June 2, 2021

College did not work for Ashley Clarke the first time around. She enrolled at Bridgewater State in Massachusetts right after graduating from high school in 2004. A lot of factors led to her dropping out, but mostly life just happened, she said. “And I just don’t think I was ready for it. I needed to get a little more life in under my belt.”

She went to work, often balancing two jobs to make ends meet, in a variety of fields. About seven years ago, she began working in the financial services sector, and fell in love with the field. She now works for a financial adviser in Exeter, and recently enrolled at Great Bay Community College so she could improve her workplace skills.

“I love helping other people. I work for a financial adviser who helps with estate planning and retirement planning, and it’s an amazing feeling to be able to tell someone in a time of need that everything is going to be OK,” she said.

Now 35, Clarke is enjoying college a lot more the second time around. She is taking business classes with a goal of earning an associate degree in business administration. She enrolled in the spring semester, moving to New Hampshire from suburban Boston. After learning about the college from a neighbor who graduated from Great Bay, she did some research and was impressed with her options.

Great Bay is affordable and flexible, she said.

“I am finally at the point in my life where I can do this for me. My boss does not require me to have a degree, but he fully supports me in my desire to further my education,” she said. “I am doing this to prove to myself I can do it. I have started and stopped a few times, but I am ready now.”

She loves taking hybrid classes – meaning, she participates in a real-time class remotely. “That means I have a 30-second commute to my bedroom at the end of the night, which is great,” she said. “The professors have been incredible, and they seem to appreciate the fact that I have some life experience that I can contribute to the conversation.”