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COVID-19 Update: The University of Minnesota has suspended in-person instruction and will offer online, or alternative, instruction through the end of spring semester 2020. For the latest information on the University’s response to COVID-19, please see the Safe Campus website.

A Return to Learning

Bridget Steffes

Bridget’s story as a nontraditional online student is one many can relate to. She was a young mother who chose to set aside the completion of her degree to focus on raising her family. Almost two decades later, she decided it was time for her to focus on herself. Bridget knew getting her four-year college degree was needed for opportunities for advancement. But like many others, she had a multitude of reasons for going back to school that transcended job security or career advancement.  

"I realized I did it for my children."

Bridget Steffes and her family

"I started out for myself because it's something that I always wanted to do. A degree can be worth it for no other reason than saying you did it. It’s satisfying to call yourself a graduate; it means you’ve accomplished something that not everyone else has. As I went through it and completed my degree, I realized I did it for my children.

"Seeing the hard work and dedication it took as they were getting closer to going to college, it gave them a perspective on the value and commitment it takes to be successful academically." 

Finding the Balance

Bridget Steffes and her daughter Marlee

For Bridget, the online option through the University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC) was her best choice, as she could not picture attending college in a typical classroom setting. For adult students who hold down jobs and have family obligations and are thinking about going back to school, flexibility in terms of options for study and support are paramount. The online program allowed her to go at her own pace and balance her priorities of her family. Like many online learners, time management was difficult as she worked to find a balance between maintaining family and financial obligations while attempting to do well in school. Her family witnessed her dedication as she worked at the kitchen table—the hard work, the time, organization, and planning that it required.

There were many times where she had to set priorities and boundaries, as she did not want to miss out on her children's activities. Bridget met those challenges by setting goals each semester and created a spreadsheet to stay on track. It was that optimistic and forward focused attitude that helped her to fight off the occasional impulse to take a semester off because she wanted to complete her degree so badly.