When I first met the woman I married, she was a high school dropout, teenage runaway, single mom with four kids. She realized her only way out was to get an education. She was willing to pay attention, follow instructions, and do what it took, and now she is a student at Harvard with a 4.0 average. Here’s her story.
I’ll spare you the history and pick up where she decided to do something with her education.
She worked for the system of K-12 private schools I owned in the Dallas area, interacting daily with students who were moving on the top colleges, scholarships, and greater opportunity. One day she approached me and said “I want to go to college like your other students.” She had been out of school over 20 years. I had her contact the last high school she attended and get a transcript.
From her transcript, she needed about three semesters of work to finish high school. In my school, we train students in accelerated learning using Howard Berg’s Speed Reading and a package of reading, studying, testing, and writing strategies that help them go through their work better, faster, and easier. She had seen 13 and 14 year-olds graduate from high school and met many of our students who finished college at 18 and 19, and believed she could do the same thing.
She had taken all the training and actually taught Speed Reading, so she was already equipped to move quickly. I packaged the courses she needed to finish and she finished her last test six weeks later. Yes, you read that correctly, six weeks! Three semesters of high school in six weeks!
Because she was a single parent, she qualified for a whole gamut of college funding and enrolled at the local community college that fall – fully funded – meaning she had grants to cover everything included some living expenses, and no loans, nothing she had to pay back.
She shot through her first year of college with a 4.0.
Near the end of her first year, she got a job elsewhere – making more money but it didn’t give her the time to continue college. About the same time things in my life changed. I was divorced, my schools were shut down as a result, and I was trying to rebuild my school business post divorce. We kept in touch and linked up again a few years later. When we talked, she still had ambitions to finish college.
I got my school back up and we got married shortly thereafter. She was still working and continued to express her desire to finish college. We settled in another city and I was doing well enough in my school business that she didn’t have to work, so she started back to college fulltime the next fall.
It took her two years to complete her Associates. In those two years, she was awarded two full scholarships and maintained a 4.0 average. She graduated Summa Cum Laude, top honors, and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the junior college honor society.
We discussed where to go next. She was offered scholarships to many of the local universities, but one day she looked at me and said “the great Dr. Beasley should be able to get me into an Ivy League school.”
Rolling through my mind… Ivy League – tough to get into, tough to stay in, and they don’t take transfer students. So the challenge was on. I pretty good at this stuff because it is my area of expertise, but I never had a challenge like this – transfer to an Ivy from a community college.
Well, I did find an opportunity at Harvard at their Extension School. We submitted the application and flew up to Boston for the interview. While going through her portfolio, the lady interviewing her saw her Phi Theta Kappa certificate and pretty much wrapped up the interview, saying my wife was qualified for a scholarship and that she should apply. That Phi Theta Kappa pulled a lot of weight, I soon learned.
She applied and received the scholarship, and finished her first year at Harvard with all A’s. Don’t let anybody fool you, Harvard courses are tough, and she dedicated 40-60 hours a week to her courses. She was willing to pay attention, follow instructions, and do the work, and it has paid off.
She’s continuing to take courses and she expects to graduate in two more years – taking a little longer because the courses are tough. Her degree will say Harvard University. I told her there will be no asterisk at the bottom saying “Transferred from Community College.” A Harvard degree is a Harvard degree. No one will able to take that away from her… and no one will ever be able to look down on her because of her past.
I am very proud of my wife. I share this with you to tell you it is never too late to pursue a college degree and there are many hidden opportunities for those willing to do what it takes. Even a Harvard degree is not out of reach for a high school dropout if you are willing to reach.