Overcoming Self Limiting Beliefs: How I Went From College Dropout to Director of Admission

by E. Meredith Young
(Boardman, Ohio)

Me, getting my diploma!

Me, getting my diploma!

Self limiting beliefs were slowly doing me in. I was slogging my way through my 30’s. Things weren’t going well. I vaguely remembered as a kid thinking I could do anything I set my mind to, but by the time I got into my mid-thirties, I had come to believe that I wasn't worth much. I had long ago settled for less than I really wanted. And I thought that was as good as it was going to get for me.

I had worked in the same office since I was 20 and was watching the years tick away as I went there every day -- 16, 17, 18 years working there... It took all the strength I had to get myself to work every day -- I was that unhappy. I watched the clock all day, milked my coffee breaks and lunch for all I could get out of them and just survived the rest of the day. There was very little there that felt worthwhile to me, except the paycheck.

I had sought the help of a therapist because I didn't want the next 18+ years to go this same way. During one session, he suggested to me that one way to get one's life on track was to go back and pick up something where you had left it off many years before. I had dropped out of college when I was 20 and he suggested I go back to school and finish.

Can you spell "terrified?"

But I was serious about wanting to change my life so I decided to try ONE class at the local University. I was so scared when I went to register for my class that I went back home without registering and called a friend who was a student there to ask her to go with me. I was 38.

I was able to get myself to the classroom for the first class -- but was so nervous and timid and self-conscious that I honestly could not even say hello to the students sitting near me. This went on throughout the term. But I loved using my brain again and was so excited about the class that I was reading my textbook for bedtime reading!

I got an "A."...Me...I got an A...Man-o-man...

So I went back the next term and took another class at night. This time I was able to say hello to my fellow students and EVEN talked to the professor once! And I got a "B."

This went on for a couple of years, one class at a time, with me getting more comfortable and continuing to do well. And I loved it. Even though I was still self-conscious, did NOT talk in class, and was pretty quiet, I was loving being a student again and learning that my mind still worked really well!

I had my 20th Anniversary working in that office a few weeks from my 40th birthday and realized that there was NO way I could go there every day for another 20 years, so I carefully made plans to resign the following summer and become a full-time college student. That August, I walked out of that office for the last time, after 21 years, 1 month and 26 days -- but who was counting?

And I walked onto the campus of Cleveland State University and became a full-time college student. The adventure was unbelievable, exciting, thrilling, rewarding, often hard, scary at times, but always right.

When I finished my Bachelor's degree (at age 44) my Mom flew up from Florida for Commencement and my friends had a wonderful party for me. I can still remember so clearly, walking up the steps to the stage, as they announced over the PA system, "Elisabeth Meredith Young!" I get chills. Still.

I had known that I wanted to go on, and so had done research on Master's degrees and settled on one in the College of Education -- Postsecondary Education Administration, Adult Learning and Development.

On the first day of Grad School, I was flying down the hallway in the biggest classroom building on campus looking for my room. I found it, and then realized that it was directly across from that large lecture hall where I had had that first class, the very first one when I was so terrified. I stopped, walked across the hall, and looked in. The room was empty but the lights were on. I leaned against the doorframe and looked at the seat I had sat in so many years before... And marveled... And thought that if anyone had told me, back then, that in 5 years I would be so comfortable on that campus and would have finished my B.A. degree and started Grad School, I would not have believed them.

It was beyond who I was then -- or perhaps more accurately, who I believed I was then -- to dream, even secretly, that I could be so successful...

I then crossed the hall and took a seat in my very first Graduate class. And that night, for the first time in my life, I raised my hand in class....

I went on from there to be a very successful administrator at 5 different colleges and universities. And I told this story over and over to people who were thinking about coming back to college but who felt intimidated, overwhelmed or scared...

Who would have thought that a woman who didn't believe she belonged in college, was terrified of even going to a class, would eventually become a Director of Admission -- the person leading the office that recruits students and decides who is admitted?

It was ALL thrilling, gratifying and wonderful...

So I learned that you CAN change who you believe yourself to be.

In big, positive and meaningful ways...

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My wish
by: John

I have a son who is also college dropout. I may want him to study again in college. Your story encourages me. I don't know how I can help my son to study again. We moved very close to the college campus which he got an admission for transfer but he changed his mind and doesn't want to go back to college. He seems to worry about his financial burden of repaying his loan. I look forward to seeing my son have such courage and commitment as you started with. Thank you for sharing your story.

A Great and Inspiring Story
by: Susan Lebby Spector

Meredith, thanks for doing such an excellent job of showing how your beliefs can affect your entire experience of your life! Your story gives a clear demonstration of how to go about making positive life change.


- paid attention to what you were thinking and feeling.
- challenged your self-defeating thoughts and beliefs.
- developed a concrete strategy.
- took ACTION towards your goal. One step at a time. Building your strength and confidence.
- Reaped the rewards.

Congratulations on your courage and commitment in reclaiming your life!

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