Meet Ana Said. She’s an entrepreneur who built and operated her own business for almost a decade. She achieved her success through hard work and a willingness to learn on the job. This commitment to learning new skills was particularly important, given that she’d launched her business before earning a bachelor’s degree.
Despite her achievements, she eventually reached a point where she felt she couldn’t advance her career any further. She began to wonder whether earning a degree might now make sense for her goals. She credits her mom, an e-learning specialist, for her exposure to the possibilities of online learning. Ana’s experience of helping her mom in video and design for online classes sparked her curiosity in online learning and would mark the start of her freelance career. Below, Ana shares her story about her decision to enroll in a bachelor’s program, how her new community is helping her overcome challenges associated with having an education gap on her resume, and what surprised her most about learning online.
I spent ten years working as a self-employed assistant, acquiring many skills and life experiences through organizing and managing tasks related to other people’s lives and businesses. The incredible people I encountered along the way inspired me to assess where I am, and where I could go. I realized I had reached a point where I knew I wanted a more specialized career—one where I wasn’t just taking whatever work I could find.
But finishing my bachelor’s didn’t feel realistic. I’m in my 30’s now. The thought of overhauling my schedule, paying tuition while working less, commuting—not to mention age differences with my peers and just a general feeling of not knowing where to start—was too much, and I just kept putting it off.
My mom, who is a huge role model for me, works in the online education space. She told me about the Bachelor of Applied Arts Sciences (BAAS) program offered on Coursera. For the first time, finishing my undergraduate degree actually seemed realistic. It was online, with a flexible schedule, and I could chip away at the classes I needed. It felt like this program was made for people in my situation.
I thought online learning was just going to be me at my computer. But the counselors are really helpful and quick to respond. And the class has discussion platforms and a chat channel. We can discuss classes, ask and answer questions, and share our relatable experiences. This has sharpened my skills in working with others remotely, which is a big advantage in today’s context.
I have made connections with people who also inspire me to keep going. They know what it’s like to have that gap in their education, but they are willing to put in the work for themselves, for their families, and for their careers. It is challenging, but I’m taking on more than I ever thought I could.
I’ve enrolled in both administration and consumer behavior concentrations. I’m understanding how organizations are set up for different aspects of communication and motivation—what drives motivation, how groups work together, and how to watch out for certain pitfalls. It has helped me to really understand why I am doing the things I am doing professionally and how to grow as a leader.
After graduating, I can take my own business further to better serve my clients and maybe hire others one day. I understand how to build that from the ground up now.
UNT pairs each Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (B.A.A.S.) student with an advisor to create a customized degree plan focusing on the “missing pieces” they need for completion. This advising system gives students the flexibility they need determine their fastest route to a degree while ensuring relevance to their career goals.
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