Q: After I graduated from high school in 2006, I went to community college. But I wasn't prepared mentally or physically; I quit going to classes, gave up, and failed out. Now I am 24 and feel ready to take getting a degree seriously. I live in a town where there aren't any counselors who will give genuine advice because I am low-income. I am interested in psychology. I've always felt like I was made for helping people, and being a therapist is the career meant for me. Am I too old to get this degree, and how do I begin this long journey? Please help me—and be honest.
A: Honestly, it's not too late! Although it does not seem young to you, 24 is delightfully young and full of promise. But even if you were 34, 44, 54—I'd say the same thing: it is never too late to learn. Actually, you are in a good spot—since you have experienced the real world for a few years, you are mature enough to realize that education is a serious thing. On the whole, professors themselves find that older students are more dedicated, insightful, and full of purpose than many 18 or 19 year olds.
That being said, you did get off to an unfortunate start. Add to the mix the fact that you are low-income, and you feel that you are going to be treated dismissively. Be strong, and forge ahead! I suggest you take the following steps:
• Locate the nearest community college.
• Call their admissions office and make an appointment to see a counselor.
• Explain your situation and see if you can begin there; you may have to start with a probationary period during which you can prove your academic skills.
• If you currently have a job, see if you can keep working while you study part-time.
• If you do well, you can transfer from the community college (which offers 2-year Associates' degrees) to a 4-year college for your BA or BS degree.
• During your studies at the 4-year school, see if you can gain some practical experience as a therapist. You will learn that there are many forms of therapy—some will require a Master's degree, others a doctorate. But that's down the road.
If you wish to help people, there are many options out there. Working as a therapist is just one of them. You might become a high school counselor, a social worker, or a medical professional. But one step at a time. Take the first step and don't let anyone discourage you! Please write again and let us know what happens!