At C2C, we find that former students who want to go back to college ask this first: “What will I need to do?” That is a normal question! Going back to college can feel scary if you don’t know where to start or what lies ahead.
This article will answer that question by walking you through the steps to returning to college and completing a degree. We do it by sharing Kasi’s story. Kasi is a fictional character, but she is just like hundreds of adults in Mississippi who have some college credits but no degree!
Follow Kasi as she guides you through the steps to returning to college and graduating with the help of the C2C program.
Kasi is an independent, working parent, possibly a lot like you. She didn’t know where to start as she thought about finishing her degree.
She attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) after high school. After earning 40 credits there, Kasi transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) to continue her studies because her boyfriend was finishing up his degree there. Kasi wasn’t really sure what degree she wanted to earn but was leaning toward early childhood education. After completing her first semester and nine more credits, she opted to take a break from classes.
That “one-semester break” turned into 5 years. During this time, she had a daughter, Brooklin, and settled into adult life as a mom. She started working at her daughter’s daycare when Brooklin was 1 and rented a great house near Hattiesburg with her partner Terry.
After the pandemic craziness settled down a bit, Kasi started to think more about finishing her degree. At work a position as assistant manager opened up. Even though she had enough seniority, the position required more than a high school diploma to qualify. Kasi realized that she was missing out on better job opportunities without her degree, and she honestly felt a little ”less than” so many of her friends who had already graduated from college.
Step 1 to going back to college: Register for Complete 2 Compete (C2C)
Kasi remembered that she had received a postcard in the mail from the Complete 2 Compete (C2C) program. Thankfully she found it again in the junk drawer and read it with interest.
The card explained that C2C is a statewide program that helps adults return to college to finish their degrees. From the card, Kasi learned that she was potentially very close to finishing an associate degree. It said she had 49 combined credits that could go towards an associate degree from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College!
The card listed a personalized website address (URL) that Kasi could visit for more information and to register for C2C. That day she visited her website on her phone to complete the C2C registration. She clicked the yellow “Start Here” button and then walked through the form to confirm her information. It was a very easy to complete on her phone.
(Note: If you haven’t received a personalized postcard, you can always Start your Registration Here.)
Once she completed the form, a page popped up and confirmed that Kasi could be as little as one semester away from a degree at MGCCC.
Kasi had honestly always thought that she would return to USM to keep working toward a bachelor’s degree. However, she could see the value of finishing her associate degree. It made sense to try to get some immediate benefit from all the work she had put into college. She was intrigued by the idea of going back to MGCCC.
Step 2 to going back to college: Complete your registration during the C2C Welcome Call
As she wrapped up the registration form, Kasi noticed that the next step was to complete a Welcome Call. She didn’t have time to do it right then, so she clicked “Schedule Call” to set up a call for the next day at 9am. She added a reminder in her phone and looked forward to getting some of her questions answered!
Sure enough, the next morning at 9am, she received a call from the C2C representative. She chatted with the helpful woman for about 25 minutes. During the call, they confirmed that Kasi did qualify to receive benefits and services from C2C. They also covered her main questions:
- Why would I go back to MGCCC? (so that you could finish your associate degree quickly and have a credential for the years you spent in college already)
- If I finish my associate degree, can I still continue to pursue my bachelor’s degree? (Yes, you can go on for your bachelor’s degree)
- Can I qualify for any financial aid or the C2C Grant? (Kasi discovered that she was eligible to apply)
During the call she learned about the C2C Coach, Sonya, her “point person” at MGCCC. She also learned about what she needed to prepare for their meeting, like getting her USM transcript sent to MGCCC for review.
Step 3 to going back to college: Prepare to connect with your C2C Coach
When she got home after work, Kasi checked her email since the C2C rep said she would receive more info that way. Sure enough, she had received an email introducing Sonya at MGCCC. It listed several tasks that Kasi needed to work on, including these:
- Sign the information consent form online
- Be readmitted to MGCCC
- Request that her transcript be sent from USM to MGCCC
The C2C email also indicated that her C2C Coach would follow up to set up a meeting time when they could meet to discuss any next steps.
