With responsibility comes freedom for Communications student

If Hailey Harrison could write a letter to her pre-college self, it would begin as follows: “Take a minute to recognize what makes you happy, what makes you proud, and what makes you feel like you are doing well in life. Now, let go of the things that are holding you back.”

More often than not, such words of inspiration have a story behind them. In Hailey’s case, the journey involved two years spent at two different universities in her home state of Georgia, and a growing feeling of dissatisfaction with her academic experience.

“I didn’t like my courses, I didn’t feel productive, and I didn’t feel like I belonged,” she explains. “I was frustrated with my professors for being closed-minded and limited in their teaching techniques. I decided to go to career counseling for about six months, and learned in that process that I should fight for what makes me happy and fulfilled.”

Determined to make a positive change, Hailey left her previous job and was hired as a barista at Starbucks. When she was informed of the company’s College Achievement Plan, she took a leap of faith and began the process of enrollment at ASU.

“To have a job that literally invests in my success with higher education is such a blessing,” she says.

ASU Online Communication Major, Hailey Harrison

Raised in a middle-class family, Hailey says her dad has worked for everything they have, and was the first in his family to attend and graduate from college. He wished for her to continue her education — yet although she did not have student loans when she started at ASU, Hailey did not like the idea of putting the costs of schooling on her father.

“Having the ability to attend a major university, tuition covered, was something that seemed like only a dream before,” she says. “When it became real life, I was amazed.”

Upon transferring, Hailey decided to declare communications as her major, with a minor in media analysis.

“I felt as if communications allowed me to build necessary skills needed in the workforce, while leaving my options open for future job choices,” she says. “I didn’t want to be limited to one field of work, and felt that majoring in communications gave me the flexibility for that.

She was immediately amazed by the variety of perspectives her professors and fellow students brought to the classroom.

“My professors come from diverse backgrounds with a great deal of experience in their fields of expertise,” Hailey says. “Being able to take courses from such unique and talented professors makes me feel as if my education is well-rounded and influenced by the best there is to offer.”

She adds, “I attend class with students of all backgrounds from across the country who challenge my perspective and respect my differences.”

The transition from on-campus to online has also broadened Hailey’s skill set in areas of her life where she had previously considered herself proficient.

Hailey Harrison proudly wearing her ASU spirit

“Taking a full load of courses online requires responsibility, and with that responsibility comes freedom,” she says. “I am a Type-A personality, but attending ASU Online has taught me how to be even more self-motivated. I’ve learned how to prioritize my time and attention, give my all to what I am passionate about, recognize that learning is more than retaining information for short periods of time, implement my education into everyday life situations, and push my mental barriers to expand my ways of thinking.”

The university’s built-in support system has further encouraged the commitment she made in attending online school, and has helped to keep her grounded and focused on her education.

“From the application process to the academic advising, I have been supported by people who genuinely care for my individual success,” Hailey says. “My Success Coach has taken the time to listen to me when I am frustrated with life or contemplating decisions that I need to make. He has helped me take advantage of the resources ASU offers, such as online tutoring. My academic advisor has also been such a great source of help. I feel confident that my advisor is always pointing me in the right direction for my future.”

Despite living 1,800 miles away from campus, Hailey feels like an important part of the Sun Devil family.

“The online team has given me inclusion and school spirit,” she says. “I proudly wear and support my school with any ASU gear I can get my hands on."

Her passion for ASU Online is so strong that she recently applied to become a representative for the university, and hopes to share with others the ways in which it has changed her life — a message not unlike the words she wrote to pre-college Hailey:

“You don’t have to do everything the way you think you do. You set your own goals, not those around you. You can have the freedom to put your energy into whatever you want. You can attend a university that truly propels you to a place of confidence and competence to succeed in life. Higher education is not about how smart you are or what experience you have behind you. Higher education is not about how many exams you can ace or projects you complete. Higher education is about gaining the skills to master what you are passionate about. Higher education is the stepping stone into a world that you create for yourself. Higher education is about expanding your mindset, your goals, and your experience.”

Learn more about ASU Online’s Bachelor of Science in Communication degree program. Hailey was a participant in the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

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