The Reality of Following Your Dreams - Schmidlap’s Tips for the Adult Student

Follow your dreams. - Professor Schmidlap

Professor Schmidlap is the personal professional mascot for the College of Adult and Graduate Studies at Colorado Christian University. Like all CCU professors, he enjoys helping students succeed both in life and in their academic studies. We caught up with him and he opened up to us about what it means for adult students who choose to follow their dreams.

When “following your dreams” is more than a motivational poster

So you’re thinking about going back to school. Maybe it’s to help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to get that promotion. Maybe it’s about supporting your family and inspiring your kids. Or, maybe it’s about finishing that degree you started.

I teach adult students at Colorado Christian University, so I’ve heard many reasons why my students are choosing to continue their education. The common thread that I hear in a lot of their stories is that they have a dream or a vision for their life, and higher education is going to help them get there.

Which is wonderful! I love hearing that. I also feel it’s my due diligence as a professor to make sure you understand what you’re getting into, and how to do it well.

Here are 7 pieces of advice that not many will tell you, but I will.

1. You are who you spend time with.

When you decide to follow your dreams, you will run into other people who are trying to do the same. At CCU for example, our adult students are placed into cohorts with other adult students. This is a group of students who will be in your same classes on the route to graduation.

As an adult student, you’re probably busy with other responsibilities that might include work, family, and more in addition to classwork. When you have a cohort, you’re able to support and be supported by other students who are going through those same things.

Another thing to consider when you are pursuing your dreams, is that you might run into people who aren’t as supportive as you thought they would be. Maybe you’re the first in your family to pursue higher education, and other people don’t understand why you would want to do it. As Walter Bagehot said, “The great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.”

Focus on your goal and surround yourself with people who will encourage and be there for you. Who knows? You might even surprise yourself in the process.

2. It’s not about you.

Following your dreams is not about you. You are not the ultimate goal, you are the vessel. Here’s what I mean by that.

It is your privilege to do what you were put on this earth to do. It is your responsibility to seek out the skills, knowledge, and mentors who will help you get there, so that you can be who God created you to be.

When you are doing what you love, not only do you feel confident and work harder to be better at what you’re doing, you’re being yourself — and that will inspire others around you to do the same.

3. You will have to say “no”.

This might be one of the hardest things to do when following your own dreams. Chances are that if you already have one goal, such as going back to school to earn your degree, you also have a whole other line of goals right behind it.

However, you have to remember that the more directions you’re being pulled in, the less distance you will travel overall. If you want to go somewhere, you’re going to have to say “no” to other directions.

For example, if you go back to school as an adult student, chances are you are going to have to say no to some social activities on the weekends. That doesn’t mean you can’t attend your friend’s wedding or go have some fun once in a while, but consider that you will need to be more protective of your time since some of it will need to be devoted to studying.

Don’t let that deter you from pursuing your degree, especially online. I just want to be truthful with the fact that some of your priorities will probably need to be flexible when you’re taking classes. The time you take now to pursue your dream is only temporary; it won’t last forever. Do what you need to do to get where you want to be.

Failure is simply another word for experience. - Professor Schmidlap

4. Don’t drop everything.

People romanticize the idea of literally dropping everything to follow their dreams. My advice? Don’t do it.

This might sound counterintuitive to #3, but the fact remains, you still need to pay rent; you still need to eat; and if you have children, you still need to spend time with them and take care of them. Life is still full of responsibilities; be smart about how you juggle them.

If you are married, talk with your spouse about how you can work together. Plan out your finances, and communicate with your enrollment counselor to discuss your options. Be smart about the college that you choose because colleges differ in the resources available.

Following your dreams doesn’t mean it’s at the expense of everything else around you, it means seeking out support systems for help when you need it.

5. If you want guarantees, then you don’t want it enough.

Here’s the deal, I see too many people waiting around for things to be perfect before they get started. They wait until the situation is perfect, the timing is perfect, other people 100% agree with them, or they need to be better at something before they can go for it.

Don’t waste time, your time is precious! No one is going to follow your dreams for you, you have to do it! And frankly, you’ll learn more and get better at something by practicing — not waiting around.

But how do you know when it is the right time to do something? I’m going to be honest with you, you probably won’t. You have to ask yourself, will I regret not doing this? Will I ask myself what if?

If that’s the case, don’t let it become a regret. If you want to pursue your degree, do it. If you don’t, years will go by and you’ll look back and wonder why you never look the leap. Or, if you wait too long to do it, you’ll be asking yourself why you didn’t go for it sooner.

6. This is tough, but so are you.

How can you tell if your dream will be life changing? That’s easy. It will be difficult for you, and you will probably struggle with it. But that’s good.

I tell this to my students all the time, I want them to fail. But that’s not because I don’t want them to succeed, it’s exactly the opposite of that!

Failure is simply another word for experience. If you didn’t succeed the first time at something, all it means is that you learned what doesn’t work for you. If you tried college before and it didn’t work out for you, I’m sure that since then you’ve learned more about what you need to succeed.

You are a better, stronger, and wiser you than the person you were — even just yesterday. You’re tough, and you can keep going. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”

You are one tough cookie, and there’s no need to feel crummy about it (ha!).

This is tough but so are you. - Professor Schmidlap

7. You get to define your purpose.

A close friend of mine once told me that he practiced finding purpose in things that he was already doing. The more I thought about what he said, the more I realized, that’s brilliant!

When you pursue your dreams, it’s about making a life worth living. I truly believe that you can have that, wherever you are in life.

There will always be things that we don’t love to do (I’ve never met anyone passionate about changing diapers). But what if you practiced connecting that action to a larger purpose (such as helping your son or daughter see God’s love when you care for them)?

That’s where you find joy and peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:4-7). The next time you have to change a diaper or do something unpleasant, see what happens when you intentionally find joy in the experience. I’ll bet you’ll feel more motivated and might even cause some heads to turn.

But what about the things that legitimately take away from you contributing your best talents and skills to the world? That’s when it’s time to make a change.

If you feel you have more to contribute in the workplace, and a degree will help you get there, go for it!

Find a way to make your life so full of joy and purpose, that you don’t feel the need to ‘get away’ or ‘escape reality’. Find your bigger purpose. Is it to learn and grow? Is it to serve others around you? Is it to have meaningful friendships and relationships?

You get to choose how you define your purpose, your dreams, and that my friends, makes a life worth living.


What are your dreams and goals? In the College of Adult and Graduate Studies at CCU, we have online and on-site degree programs that can help you get there. If you have questions about choosing the degree for you, get in touch with us at

Professor Schmidlap, Schmidlaps tips, choosing a college degree, Academic success, follow your dreams, choosing online programs
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