When Jessica O’Boyle was looking at universities in order to complete her bachelor’s degree, flexibility was key.

For example, could she take her pre-planned family vacation to Jamaica and not fall behind on her studies?

As she responds to questions from the beach … she can attest, she found that Saint Mary’s online B.S. in Applied Psychology has provided her with that freedom. She also looked for a school that honored more of the credits she had already earned.

“I was in another program, but it was taking me two years to finish my bachelor’s degree because they didn’t transfer a lot of my old credits. Saint Mary’s had a much better transfer rate and I really like the program. I feel like I’m getting a good quality education at a good price,” she said. “A friend of mine got her master’s from Saint Mary’s and had nice things to say, plus I like the accelerated program.”

O’Boyle said once her children were older, she found she was kind of bored. “I wasn’t very fulfilled at work,” she said. “I’m 45, and I said it’s time to do it. I was tired of not doing what I love, and it seemed like the right time.”

The B.S. in Applied Psychology, which she will earn in August is the first step to her future dream of getting her master’s and becoming a licensed practical clinical counselor. She’s already applied for the M.A. in Counseling and Psychological Services program at Saint Mary’s.

“There’s a personal history of mental illness in my family and friends and there’s such a shortage of counselors in rural areas, and it would be such an important resource in our area,” she said. “It’s been a passion of mine to help. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Life just got in the way for 25 years.”

O’Boyle said she didn’t allow herself to get psyched out of applying. “I was a little nervous,” she said, “but I didn’t allow myself to think that way. I was committed and faced it head on. 

“So far my professors have all been so committed to their students being successful that it’s really hard not to be successful if you put in the effort; they’re very accommodating and understanding. It’s doable; it’s really doable for working adults.”

O’Boyle said coursework fits into her schedule, if that wasn’t already apparent by the palm trees behind her. “I do homework on my lunch  break and after work. I’m not tied down and it’s really worked well for me. The master’s program is a little different in that I have to be available a couple of times a week, but I can tailor it to my schedule.”

O’Boyle said her advice to busy adult students returning to school is to understand what the expectations are a couple of weeks in advance and lay out a plan of what to get done each day. Knowing that life has a way of changing the best-made plans, she said, “I try to be a little early in case life comes up so my assignments are done on time and I don’t have to stress. And if something comes up, I work around it. You have to be flexible.”

In the eight-week program, O’Boyle said there’s no opportunity to get bored. “I really like that the classes are very focused,” she said. “The resources are great, the readings are very tailored to the topic, and it cuts out a lot of the fluff. I don’t feel like I’m learning things I don’t need to know. They’re very interesting.”

She absolutely recommends her program. “I feel like it’s one of the most flexible programs in working with your life and your prior college credits and experience,” she said. “I have had excellent professors and I really have no complaints. It’s also very affordable compared to other options online.”

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