“I’m never going to college.”
I remember adamantly declaring this to my parents one day after months of thought. I’d seen people get college degrees, go into thousands of dollars of debt, and end up changing the directions of their lives entirely, rendering the degree useless.
I knew I didn’t want that to be me.
“You could do college online,” my mom reminded me gently. “It would be cheaper. But if you don’t go to college, that’s okay too. Just think about it, maybe?”
I wrote off online college as the “frugal but boring” option, and put it in the back of my mind for a few years. Even in middle school, I knew I wasn’t willing to spend money I didn’t have for a degree I didn’t want to get a job I wouldn’t love. And that was that.
But then I found Unbound. And at twelve years old, I knew if ever I figured out what to do with my life, this would be the way to go.
It seemed different than simply attending a university online—it was innovative, inexpensive, and flexible. I began to see the value in having at least a bachelor’s degree, if only to open doors for myself in the days ahead. And the idea of a debt-free degree was rather appealing.
What did I have to lose?
How My Passions Prompted Me to Do College Differently
Fast forward three years later, and at 15, I tested the waters of college study by taking a few CLEP exams on my own. At 16, I enrolled in Unbound, and at 17, I graduated high school a year early with 45 college credits.
Though I’d always been ambitious, I never set out to do college so young. I had always planned on taking a gap year after high school because I’d felt for so long that the direction of my life seemed uncertain. I didn’t want to make hasty decisions about my future.
But as I began writing hundreds of articles for my personal blog, delving deeply into my faith for myself, exploring graphic design, and handling audiovisual media and worship for my church, I found a passion for communication—beginning with the written word and encompassing everything from designing flyers to understanding people.
As a caregiver for my special needs brother and the daughter of a pastor, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned I love to serve. I love to care for and invest in people. And above all, I love to point people to hope.
Unbound gave me the freedom to discover all of this. While I was busy serving my family and my church, and building relationships within the student community and locally, I took courses when it was convenient for me. I began to get valuable work experience, explore what I was passionate about, and pursue what I felt called to do—all as I worked on my bachelor’s degree.
Those aren’t things I could get in the typical university experience.
To me, being Unbound is about so much more than just getting a Communications degree, though that’s part of it. Unbound is a way of life. It’s the conscious decision to be purposeful in the way I live and the decisions I make, and to be flexible in the name of truly living.
In walking this path, I’ve been able to explore who I am, the person I’m becoming, the faith I hold more precious than life itself. Instead of putting all of my energy into brick-and-mortar four-year schooling, I’ve been able to contemplate my purpose, invest intentionally in the people around me, and learn to be fully present in my life and career.
I Wanted to Build a Life Worth Living
Over these past years, I have asked myself, “If I were to sacrifice being the person God has called me to be for the sake of the traditional college experience… in the end, would it really be worth it?”
And time after time, I’ve come back to this answer with no hesitation: “Losing myself to the mainstream college experience, simply because it’s what everyone else does isn’t a sacrifice I’m willing to make.” Right here, right now, I know I’m exactly where God has called me. I haven’t been called to auditoriums and dorm rooms, rigid schedules and student loan payments, but to be present in the world around me, pursuing the callings and the relationships only I can.
It is my personal conviction that people are extremely important. Family is worth cherishing and while good relationships can be challenging, they’re always, always worth prioritizing. So, I put them first.
I’ve learned not to fear dropping the books to take a friend out for coffee once in a while, cleaning the kitchen after everyone else is in bed, and preparing meals so my mother can rest. I like being able to take my autistic brother to classes and out for lunch, or meeting with younger girls to study the Bible in the middle of the day. Having the ability to do all of those things is beautiful, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Being Unbound, for me, is about so much more than simply finishing college early or being debt free. It’s about finding my own way of living, spending my days how I believe God is calling me to, investing where I’m placed, and experiencing this story that’s only mine to tell.
And so, I live my story. I write to inspire people to understand grace and how to live well in Christ. I lead worship. I create media of all kinds for my church. I mentor and lead others in Bible study. I travel. I have friends I cherish from coast to coast. I read good books, drink great coffee, and study in beach parking lots and on airplanes and at corner cafés. I roll with my ever-changing, rarely-predictable world.
This is my Unbound life.
I never meant for it to change me, the way I see the world, and how I live my purpose. But it has. This beautiful, wonderful, raw, and often unglamorous way of living has transformed my college experience from the inside out. And transformed me even more.