“FRCC just made a huge difference in my whole ability
to be successful in college.”
Emily grew up in the Chicago suburbs, the oldest of four kids.
She knew she’d have to pay for college on her own—so she
started at a community college, planning to transfer to a
four-year school. Unfortunately, she discovered the hard
way that she couldn’t afford to finish her bachelor’s degree.
“I had no understanding of student loans,” she says. “I didn’t
know how to look for the resources and help I needed.” She
struggled with some mental health issues during this stressful
time, so she took a little time off to get help—and to rearrange
Learning the Hard Way
She started working at a jewelry store, and kept that full-time
job when she went back to school full time at a four-year
college. She made it through this grueling schedule for two
years before learning that she wouldn’t be allowed to graduate
until she paid off all her debt. She ended up leaving her private
college close to $10,000 in debt…and with no degree.
She moved to a less expensive town to save on rent, and
worked for seven years in both the jewelry and restaurant
industries to pay off her debt. Still in her twenties, she then
moved to Boulder with friends for a fresh start. While there,
she started working in the craft beer industry and eventually
landed in Fort Collins.
Online Classes Work… While Working
FRCC’s online class offerings helped Emily decide to go back
to school at the college’s Larimer Campus. “That made it so
much easier to work and go to school. I found the flexibility of
online classes really did make a difference.”
After one semester of taking all online courses, she tried one
in person… and then took more. “I started to really like my
in-person classes,” she recalls.
Getting Help Finding Her Path
Emily still needed to figure out what she wanted to do with
her career. “When I first came to FRCC, I didn’t know what I
wanted to study. I knew I didn’t want to stay in the restaurant
industry forever. I just knew that taking some classes would
be a good first step.”
Having originally studied to be a teacher, she was now
thinking about switching to a science-based major—so she
really needed some guidance.
“They offered walk-in/drop-in advising that you could just go to,”
she says. Her work schedule was constantly changing, so not
having to make an appointment made college fit better for her.
“Being able to just show up and talk to someone…that made
a huge difference.”
Emily ended up switching her major to neuroscience because
she was interested in both psychology and biochemistry. “I had
an intro to neuroscience class at FRCC—and that convinced
me. I knew I liked it and could really be motivated to learn.”
During Emily’s earlier first stab at college, she remembers
never being able to find a parking spot—and generally not
feeling very welcome. She found a very different vibe on
FRCC’s Larimer Campus.
“All of the staff was extremely approachable, and really cared
about what they were doing.” At FRCC, she always found a
spot—whether it was to park her car or a cozy space to study
in between classes.
And she remembers her teachers especially fondly. “They
cared so much about whether I learned the subject matter.
They really had their hearts in it.”