Part-time student, Full-time employee, Single mother of four, Austin Community College Student Majoring in Social Work, Personalized Pathways, Degree Map User
It takes courage and commitment to go back to college as an adult learner. But it takes a special, bigger kind of courage to do it while working full-time and raising four school-age children as a single mom.
“Trying to figure college out isn’t easy, especially if you’re first in your family,” she said. “My parents are Spanish speakers. They never went to college. They couldn’t really offer me any advice, and though they care, they can’t relate to the challenges I’m facing and the things I’m trying to figure out. Students like me rely on the college to provide us helpful information and support.” – Lluvia
Like many adult learners at Austin Community College, Lluvia (pictured above on the right, with her advisor Antonia Ceballos on the left) is trying to balance college with other life obligations. So, while she can’t take a full load of courses, she is persisting and making progress toward a degree from ACC.
Making Clear to the Pathway to Completion
When she first enrolled, Lluvia did not have a line of sight into how her completed courses mapped against her degree plan, and she was not clear on what career options looked like for different majors. To help students like Lluvia better navigate their academic journey, ACC began restructuring programs and services to support guided pathways work, which also included rolling out Degree Map to all students across the district.
“I like using Degree Map so I can see the small steps that I’m taking are adding up to take me to completion,” she said. “I want my kids to see me doing this. If I can do this while I’m working and raising them, they have no excuse when they finish high school but to go to college and complete a degree! I want them to know the more education you have, the more you can do – the more choices you will have in life.
Related: View our June 28 pathways webinar
Austin Community College discussed their work on pathways to empower students as they make critical decisions throughout their education journey, helping them stay on track to completion.
Clearing Hurdles Are Hard for First-Gen Students
“Trying to figure college out isn’t easy, especially if you’re first in your family,” she said. “My parents are Spanish speakers. They never went to college. They couldn’t really offer me any advice, and though they care, they can’t relate to the challenges I’m facing and the things I’m trying to figure out. Students like me rely on the college to provide us helpful information and support.”
Part of that care includes helping students understand how to chart their path through the college — including how to select a degree program and how to get into that program as early as possible.
Comparing Majors by Time, Cost & Job Opportunities
Like most students, Lluvia changed majors. “I originally started my degree plan with a goal of earning an associate degree in Criminal Justice. When it became clear that wasn’t going to be a good choice for me, it was nice to be able to use Degree Map so I could explore other options,” she said. “I could click and see which of my courses would count toward completion and look at the jobs I could go after with different degrees. I was thinking I’d switch to Psychology, but when I looked at the jobs for that, I saw there wasn’t enough opportunity. So, I looked at Social Work and really liked it. Now I’m on a clear path to earning a degree in that area of work, and I like it. I’m even doing work in my community as part of my program. The dashboard on Degree Map really helped me explore and make a good choice.”
Students Helping Students
“I try to help other students every chance I get,” said Lluvia. “I know how scary it can be. I like showing other students Degree Map. I like to show them how they can look at changing majors, and in just a click or two, see the time to completion and the tuition cost differences. For most of us, every dollar matters! I like to help other students feel more at ease and be less scared. I tell them that they will have challenges – life is going to throw you challenges every day – but they need to face them and deal with it. I tell them to deal with what’s right in front of them first, then worry about the things that are farther down the line. Just focus on what’s right there in front and get it done!
This Adult Learner’s Best Advice: Don’t Give Up
“My best advice is to not give up,” she said. “Keep trying. Every day, I wake up and I realize I would do this all over again. It’s worth the work. I have plenty going on with work and raising four kids at different schools, but I can’t give up. I just can’t. I need to show my kids this is possible.”
Antonia Ceballos, Austin Community College Advisor and Counselor
Lluvia's advisor had this to add about Degree Map:
"As an Integrated Advising Training Coordinator and IPASS Coordinator for Degree Map at ACC, I am proud to present the intuitive and friendly application (Degree Map) at each of the Student Service - Advising Training Sessions District-wide. Degree Map has become the best friend for many ACC Advising staff members and students. Degree Map is our favorite advising tool because it has enhanced the advising sessions with clarity and efficiency when assisting students. Furthermore, Degree Map has helped ACC students to save time, money, and avoid useless efforts by staying on track with their degree requirements. I see more and more happy faces coming out from advising sessions -- from both advisors and students. I can certainly say that Degree Map is a powerful tool to use for our Guided Pathways goals at ACC." – Antonia Ceballos