes, and you keep getting better and better. Then from there, you move forward and you finish what you started.”

—Jesus Berdecia, B.S. in Information Technology

Don’t Be Afraid of Technology

“I got my undergraduate degree in 2005, so doing classwork online . . . I’m not really from the computer generation, necessarily . . . so I was trying to figure out if I could do this online stuff. Before this program, I had no idea how it was possible without the one-on-one interaction. Honestly though, it felt like we were in a classroom. The professors I had were wonderful, the program was great and there were so many people from so many different places that I got to have dialogs with because of the way that the program was set up. ”

—Jamila Gales, M.A. in Criminal Justice

It’s Never Too Late

“I had my daughter when I was 20, so I didn’t finish college. Now that she’s older, I had time to go back to school and get my degree like I always wanted to. In a way, I’m trying to be a good role model because she will be going to college soon. Going back to school to get my degree was worth it. It gave me knowledge I didn’t have before, as well as a lot of confidence.”

—Tuyetanh Vu, B.S. in Information Technology

Making a Career Change Is Possible

college can help you change careers“I was somebody who came from a different background — I was a music major and a musician. Then I went to X-ray school, and after that I switched into health care and IT. The X-ray background kind of showed me . . . all the software and all the data that goes into storing X-rays and supporting the clinical decisions. So I started focusing towards the software and the application side, and then I found this program at UMass Lowell. It has really put that check mark on health informatics and health data for me, and it’s made me feel like I’ve caught up to my peers and that I’m really part of the industry now.”

—Andrew Horn, M.S. in HIM

college success is rewardingGive Yourself the Credit You Deserve

“Attending graduation was really exciting. I felt proud of myself. Going through the program and acquiring new skills made me feel more complete as an individual, and as a professional. It was a lot of effort, though, definitely, so it’s nice to get that reward at the end. You sacrifice a lot: your weekends, your time with your family — and I’m full-time employee, too, and a mom. So it was a lot to juggle. Getting to the end . . . getting it done and getting the recognition for it . . . is very rewarding.”

—Maria Lucena, A.S. in Information Technology

student success requires persistenceBe Persistent and Set an Example

“I took a non-traditional path into college. I started working in the industry and eventually realized that I couldn’t go any further without a college degree. So I enrolled in classes at a local community college, and then moved to UMass Lowell because the evening engineering programs worked well with my busy schedule.

It took me seven years altogether, and my family has supported me the entire time. My kids don’t even remember a time when I wasn’t doing night school. My wife, Jennifer, had the idea that it would be good for them to see me graduate so they can see the completion and have that image in their minds when they grow up and, hopefully, go to college themselves.”

—Bill Johnson, B.S. in Mechanical Engineering Technology

student success requires courageBe Courageous

“I always knew I wanted to go to college and earn my bachelor’s degree, but that wasn’t an option for me when I was growing up in Kenya. You get that chance here in the United States, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity. My advice to other adults thinking about earning their degree later in life is to believe in yourself, know what you want and have the courage to go for it.”

—Aidah Wanjiku, B.S. in Business Administration

Get Inspired

“By awarding me the Jack Wilson Scholarship, you have lightened my financial burden, allowing me to focus more on the most important aspect of school: learning. The ability to focus on school gives me the ability to learn more and apply it to the work I do every day. Your generosity has inspired me to continue helping others and giving back to my community. I hope one day I will be able to help people achieve their goals, just as you have helped me.”

—Patrick Sweeney, B.A. in Psychology

Looking for more advice and inspiration? Get more student success tips here or read more UMass Lowell student success stories here.