I registered for my first Athabasca course back in 2008 and, after 9 years, I am nearly finished, anticipating a completion date this summer (2017).

Distance education is not easy. It requires dedication and commitment at a greater level than the standard on-campus post-secondary experience. I assume most students are quite like myself: juggling multiple responsibilities such as work and family.

I don’t remember how many times I’ve wanted to quit. One of my greatest difficulties with keeping motivated to complete my undergraduate degree is my perception of a lack of forward motion. Despite being able to transfer a significant portion of my diploma, by only managing one or two courses per year my graduation date was always some far-off date that was being approached at a snail’s pace. It can be demoralizing at times. After spending the time and energy completing a course, to look at your graduation requirements and still see a large number of courses staring back? The feelings of defeat engulf you.

I often found myself questioning why I should continue studying. Trying to find the drive to sit down at the computer after a full day?’s work to read or write a paper can be daunting. With no one to talk to, no study buddy, no group to engage in any type of discussion, the distance education experience can be isolating and time consuming. It’s easy to wonder what the point is of carrying on with the stress and financial burden toward a seemingly insurmountable goal.

During one of these slumps, having calculated (accompanied by the inevitable whining) that I was still 7 years away from completing my degree, I was feeling utterly dejected. What motivation I had experienced in my first few courses had evaporated. I had lost all desire to continue. Then I was reminded to step back and see the “forest through the trees.” I received an excellent piece of advice: “In 7 years, you can either have your degree or not. It’s your choice.”

This little thought has kept my spirits up and enrolling in “just one more course.” Whether we want it to or not, time will pass. We?as distance education students?have a choice in whether to engage and continue our studies or stop. Sure, it can be painstakingly slow. It can be hard to convince ourselves that It’s worth it. Frustrating that the degree (or diploma) appears forever out of reach. It’s not. It’s there, you just need to keep at it. What I found amazing was the snowball momentum that occurred as I kept completing courses. I began to speed up my pace and soon was completing 3 courses per year. The more I continued, the more I wanted to achieve, and the better, more efficient student I became.

Successful distance education students have a unique set of aptitudes and abilities that translate well in both the workforce and at home. We have strength, determination, independence, self-motivation, and passion. Whether it takes 2 years or 15 years, keep enrolling in one more course. Keep heading toward your goal and know that the closer you get, the greater the momentum will be. Years will pass and, at the end of it, you can either be further ahead or stuck in the same place. The choice is yours.

Tara Howse is in the BPA – Criminal Justice degree program with AU. With aspirations to continue her education, she is looking into AU’s Master of Arts – Integrated Studies degree.