Angela Ardoin set a goal to earn her bachelor’s degree by 40. Now, she’s hoping to hit the milestone with both a bachelor’s in business management and her Master of Business Administration, both from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
About six years ago, Ardoin moved from Baton Rouge to Lafayette. She says it took nearly six months to find a job making a salary comparable to her previous position because, “I didn’t have a college degree.”
She was eventually offered a position with South Louisiana Community College as an administrative assistant in the admissions office.
As Ardoin helped potential SLCC students apply, she had an epiphany: “I need to go back to school.”
So she did.
Ardoin paced herself by starting with two night classes at SLCC.
“I gradually realized I could do this,” she says. “I enjoyed it.”
After about a year, Ardoin began looking at open job positions at UL Lafayette to advance her experience and her pay. She received an offer from the Honors Program and began her new role as administrative assistant in 2015. Two years later, she transferred academically, as well.
Embracing a “Nontraditional” Student Journey
Ardoin’s current journey is her second attempt at a degree.
“I went to school when I was 18 for graphic design, but I dropped out because of money and family responsibilities,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to go back to school.”
Across the U.S. there are 30 million to 35 million students who have enrolled in college but have not completed a degree, according to the Lumina Foundation.
Adults looking for career or education advancement, or even personal satisfaction, have been returning to school as more accredited online programs and courses become available.
These students, once classified as “nontraditional,” are now the norm in higher education.
Universities like UL Lafayette give students the opportunity to earn their degrees or graduate certificates online with the support of experienced faculty and staff, extensive resources, and financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
In 2018, 10 percent of all UL Lafayette students were enrolled in a completely online program. And even on-campus students are adding more online courses to their schedules — 36 percent of UL Lafayette students took at least one online or hybrid class in 2018.
Creating a Flexible, Workable Schedule
When Ardoin enrolled at UL Lafayette, she chose business management as her major because of the availability of both night and online courses. In doing so, she established a course balance that works for her.
“Every semester, I’ve taken at least one online class,” she says. “I would try to take one course during the day, two at night, and one online each semester.”
Now that the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration is offering an online management degree, Ardoin has found she has even more choices and flexibility as a fully online student.
The online courses are taught by the same faculty that teach on campus, but who have been specially trained and certified to teach online, as well.
The program culminates in a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Management — the same degree students earn on UL Lafayette’s 120-year-old campus.
“I will take one online course this summer and four in the fall because they’re introducing the new management online program,” she says. “I’m going to get to graduate Dec. 20 because of these online classes. I’m so excited.”
In addition to balancing school and work, Ardoin is mindful to find quality time with her husband and 8-year-old son. Although night classes have allowed Ardoin to pursue her degree while working full-time, online courses reduce her in-class time.
“I love online courses because I get to go home at 5:15 rather than getting home after 9 p.m., and I can do it on my own pace,” she says. “I’m so excited for my last semester to not have night classes. This will be the first fall or spring semester that I won’t have a night class since I started in 2014.”
Making the Grade
Online courses, Ardoin says, provide flexibility but require self-discipline, as well.
“Most classes have assignments due one day a week, so you have the week to work on whatever at your own pace. So it’s great,” she says. “But you have to be committed; you have to be able to read and comprehend what you’re learning and apply it.”
In order to stay on top of her coursework and progress through her degree program, Ardoin sets a schedule so she knows where her time is going while incorporating a few “study hacks.”
“Sundays I usually spend three to four hours at the library, especially if I have a test or something coming due,” she says. “Then, whenever I know I have a test, I make my own study guide in Quizlet. If I type it, it helps me remember, and there’s an app so I can be in the living room on a weeknight with my husband and my son and talk to them and study on my phone at the same time. Quizlet is a godsend.”
Ardoin also has a solid support system, with her mom pitching in to help Ardoin and her husband with their son every night.
Aspiring Beyond the Finish Line
With her family’s support and a renewed academic confidence, Ardoin recently applied to UL Lafayette’s Master of Business Administration program.
“I’ll be 38 when I graduate,” she says. “My goal back in 2014 was to get my bachelor’s before I turned 40; now I’m going to be just turning 40 when I get my master’s.
“I already feel like I’ve exceeded the goals I’ve made, even if I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”
In acknowledging her effort and achievements in returning to college, Ardoin says some serendipity was also at play.
“I think everything happens for a reason. If I hadn’t moved to Lafayette, I wouldn’t have gone back to school,” she says.
“I love Lafayette, I really do. And I love this school.”
Add some flexibility to your schedule through online courses, or enroll in a 100-percent-online degree program, like the BSBA in Management online. Apply today to begin classes this Fall. Email us at email@example.com, and we can help you get started.