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This post was written by Nicole Wallace, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

Let’s face it. You’ve probably been told you were crazy for doing something at least once in your life. Maybe on more than one occasion.

My wake-up call came in a job I have been at for 5 years in the mental health field. I was coming home, more often than not, in tears or increasingly bad moods that, sad to say, my family was feeling. Finally someone sat me down and asked me why. Why I was putting up with the treatment I was receiving from the owners of the company—why didn’t I go somewhere else? (Yeah, that was the crazy part.)

And honestly, I didn’t have an answer. Why was I subjecting myself to the treatment—the harassment, the name calling, the derogatory remarks, the blame game—and all from the owners of the company that I had given my blood, sweat and tears to for the past 5 years? (Yes, literally, blood and sweat, and more often than not tears.)

It started with school. CUNY SPS gave me the motivation to push for something more. So I started on my Bachelor’s journey and in the meantime, I started a second job—working at both places and staying a full time student. Let’s be honest, I didn’t want to jump ship and find myself drowning in another position like I was currently in.

This arrangement, however, came with some serious work to be done. I’ve picked up a few tricks to balancing two full time work schedules and full time class loads, and maintaining some semblance of sanity: (And this is where I was called crazy, for the second time.)

  1. Get yourself a planner. Believe me, this has saved me so many times. What works best for me is a weekly/monthly planner. I can track dates on the monthly view (such as starting and end dates for each week, because honestly, why would any of your classes ever consider using the same time schedule?). The weekly view lets me write out my assignment information
  2. Color coding can be your best friend. Each class gets its own binder and notebook in matching colors. I use the same color pen in the planner to keep everything in line. This way, I can glance at anything and know which class it is for. Also, it has drastically cut down on grabbing the wrong binder for a particular class. So not cool.
  3. Plan your time. Keep track of everything—your due dates as well as other commitments. Nothing like waiting until the last minute to write that essay because you forgot that it’s your sister’s-best-friend’s-cousin-twice-removed’s birthday party and you were away all weekend.
  4. And probably most importantly, schedule time for YOU. You’re no use to anyone if you’re holed up in your room for weeks on end with people are scared to come to your door (for fear of having something thrown at them because you’re trying to focus on your paper). Not that I have any personal experience with this one. At all.
  5. Enjoy the process. School, albeit with CUNY SPS online being completely different from traditional classrooms, is a process. You’ll meet people who are going through the same things you are, and working through the same material. Breathe. And known that your fellow students are probably pulling their hair out as much as you are.

Also, you should really get one of those countdown calendars. Ripping a day off those things is strangely therapeutic when your eye deep in textbook readings and calculations. Seriously. Try it.

Nicole Wallace is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Psychology degree program in June 2016.

This post was written by Maria Lewis, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

I applied for numerous scholarships throughout my life only to come away empty handed each and every time. When I got the email informing me that I had been selected for an ACE Scholarship it felt surreal; all I could do was stare at my computer screen and read it over and over again. They say good things come to those who are willing to wait and the Lord knew that I had waited. I received my ACE Scholarship at a time in my life when it was needed the most. It was a godsend to me financially; my father went home to be with the Lord two weeks into the spring semester. My world came to a grinding halt and my financial situation changed overnight. The ACE Scholarship allowed me to finish school and complete my Bachelor’s Degree, something that I had been trying to accomplish for twenty years.

What made the scholarship extra special was the meaning and significance behind it. I was being recognized for my academic accomplishment and I was also going to have the opportunity to be a positive influence in someone else’s life. I have always aspired to be the best at whatever I attempt and to have it recognized was so heartwarming. I worked hard and there were a lot of times that I really felt like giving up but I’m so glad that I didn’t.

The scholarship came with the requirement that I mentor another student returning to school, just as I had done. I met a beautiful young woman who identified with me on many levels which got our relationship off to a wonderful start. Even though this was my last semester we are still in touch with one another, my scholarship came with a new found friend that I will cherish forever. I am ever so grateful to the benefactors who make the ACE Scholarship possible. I plan to attend graduate school in the fall; the sky really is the limit.

Maria Lewis is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Urban and Community Studies degree program in June 2016.

This post was written by Noelitta Tailiam, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

Reflecting back on my first encounter with a higher education institution, I vividly remember feeling secured and my professors always reassured and motivated me to believe that there was no room for failure. This gave me the drive to obtain my Associate’s Degree in Science from the Borough Of Manhattan Community College.

Unlike my fellow ACE scholarship recipients, I never took time off from school. I immediately transferred to Hunter College. There I felt overwhelmed, unsure of myself, and my drive slowly reduced. I felt like a fish in an ocean full of sharks and stingrays. My professors were intimidating just as much as my classmates were. I received no support and no reassurance that I could do this and excel. I remember crying for the first two weeks because I felt so lost. After a year of not wanting to be there, I received an impromptu email from the CUNY School of Professional Studies and I figured, “what would I lose by attending the information session?” I remember running from the number 1 train to the 3 train from the Upper West Side to get there. I made it in 15 minutes before the session ended. I vaguely remember Director of Student Services Z. Lobley being there and she handed me all the information I needed. She encouraged me to attend a one-on-one evaluation session with an advisor and apply in person. This has been one of the best life changing decisions that I have ever made.

