As an immigrant who came to America, Veronica Carter’s college journey started at Cypress College, where she took classes “for fun” and to improve her English. After about five years of attending community college, Cypress advisors convinced her to pursue a degree at a four-year university. Veronica transferred to Cal State Fullerton, where she began studying to become a speech pathologist.
However, it soon became clear that speech pathology wasn’t for her. “I did not like it and it was reflected in my grades. My very first semester, I did really poorly.”
Carter’s GPA dropped, leading to academic disqualification. She enrolled in Open University (OU) at Cal State Fullerton, an enrollment option for students not currently admitted to CSUF, including those on academic notice who may take classes to help raise their GPA and get re-admitted to CSUF.
“I was very discouraged,” Carter said. “I thought, ‘This is the end for me…maybe school isn’t for me, and maybe I’m too old for school.'” She was almost ready to give up and drop out.
That’s when she met her OU advisor, Suzanne Batista. “Without her encouragement and guidance, I wouldn’t be here.” Batista helped Carter realize that school was for her, grades don’t define who you are, and regardless of age or life circumstances, it’s never too late to pursue an education.
“As an advisor,” Batista shared, “one of my first pieces of advice to most students is to always go at a pace that is appropriate for them, and based on their life obligations.” Veronica, for example, is a parent who had other responsibilities to juggle. She couldn’t take classes at the traditional pace of 12 or 15 units a semester, but it was still possible to achieve her goals. There are many paths to finishing college; Veronica found the path that worked best for her.”
As she began taking classes through Open University, she discovered her true passion: Gerontology. Growing up caring for her grandmother had given her great love and respect for the elderly. “I feel this is a great field. A lot of older people need help, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Batista added, “In gerontology, you learn things that help people gracefully age. Part of that is making sure you have a social network and staying connected. In this process of feeling discouraged, Veronica met a peer who was experiencing academic disqualification, and they motivated and inspired each other.”
With guidance from Batista, motivation from fellow students, and a newfound passion, Carter went on to succeed in her classes, get re-admitted to CSUF. She earned her bachelor’s degree in human services and master’s degree in gerontology. She then spent a year interning at Adult Protective Services (APS) for the County of Orange, where she hopes to work someday. A student who had once been on the verge of dropping out was now a successful graduate with bright plans for the future.
Carter wants other people who may feel discouraged in their college journey to never give up. “When my GPA got low, I thought it was the end of my school career, but it was actually the beginning. And with a great counselor that guides you on the right path, it’s possible.”
She also tells people not to let their age or background stop them. “Anyone can do it, even me at 55. As an immigrant who came to this country without speaking a word of English, achieving a master’s degree makes me feel great. So keep going, and don’t ever give up.”
Open University is a fully integrated part of CSUF Extension & International Programs (EIP). Learn more about Open University at extension.fullerton.edu/ou.