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by Abigail Van Buren

Older Student at Last Achieves Her Great Degree of Success

DEAR ABBY: About 10 years ago, a letter appeared in your column from a woman who was debating whether to return to college. She said if she attended part time, it would take eight years to get a degree, and she'd be 45 years old. You told her in eight years she would be 45 years old anyway, and not to let that dissuade her. Your response struck a chord with me.

Shortly after reading that column, I decided to go back to school. I had attended college twice in my early 20s, but lacking direction, I dropped out twice. I always knew I was smart, but I was ashamed to say I had only a high school education.

So, at 38, I visited my local community college and talked to a counselor. I was terrified. I had no idea how to enroll in classes or what classes to take.

Going back to school was the best thing I ever did. It opened my mind to new ideas and improved my self-confidence and self-esteem. I found that being an older adult in a class of younger people was not so bad. I had a wealth of personal experience to draw upon, and although I had to budget my time and study hard, I had no problem getting good grades.

It took seven years, but I graduated from a university with a B.S. with honors and a 3.96 GPA. I was 44 years old and the first in my family to graduate from college. My entire family came to the ceremony. It was one of the proudest moments in my life.

Since graduation, I have received two promotions at work and am currently working on my master's degree. I will be 50 by the time I finish.

Abby, I want to thank you for printing that letter. During the years I was working full time and attending school, I never forgot your reply to that woman. It was my "rallying cry" and kept me motivated. -- ELLEN CONLEY, OAK HILLS, CALIF.

DEAR ELLEN: Every time I print that letter or one similar, I receive letters such as yours. The rewards you are enjoying have come because of your own efforts, and I'm sure your letter will serve as a "rallying cry," as well as an inspiration, to many others.

Congratulations on your academic and business successes. They are well earned.