Even though the email shared a few “to-do” items, Kasi felt so relieved to have a contact and step-by-step plan for what to do! She had started the week without a clue about what it would be like to go back to college. Now she could almost feel herself striding into a classroom to start her next class
The next day, while she was waiting for her daughter to finish up jazz dance class, Kasi completed the online application to be re-admitted to MGCCC. It was quick and easy and Kasi was pleasantly surprised to see that there was no fee.
Kasi also finished another step on the list: requesting that her transcripts be sent from USM to MGCCC. The email gave her a link to use to make the request. She was able to easily follow the instructions to request her transcripts and pay the nominal $10 cost. Kasi got everything finished up with time to grab a coffee before Brooklin’s class ended.
Step 4 to going back to college: Create degree plan with your coach
Kasi looked up the C2C email and decided to email her C2C Coach, Sonya to let her know she had finished. The next day Sonya sent a note back with a video conference call invitation to meet with her 2 weeks later. Kasi confirmed the appointment and looked forward to the meeting!
On meeting day, Kasi clicked the video conference link she had received. She “hit it off” with Sonya and they talked through three main things during the meeting:
- Kasi’s college and career goals: Kasi explained how she had always dreamed of graduating from USM, but she felt like it was going to take soooo long to finish her bachelor’s degree. She knew she was missing opportunities in her job without a degree.
- Kasi’s options for her degree: Sonya explained the “reverse transfer” option offered on the postcard – it allows her to transfer the credits she earned at USM back to MGCCC. Her credits could then be combined allowing her to finish an associate degree with only 3 more classes. Kasi could then continue for her bachelor’s degree by re-enrolling at USM.
- Kasi’s opportunity to get the C2C Grant: When discussing cost, Sonya brought up the C2C Grant, which provides $1,000 per semester towards college classes and expenses. Based on Kasi’s information she was confident she would qualify to receive the grant. Sonya directed Kasi to the C2C Website’s Grant Page for more information and qualification details. She also provided her the website addresses for both the state and federal aid applications. Sonya encouraged Kasi to begin there, and to notify her once completed, so she could initiate the C2C Grant application.
After her C2C Coach meeting, Kasi felt a lot more clarity about the next steps. She had done her part by getting her transcripts sent from USM, so Sonya was able to help her pick out the final 3 classes she would need to take at MGCCC. These classes would not only help her finish her associate degree but also fulfilled requirements for the elementary education degree program at USM! Kasi couldn’t believe that she could be DONE with her associate degree by the end of summer!
After their meeting, Kasi set time aside and completed the federal aid (FAFSA) and the state application (MAAPP). She also gathered the documents that she knew she would need to complete the C2C Grant application, like tax returns for her partner and herself and her past four pay stubs. Once finished, she emailed Sonya about initiating the C2C Grant application.
Step 5 to going back to college: Apply for the C2C Grant
When Kasi got off work that day, she had an email from C2C as promised, the “Grant Initiated notification.” This email had her personalized application link which was good for 30 days.
That evening after Brooklin was in bed she grabbed a Coke Zero and pulled out the documents she would need to complete the grant application. She started the application on her phone. (It’s usually easier to do it on a phone with a camera instead of on a desktop or laptop computer because you can take pictures of all the needed documents instead of scanning them.)
She used the link in the email and was greeted with a guide that provided thorough instructions.
Once she hit “Start,” she found that it was very easy to complete. Most of the information was already filled in for her. She added details for each member in her household (full names and birthdates for Terry, Brooklin, and herself). When it was time to confirm her daughter Brooklin as her dependent child, she took a picture of her recent tax return listing her as a dependent. With one click she was able to upload the picture to her application.
She did the same thing to verify their household income. She snapped pictures of her past 4 pay stubs from work and of Terry’s recent tax return since he owns a landscaping business. Kasi noticed that if they had other income like child support, SNAP benefits, or other, she would need to share that as well. Thankfully, the application provided a step-by-step process for adding all of the documents.
Compared to some of the paperwork that Kasi does at work, the C2C Grant application was really easy!
As soon as she hit “Submit” at the end of the form, a page popped up with a reassuring message, “Well Done Kasi” let her know her grant application had been submitted. Kasi liked that she was also sent an email specifying when she could expect a Grant decision.
Sure enough, within about a week, Kasi received a Grant Pre-Approval notice in her email. It specified that as a first-time applicant she would also need to fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) and Mississippi Aid Application (MAAPP). This would finalize her approval as well as ensure she received all possible federal and state assistance. Kasi smiled because she had already completed those, so she was done!
