If you could change your future with the snap of a finger, where would you place yourself in five years? Would you be in a better position within your current field? Or would you find yourself at a completely different job with a new set of skills? Maybe you would even see yourself starting your own business.

Regardless of the direction you’d take, this thought experiment can help reveal your career dreams without being limited by what you think or what you’ve been told is possible. Here, we’ll take a look at two inspirational stories of motivated working adults that used a college education and their degrees to bring their dreams to life.

Fulfilling a Business Dream: The Kiara Chinn Story

Kiara Chinn and her husband had always dreamed of opening up their own New Orleans -inspired restaurant. Before that dream could be realized, Kiara wanted to return to school to hone her business management skills. Ever since she had promised her grandfather - who had only completed a 7th-grade education - that she would get her college degree, she remained determined to follow through on that commitment.

She earned an associate degree from Mississippi Delta Community College in 2013, but her ultimate goal was to receive a bachelor’s from Delta State University. During her first semester, Kiara faced an unimaginable series of setbacks. She was battling clinical depression following a stroke and her young daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. “My first semester at Delta State was hard, and I just kept pressing on,” Kiara recounts. Despite her best efforts, she eventually hit a wall when her financial aid ran out. “It literally took the life out of me,” Kiara explains.

Remaining committed to the promise she made to her grandfather and the dream of running a successful restaurant with her husband, Kiara pushed on once again in the face of adversity. She fought for two years to get into Mississippi Valley State University but only saw this as a stepping stone to her main goal of walking across the stage at Delta State University. Kiara performed really well and was even inducted into the Honors Society at Mississippi Valley but she still wasn’t where she wanted to be. Her sights were still set on Delta State.

When confiding in an old friend about her struggles to realize that dream, Kiara learned about the C2C Program by chance. She was a little skeptical at first because she didn’t want to get let down again, but it ended up being the break she had been seeking. Kiara reached out to the C2C Coach at Delta State, Darla Poole who helped her combine her earned credits. It was there that Kiara received the news that based on the work she had completed, she had enough combined credits to earn a University Studies degree. After having persevered through years of obstacles, Kiara’s dream had finally come true. Now, with that degree in hand, she could turn to her next goal of starting that business.

In 2020, Kiara and her husband opened Cafe Dat Taste of New Orleans - a creole-themed restaurant in the heart of Greeneville, Mississippi. “Thanks to the C2C Program, I was able to make the most of my previous credits and now I have even more confidence to run my business in a better and more efficient way,” Kiara explained. But that’s not the end of Kiara’s academic career. She now plans to return to receive a master’s degree in Business Administration. “I want to make sure I can effectively manage my business and what better way to do that than to have business mastery. My learning and education will take me where I couldn’t have gone otherwise.”

Reaching New Heights: The Dylan Tackett Story

Like many high school students, Dylan Tackett went straight into college after graduation. He enrolled at Itawamba Community College (ICC) fully intending to finish his degree. “I had an initial path,” Dylan explains, “I wanted to do mechanical engineering.” But even with a clear plan, Dylan wasn’t able to complete his degree the first time around. “I didn’t have my priorities right in the beginning,” Dylan recounts. “I was young and eager to get out and see what the world was about.”

After leaving ICC, Dylan had every intention of returning. He expected to take a year off before returning to complete what he started, but life had other plans. Dylan ended up having his first child and through hard work, purchased a home and a vehicle. “The responsibilities were overwhelming,” Dylan explains. As the supporter of an entire household, Dylan realized he needed to set his sights on establishing himself professionally. Dylan’s plan to return to college remained in the back of his mind as he knew it would be needed to help propel his career further.

A few years down the road, Dylan found himself in a more stable situation and he decided to look into what it would take to return to college. He requested to have his transcripts reviewed at ICC, and that’s when he heard about a program designed specifically to help working adults like himself complete their degree, the C2C Program. Dr. Emily Tucker, an ICC advisor and C2C Coach, helped Dylan identify exactly what he needed to complete his degree and walked him through the entire process of returning. “It was definitely something that helped push me to re-enroll,” Dylan explains.

With the help of his C2C Coach, Dylan determined that he needed to complete four courses to receive an associate degree. He kept working full-time and thanks to the virtual program at ICC was able to take his courses entirely online. When describing the benefits of virtual classes, Dylan explains, “You can find a lot more flexibility than a standard in-class experience.” As Dylan progressed through his classes, Dr. Tucker also proved to be a vital asset. “Emily was amazing,” Dylan explains. “She stayed one step ahead of whatever I needed at all times. She’s been a great blessing for me.”

Now, with a degree under his belt, Dylan is excited to see where it can take him professionally. He’s hoping the skills developed through his courses will position him for growth within his current line of work. “The continuing education will definitely be a benefit in this company,” Dylan explains. Motivated to reach even further professional heights, Dylan is currently studying Business Administration at the University of Mississippi with the goal of qualifying for a business program offered at his current company.

How a College Degree Can Help Accomplish Your Professional Dreams

You can’t change your career at the snap of a finger, but there are moves you can start making today to drastically improve your chances of achieving those professional dreams. Here are just a few tangible ways in which a college degree can provide you with options in uncertain times and brighten your professional horizons.

Reduced Unemployment

According to the Center for Education Consumer Insights, adults without college-level degrees are more likely to report guaranteed employment as the primary motivation for returning to school. Also, the Bureau of Labor of Statistics reports that bachelor degree-holders are 50% less likely to experience unemployment than those without it. This finding even remained true during the pandemic when unemployment rose sharply.

Higher Pay

Money isn’t everything, but it certainly has a major impact on your life. If you’re hoping to increase your income in the future, a college degree can work wonders to speed up that process. The Lumina Foundation reports that you can earn $32,000 more every year as a college graduate than you would without a diploma. When measured over a lifetime, that factors out to roughly $1 million more! With a degree, you’re also in a better position to ask for a raise.

Career Satisfaction

There’s no doubt that increasing your earning potential is a perk of a college degree, but that shouldn’t have to come at the expense of your happiness. And, it doesn’t! The Pew Research Center reports that professionals with a college degree are much more likely to feel satisfied with their work than those with a high school diploma. With a degree, you have a greater chance of earning more with a satisfying career. It’s a win-win!

Broaden Your Professional Horizons

Kiara Chinn and Dylan Tackett were both able to get closer to their professional goals with the help of the C2C Program. If you’re one of the 44% of Mississippians who hold less than an associate degree and aren’t enrolled in school, the C2C Program can help you broaden your professional horizons too!

Through the program, you’ll work one-on-one with a highly committed C2C Coach who will identify the quickest path to graduation given your unique circumstances. You could even qualify for the renewable C2C Grant which is designed specifically for adult learners to help them afford the cost of tuition and related expenses.

Complete the C2C survey app and get connected with a C2C Coach today. You may be closer than you think to a degree and a brighter tomorrow.