Going back to college in your 40’s to move forward
Making the decision to go to college––especially when you’re in your 40s––is never an easy one. You have to ask yourself some tough questions, such as:
- Can you fit college courses into your already-busy life?
- Are you ready for the rigors of a college education two-plus decades after graduating high school?
- Can you complete your degree in a relatively short amount of time?
- Do you believe your efforts will be worth it?
For Carolyn Rager, the answer was yes to each one of these self-inquiries. In fact, after completing her associate degree in marketing at Central Penn College, she said yes again and is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in business administration at the Summerdale-based institution.
A Natural Marketer
A licensed cosmetologist and massage therapist, Rager worked as an independent contractor for Homeland Hospice. In her position, she provided complementary therapies… giving patients massages and cutting their hair as they neared the end of their lives.
Her coworkers said she was a natural marketer. “I took it upon myself to do a lot of community events, such as bingos, chair massage events at expos in Lebanon, York, Dauphin [County] and Carlisle.”
To get the word out, she would purchase her own t-shirts and sweatshirts printed with the Homeland logo. “While doing those events, I would work the floor and introduce myself to people,” says Rager, who lives in Harrisburg.
“The nurses and aides would always say to me, ‘You are such a good marketer. You should get your degree, and then you can be a triple threat for hospice providing massage, hair and marketing!’”
Eventually, she took that career advice to heart. But it was far from a snap decision.
“I did not just wake up one day and say, ‘Hey, I think I want to go back to college,’ at 44 years of age,” says Rager, who is originally from Phenix City, Alabama. “However, my coworkers were my inspiration to do marketing, as it came naturally to me.”
Back to School
She had taken a few courses at a local community college a few years ago, but decided to enroll in the spring 2019 term at Central Penn College based on her research and the attentiveness of CPC’s Admissions team.
Once here, she hit the ground running, completing her associate degree in marketing in 15 months, graduating magna cum laude with a 3.7 GPA in June 2020, while also making the Dean’s List four out of five terms.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. During that time, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and she lost her job. But she would not be deterred.
“The hunger to complete this in such a short time went into overdrive as the pandemic hit in March 2020, and I was furloughed from my job at Hospice, which I loved very much,” she says. “A devastating hit to take and a very hard pill to swallow, so I knew from that moment on, I had to stay driven and focused. I finished this degree working a full-time job, a part-time job and attending Central Penn full-time online which met all my needs.”
After graduating in late June, she took a three-month break and re-enrolled as a full-time student in October to pursue her bachelor’s in business administration. Her goal is to complete her degree this September. “A four-year degree in just two years!” she says.
She was recently hired by Maxim Healthcare Services as a Credentialing Field Support Specialist and Rager credits her marketing degree as one of the reasons for this new position.
We recently got a chance to catch up with Rager via email about her Central Penn College experience so far…
What made you choose Central Penn College?
I chose Central Penn College for their quickness in completing my enrollment application. I attended a local community college many years ago and I was planning to return; however, I never received a phone call back for a month. After reading reviews and doing research, I decided to contact admissions at Central Penn… the counselors were diligent in making me feel comfortable with the set-up process and enrollment.
What do you like about being a Central Penn student?
Some of my favorite things about Central Penn College are the support, attentiveness and the contagious calm of the professors and staff that ensured a smooth process for the completion of my associate degree.
What has been your favorite class or project so far?
My favorite class was Principles of Marketing and the hands-on projects of doing marketing analysis with Professor Nicole McCartan. Putting together plans for actual companies and conducting the research enabled me to better understand how to create successful campaigns.
What kind of support have you received from Central Penn faculty and staff?
The support from the faculty at Central Penn is unparalleled. My student advisor gave me guidance on which classes to take each term so that a balance between lower- and higher-level courses was achieved. The Learning Center was a great source when I was writing my Capstone, as they had ample times available to meet with my very busy schedule.
The professors I truly cannot say enough about, as they made themselves available via phone, Zoom and email for any major questions or concerns no matter how big or small. Professors McCartan and [Lisa] Davenport were phenomenal in their guidance. Even down to the Business Office, Ms. Fetrow provided reminders about tuition payment due dates and worked with me on payments received.
How important were the scholarships offered by Central Penn College and the Education Foundation?
Those scholarships were truly a blessing for which I am forever grateful! I encouraged friends who were seeking new careers and was able to get them to enroll at Central Penn and they are very satisfied!
Did your degree help you find a new job?
After 10 months of not being able to find a full-time job, I was blessed with being hired at Maxim Healthcare Services where I am able to utilize both my marketing degree and my knowledge from current classes to further my career with the company.
What is your current schedule like?
A full-time job; three part-time jobs, including caregiver for SYNERGY HomeCare, massage therapist for Life Adjusted Chiropractic, and my own private massage therapy practice; and going to Central Penn full-time with four classes, as I strive on staying busy! I look forward to continuing with my master’s degree at Central Penn afterward as well.
What are you looking forward to?
COVID canceled my graduation two times, so I made the most of it and recorded a video of my own graduation. Hopefully, after September 2021, I will be able to walk the stage [in May 2022] and hold my head high of all my accomplishments, which would not have happened, had it not been for the support I received from admissions at the onset. They enabled me to make this transition as a middle-aged woman returning to college.
It was a scary decision at first, but the staff has helped me become structured and disciplined to achieve so many great things and I am forever grateful!