GOING BACK TO SCHOOL AT 37 CHANGED MY LIFE


A chalkboard with "Back to shool" written on it.

Sure, the title is a tad dramatic, but it made you click. And now that you’re here, I’ll tell you the truth: the Communications-Professional Writing program at Centennial College (CMPW) really did change my life. You may not believe me but it’s true.


37 years old, married, two children, wondering what's next. Last Summer (2020), I was at a career crossroads doubting my skills, lacking direction, and feeling lost and dejected. Heading into the Summer of 2021, all of that doubt is gone.


So much has changed in less than a year.


Devon and children posing with their backpacks on the first day of school.
First day of school photos aren't just for the kids!

I remember our class chats in the first couple of weeks during Content Bootcamp. We went around the (Zoom) room and the student comments were all so similar.


“I don’t know what I want to do.”

“How do I decide on the type of writing that I like?”

“Can I actually get paid to write?”

“I’m not comfortable calling myself a writer.”

“Please help!”


I thought I’d be the only one feeling such doubt. The fraud, the imposter, the hack in a room full of real writers. By the end of the first day, I realized that we all felt that way. And thank heavens for Kelly McConvey (Program Coordinator)! She’s part counsellor, part instructor, part lifesaver, part wizard. Enroll and you’ll see what I mean.


One of the first things she told us was, “It's not an academic program. Forget about marks—they don’t matter. Focus on giving your time and attention to the projects you like.” That simple advice gave me the freedom I needed to explore the work and discover so much about myself. And more than grades, that’s what CMPW was about.


And that’s why I say it changed my life. It restored my confidence in what I can do and helped me envision possibilities for my future.


Early in the program, I noticed that a few courses didn’t excite or interest me. I won’t name them because I don’t want to insult the instructors who put in the time and effort to shape the course. But it was obvious as I read the coursework and completed assignments. I didn't care about some of them—and that’s okay. Pay attention.


Overhead view of a lady working on a laptop.

I discovered other courses and assignments that intrigued and energized me (as much as schoolwork can do that). Those were the ones I chose to devote more time towards instead of spending time equally on each project.


Some teachers may not like me saying it, but if there’s a project I didn't like, I'd give it the bare minimum to get it done and move on. Marks didn’t matter—the projects for my portfolio did. For example, instead of spending 10 hours apiece on two assignments, spend 2 on the one I don’t like and give the remaining 8 to the one I do like. Then I'm investing 18 hours to make that one incredible.


I used that extra time to learn new skills and software, perfecting certain pieces, because that’s clearly where my heart was leading me.


In September, each course looked the same to me. I planned to explore them all equally and decide on a particular path once school ended. By October that plan was gone, and my direction became increasingly clear. By November, I had eliminated several career options and by the end of the first semester, I knew the type of work that most excited me.


The feedback from instructors helped shape my portfolio and I was already applying for placements and jobs over the Christmas break. Sure, I might’ve been a bit ambitious, but it was a massive change from how I felt just a few months earlier.



I went from feeling insecure, unworthy, and out of place to confident, inspired, and ready for challenges.


Enrolling in CMPW is in the top five of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. It changed me for the better. More than the skills learned (of which there are plenty), it was the emotional and psychological impact it had on my life that I celebrate. I’m a better version of myself and I owe much of it to Kelly’s advice to ignore marks and focus on the work I like.


Because of that, I found the work I love. I got a job before school ended and even started a freelance business. On top of that, I received the Dean's Award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.


So yes, CMPW changed my life. I have direction, confidence, purpose, and joy—four things I didn’t have before the program. I’m a better me in less than a year, and though I deserve some credit for trusting the process and committing to the work, I also recognize the impact this program had on my life.


I will forever tout the value of post-grad programs like CMPW. If you're considering going back to school, do it--it will change your life.

DEVON CORNELIUS

A curious and inquisitive storyteller at heart, Devon is a professional communicator based in London, ON. He has spent the last decade bringing inspiration and his imaginative spirit to the nonprofit sector. His mission is simple: bring hope to life.

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