Within about 2 weeks, she received the email notice with her final approval! Kasi was excited… the grant would cover the entire cost of her next two classes at MGCCC and she expected to get it again for her final semester. She was so grateful for the funding since it took off the financial pressure of going back to college.
Step 6 to going back to college: Enroll in classes
Now that she had her degree plan and her grant approval notice, she was ready to enroll in classes for the spring semester. Her grant money had already been credited to her account at MGCCC, so she just had to sign up for the classes online – no payment needed.
Kasi knew that it would be an adjustment to go back to college, but she felt the excitement of doing something important and was proud of the progress she had already made! She texted her best friend as soon as she signed up for her classes.
When classes started, there were a few rocky weeks as she learned to balance work and family with classes and homework. But pretty soon, Kasi got into a new rhythm. She was able to schedule time off from work on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and Brooklin went to the on-campus childcare center at MGCCC’s Harrison County Campus while Kasi attended class. (Kasi was shocked to learn that her grant would even help contribute to the cost of this childcare!)
Step 7 to going back to college: Connect with your Coach during Check-Ins
Early in the semester, Kasi had a check-in call with Sonya, her MGCCC C2C Coach. They had scheduled this before classes started. It was helpful to check in after class had started. Honestly, Kasi was having a rough time with her algebra class and had already gotten a poor grade on one of the quizzes. Math is one of her least-favorite subjects!
Sonya was understanding and connected her with a Math Lab on campus. Kasi was able to visit the lab each week before class for an hour. The extra support and techniques really helped her understand the concepts she found confusing and get better grades on her next quizzes!
Later in the semester, Kasi got another email from Sonya about re-enrolling in her next class and completing the grant renewal application. This was Check in #2, and Kasi felt very supported knowing that she would be able to have the cost of her next semester also covered by the grant.
Sonya also connected her with Taylor, the C2C Coach at USM. She was on her way to applying for her next classes at USM and continuing to access the C2C grant as she pursued her bachelor’s degree.
Kasi registered for her next (and LAST!) class for the summer semester and completed the grant renewal application. It was a quick and easy application (and no need to do the FAFSA and MAAPP again) so Kasi just did this while she was waiting at the salon for her hair to dry.
Step 8 to going back to college: FINISH Degree!
As Kasi wrapped up her final class, she received an email from her coach about completing the “degree application.” This was an easy online form which would allow her to get her degree and graduate.
Her coach told her that the final grant money would even cover the final fee to get her degree. Kasi wasn’t sure if she wanted to actually walk in the graduation ceremony (maybe she would just wait to walk at USM with her bachelor’s?) but she decided to participate in the next graduation ceremony anyway. She was proud to have her partner Terry and her daughter, along with family and friends, there to celebrate with her.
The degree makes the difference!
Once she had finished her class and completed the degree application, Kasi officially earned her associate degree (even though she hadn’t walked in the grad ceremony yet). She was able to take a copy of her degree to her boss at work, and within just a few weeks she was able to apply for an assistant manager position at her workplace.
No one was surprised when Kasi got the job! She had the experience and professionalism for the job, but until she received her degree, she lacked the necessary credential. The new job came with better pay and much better hours… no evenings or weekends required. Terry, Brooklin, and her friends were happy about her new situation too.
Since she has more income and a better schedule, she’s also free to go back to USM in the fall to keep working on her bachelor’s degree! Plus, because she is maintaining continuous enrollment, Kasi is eligible to apply to continue receiving the C2C Grant. Kasi looks forward to finishing her bachelor’s degree. It will take her a few more years, but her daughter will be starting school soon and she’ll have more time to work on classes.
Kasi is so grateful that she discovered C2C and understood the steps to going back to college! It was easier than she expected to walk through each step, and C2C gave her resources and support to make it a smooth process. She has a bright future ahead and will continue to make a positive difference in her community!
What about you?
Guess what: Kasi’s story could be your story. You could start your “back to college” journey with a few simple actions. There will be several steps to follow along the way, but you’ll have support from the team at C2C.
Many people — like Kasi — are closer to an associate or bachelor’s degree than they ever thought possible! Take the first step to discover your college options by Registering for C2C.