Lacking a college degree can be a major professional handicap for many people, especially in our credentials-obsessed society. About once a year a situation arises in which a person with a high-profile job has lied about his or her college credentials; we’ve seen this with football coaches, federal political appointees, and even college administrators. These people are humiliated and lose their jobs when the truth comes out. I’m sure there are many more cases like this that don’t get publicized because the people are not in public positions.
So the lack of a college degree is a big deal in the professional world. It’s also a big deal on a personal basis if you work with lots of people who have college degrees. I had a boss once who had dropped out of college with about one year’s worth of credits to go. Everyone he supervised had a college degree; some of us had graduate degrees. He was so embarrassed that he didn’t tell anyone until he had finished his degree with some night classes – that’s when we found out about this “secret” he was harboring. In his case, the degree didn’t make him a better boss or a marketing genius, but it made him feel that he was on the same intellectual level as everyone in the department.
Today, there are ample ways to get that degree. Online programs are pretty good and getting better. For-profit schools that cater to those who work full-time also can be very good; for example, Strayer University has programs across the U.S., and my friends have said that the students are very serious and the teachers are knowledgeable. Community colleges remain a great option, particularly for those who are starting school and want to make sure that they have what it takes to persevere.
So don’t give up, and don’t be embarrassed. Just take a deep breath and start again. You will find that there are many people just like you.