For many students, choosing a college or university can be as important as declaring the right major. Not all schools are created equal and not all schools will accommodate your needs. Rachel Engel, an Air Force spouse, shared with us how her higher education institution, Cameron University, felt like home for her.
“Cameron really fit my personality. It was a smaller, low-key, regional university, with larger-than-life faculty. The classes were intimate, focused, and very one-on-one oriented. I didn’t feel like a number, I felt like an integral piece of the fabric.” Rachel added, “My classmates were incredibly welcoming, even though many of them had attended high school together, and I was coming in as a sophomore/junior. It was everything I imagined a college experience to be, and I loved every minute.”
Being in a remote town in southwest Oklahoma, Altus Air Force Base offered limited opportunities for options of where to attend. And although many military spouses choose an online route, Rachel knew that wasn’t right for her. A brick and mortar was what she set her sights on.
Other factors she considered:
Forecast the Semester
When Rachel reached out to the faculty adviser to the newspaper, his response motivated her. Dr. Christopher Keller, who is the Communications Department Chair, invited her to a meeting to see how the school newspaper was ran. Being in journalism was important to her, and the chance to see the team in action (before even enrolling) really confirmed that this was where she should earn her degree.
Involvement in school activities can really make “the university come alive. You realize the buildings are not there just for your purposes, but that they serve a diverse cross-section of students,” Rachel said. Schools online and in-person offer an array of activities that can tie directly into your future career path.
No matter what your desired outcome is with attending school, many schools will allow prospective students to sit in on a class or meet with students as a way to understand if the programs are what you are looking for. Campus visits or virtual tours are another great option for connecting with schools that may not be co-located to you.
It took Rachel six years to complete her degree; she attended classes prior to becoming a mother and after. When determining her schedule, she looked at the full picture of what her semester would look like. Before having her child, her husband was deployed and she knew that she could handle a full course load. Her classes were a great means to keep her busy. In her senior year, she became pregnant and decreased her schedule.
Tip: When creating your semester schedule, take into account everything that may be thrown at you in the coming months
By considering all of the components that were important to her as a student along with investing in the school’s community, Rachel was able to complete her Bachelor of Arts in Communications in May. She believed in herself and did not let the obstacles from military life force her off the path to graduation. “It took me six years to completely finish my requirements and along the way we dealt with three deployments, the birth of our daughter while he was in a war zone, and worrying he would get orders to PCS while I was in the middle of my final hours.” Rachel stated, “But I am so proud of myself; I accomplished what I have always wanted to achieve. As soon as we get orders for our next base, I will be looking into Master’s programs.”