Back to the Books: 19 First Days of School

I remember sitting at my college graduation thinking one long, life-changing, and priceless chapter of life was coming to a close. I had a sneaky and overwhelming feeling that I had a lot of learning left to do. I would have never (literally, never) thought I’d find myself in a desk at Penn only a year and a half or so later.

Lauren Grow and The Talk About Town

When I was working at Longwood Gardens, I was assigned a project with graduate students who were working on planning a conference on public horticulture. I remember being beyond jealous of their educational experience and slowly realized the nonprofit space was where I saw myself long-term. I don’t remember the exact moment when I decided to set sail on my not-so-straight path, but I found myself studying (and paying) for the GREs, writing my application essay, and deciding to send my application straight to Penn for their nonprofit leadership program.

I interviewed and to my shock, I was accepted on January 21, 2017. I’ll never forget stepping out of my office after getting word to call my mom and dad. I rode the wave of excitement for about 48 hours and then realized I was absolutely enrolling, but I was absolutely unsure how I’d pay for it.

University of Pennsylvania Graduate School Acceptance

I had a trusted mentor, and to this day my most adored role model, sit down with me at lunch one day. She told me to stay working full-time while attending school and to this day, her advice is what made the difference in the long run. I decided to target my job search to Penn, knowing if I could become an employee, my tuition would be covered. Fast-forward to August. . . I started my job at the University of Pennsylvania on August 21, 2017, and on the same night, I walked to my first class on campus for the 19th first day of school. So, yes, it worked out for me, but not without a lot of elbow grease, a lot of praying, and a lot of happenstance. I include this because paying for your education is possible – whether it be an employer’s benefits, scholarships, working at a university, or performing research. Don’t rule a masters program out simply because of cost.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

-Benjamin Franklin, Founder of the University of Pennsylvania

A masters program, or any supplementary education that will make you open your wallet in a big way, isn’t a decision that happens overnight. What I will say, however, is I often look back and wonder how in the world I found myself working in the nonprofit sector and making an investment in doing this work for the long run. I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey thus far, but trust your gut if you love something enough to invest in your educational experience. To anyone considering going back to school, do it. My path has provided me with unimaginable experiences, lessons, challenges, and accomplishments. I’ll graduate in May. . . I often wonder if I’ll find myself on the morning of my 20th first day of school? That’s a song for another time.

Lauren Grow First Day of School at West Chester University 2016
My 18th “first day of school” at West Chester University