If the Cap Fits, Wear It

Penn State World Campus Student Advisory Board member Lisa Curtis shared these thoughts as she reflected on her experience as a student achieving her goal.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard that it was important to get your priorities straight. Time and time again, it sounded like there was a winning combination of top goals to pursue that could lead a person to live their best life. Over the years, I made lists of priorities in order to straighten them. As life got busier, more priorities were added, which slowed my overall progress in each category. Some priorities dropped off completely while others were shuffled around. I had made a little progress in a lot of areas because the more I pursued, the less I accomplished.

Eventually, I considered a new approach: less is more. After reading about the benefits of scaling back, I applied the principles of minimalism to my list of priorities. Instead of half-heartedly pursuing several goals, I focused my efforts on one: education. I had begun a bachelor’s degree several years ago and intermittently taken classes in different places where I had lived, but finally I decided to make it the prime objective.

Making education my priority doesn’t mean that I neglect family or work. Instead, it guides me in the planning process so that I can focus my efforts. For example, I carefully consider how I spend my time outside of my commitment to course work. Before I take on a new responsibility, I examine how closely it supports my goal. I have been fortunate that Penn State World Campus provides many rewarding co-curricular opportunities like that. For instance, with my recent experience as an online student, I applied to the World Campus Student Advisory Board to provide the input of a student voice. It supported my priority and rewarded me with unique learning opportunities.

Where I am today is not only the result of what I have learned, but also the result of self-awareness. The more I learned about myself, the better I was able to pursue education. Even though the scenic route that I took had turns and twists, it is drawing to a close. I recently pulled a navy-blue graduation cap out of my closet to try it on for size. I wasn’t sure if it would even fit, because they always look a bit wobbly to me. It was a good fit, so I smiled for a picture. Learning as a student has become part of the way I see myself, and as the completion of my degree requirements approaches, I realize that I don’t want to lose a connection to that. I’m glad to complete this step. It doesn’t feel like an ending, but rather, it’s time to peek over the horizon to see what is next.