Once upon time there was beautiful, smart, loving woman. She had a wonderful husband and a young family. All she wanted was to be a good wife and mom. Being a young mom was hard, and it was often a thankless job. She felt isolated from other woman, especially from women who thought of her as anything but a mom.
One day, as she was leaving a Bible study at church, a very put-together woman from her class approached her and said, “I was listening to what you were saying tonight in the discussion and I was struck by how articulate you are. You are clearly an intelligent woman. I am a professor at a local college and I think you would be great in one of our degree programs. Do you have a degree?”
Flattered, the woman explained that no, she did not have her college degree, but she had always dreamed of getting one. She met with the woman and did a tour of the campus. It was beautiful. Woman working on the bachelors, masters and PHDs were all there. They told her how easy it was, and how many different things she could do when she had attained her diploma.
She was given an application to fill out. “We don’t have any extra money, and my husband loves me, but he is really practical about these things,” she explained to woman who had so quickly become a friend.
“Nothing to worry about,” her friend replied. “It only costs $100 to fill out an application. The rest you can pay for as you go, and there is so much financial aid out there.”
That night at home, she did her homework. She looked online, and only found glowing reviews for the university. It was hailed as one of the top universities for women in the country. So many of the alumni had created websites to help new students navigate the world of college life.
She explained it all to her husband, who reluctantly agreed, because his wife was so excited and he wanted the best for her.
The next day she met her friend, who would also serve as her advisor, at the university coffee shop who showed her the course catalog and helped her choose a major. They discussed how many courses she could handle at a time, how many hours she could dedicate to studying and how hard she was willing to work.
“I have to tell you,” her friend said, “you have the makings of a PHD candidate. You can do this one little course at a time, paying and making choices as you go, but I want better for you. With my help, and the plan of the woman who have done this before you, you can go all the way. I want the best for you – I want to help you be your best. You can pay for one class at a time, but you get a discount if you will go ahead and pay for your entire bachelors. You will save more if you go ahead and pay for your Masters, but it will best for you and your family if you will go ahead and commit to your PHD and pay for it up front. I would hate to see you waste your family’s money.”
Wanting to make her husband proud of how dedicated she was to using her family’s resources wisely, and desiring to be an example to her daughter of how much a mom and wife can accomplish, she signed up for the whole deal. She was promised that financial aid, when it came in, would reimburse her all of her upfront costs. With so much going for her, she started her first semester set to succeed. She never missed a class, took copious notes, and memorized the notes and books.
However, not halfway through her first classes, some problems started to crop up. The financial aid she had been promised had not come in yet, and the credit card payments were taking a toll on both her family’s budget and her marriage. And, no matter how much she studied, she could not pass the tests. The questions just did not seem to come from the books or lectures.
She scheduled an appointment with her advisor, who assured her if she was attending every class and studying the assigned materials that she would pass. In fact, everyone else in the class was passing. The only difference was that instead of wasting their energy complaining and whining, they were studying.
The woman redoubled her efforts, to no avail. She spent hours in the library, missing her son’s baseball games and her daughter’s first step. Still, she had learned nothing and was on the verge of flunking out. Out of desperation, she got back online. She stumbled across a site selling answers for tests. It didn’t feel right, but she was desperate. If she could just pass this semester she would do better next semester.
Over the next few semesters she was able to pass a few classes on her own, but for the most part, she had to buy test answers. However, she was not only passing, but thriving. She was invited to join and exclusive sorority. She was honored in the university newspaper. She graduated two semesters early, suma cum laude, with honors, top of her class. Finally she was receiving the recognition she craved.
Each time she reached another level she found that the test answers were more expensive and the financial aid was still nonexistent. The only way to pay off her debt was to finish and get a job with her degree. Her hands were tied. To tell her family the truth would be to admit defeat and disappoint them. The cheating, debt and lying would all be in vain. So she smiled, bought more answers, and pretended everything was ok.