Many tried to discourage me to not follow the path of online learning and I am very happy that I am not easily swayed. Having two jobs and working 50-60 hours a week gave me little time to sit in a classroom setting. After my first semester at CUNY SPS, I felt the same way I did at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. I felt safe, encouraged, and the support of my advisor and professors were just what I envisioned my learning experience to be. The professors had the same motto that “failure is not an option,” which they showed. It varied from emails, phone calls, and the Blackboard messages they bombarded us with on a weekly schedule. Being selected as the recipient of the ACE Scholarship validated for me that all of my late night studying and heavy consumption of black coffee did not go unnoticed.

While on the scholarship, I am currently giving back to my fellow students by being a mentor, which is another life changer. Now that I am so close to completing the requirements for my degree, I hope to use everything I have learned to continue working in my community, either in a non-profit organization that advocates for disability rights or in the education field.

Thank you, CUNY SPS, for this opportunity, and for supporting me and my fellow students in our future endeavors.

Noelitta Tailiam is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the BA in Disability Studies degree program in June 2016.

This post was written by Christine Hansen, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

I am the proverbial square peg, trying to fit into the round hole of the legal profession. That was my grand realization after nearly seven years of practicing law. Everyone has heard about lawyer jokes, the “blood thirsty shark” persona, the “they-must-be-lying-because-their-lips-are-moving” lawyers, and miserable court personnel who put your papers to the bottom of the pile never to be seen again. Well, to quote Han Solo in the new Star Wars, “It’s true. All of it.”

So the next question of course was—now what? It was not a matter of just changing firms or fields of law; it was much deeper than that. Knowing that this was not a profession I could see myself suffering through I sought out a means of escape. There was no question that I would need to go back to school to change careers but I also needed the ability to do so without tipping off my firm that their “future plans” would eventually not include me. Enter the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the degree program that has been nothing short of life-changing.

Apparently I am not the typical CUNY SPS student, as most come to CUNY SPS to finish long-awaiting degrees after a “life break” in their education. My attraction was a completely online psychology degree that wouldn’t break the bank. Admittedly I was skeptical at first. Can I handle online courses? Would the experience be comparable to a brick and mortar school like my original bachelor’s degree? The online format quickly became second nature. The experience, well now that is something else. I am a firm believer that the quality of your education is two-fold: 50% what you put into it and 50% what the institution brings to the table. My part was accounted for as I was more than willing to put in the hard work for a new degree, a/k/a my “escape plan.”

However, CUNY SPS has not just met its 50%, but has by far exceeded every expectation I could have had. The courses are well planned and executed in the online format, the professors accessible and genuinely helpful, and the staff on every level, all the way up to the Dean himself, has been nothing short of amazing. I can vividly remember the time I first saw the deans of my first undergrad and law school, because it was only at graduation that the wizards stepped out from behind the curtain and proved that they really existed. CUNY SPS has been the complete opposite, with a support system I have not encountered anywhere else.

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to make this life-changing quantum leap, confident in the belief that CUNY SPS will not let me fall. Now I stand on the verge of graduating from an institution I am proud to be associated with. It has been said that sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. I know that choosing SPS as my “smallest step” was undoubtedly the right decision.

Christine Hansen is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Psychology program at the end of this semester.

This post was written by Jonathan Rodriguez, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship

When I think back on my first two semesters here at the CUNY SPS, I remember how difficult and frustrating they were. I remember wanting to quit because I felt overwhelmed, as if I was swimming against the current. However, I knew I could not quit because I made a promise to my infant son when he was born that I would finish what I started, so I began to search for something to help me organize and prioritize my time. I want to share one of the things I found helpful to manage my days and relieve some of my stress.

I was reading a book by one of my favorite authors, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. One of the people he highlighted created a calendar of his days to help him organize his time and maximize his efforts. I went to Staples and purchased a two-month dry erase calendar and began to write out the things that needed my attention for each day, in life, at school, and for myself.

This helped me to find the time I needed to dedicate to class work and set deadlines for work that was visible daily. The calendar also allowed me to make time for myself, meaning I was able to dedicate time to refresh myself with a walk around the block, watch my favorite television show, play some Candy Crush, or spend time at the gym. Like many people, I am a visual person, so when I find myself always forgetting assignments or stressed because I do not know where time is going, I visualize it with a calendar, something that I must look at daily.

I am now coming to the last semester at CUNY SPS and it has been challenging and fun throughout my time. I hope my little life hack helps you during your time at CUNY SPS. This was never easy, but it was worth it. You don’t have to give up or give into the stress; you can complete what you started just like me.

Organize your days and remember to take care of yourself. The worst thing you can do is burn out. Make time for yourself; do whatever it is that refreshes you because it will benefit your work and your longevity. God Speed as you go through this semester and every one that follows.

Jonathan Rodriguez is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). He will graduate from the Business program at the end of this semester.