You can still achieve your goals, it is never too late!

Meghan Sapp shares how after 25 years ,she joined the graduating class of 2021. It’s never too late to achieve your goals,


Sometimes life seems to fly past in the blink of an eye and other times it drags on as if it will never end. When you look up from your computer and see that it’s been nearly six weeks since graduating from university, an accomplishment that took 25 years to complete, that’s when you realise that time is all relative.


achieve your goals

It’s all about timing

Let’s back up for a minute. I entered Montana State University—my dream school where I was accepted eight days after applying, where I was going to study agriculture and marry a cowboy—in late August 1996, two months after graduating from high school in California. That’s what everyone did, go to university straight away, or so it seemed at the time, and that’s what I did too.

But I wasn’t ready. I had grown up very sheltered, having gone to an academically-focused all girls Catholic high school and was not at all prepared to live on my own, manage my finances, study in giant lecture halls rather than the maximum of 30 I had experienced my whole life. I wasn’t even prepared to choose what to wear every day after more than a decade in a plaid uniform. So how could I have been expected to succeed? I didn’t, and after two years I went home with my tail between my legs and did the only thing I knew how to do: write.

Early days

With the help of the American Agricultural Editors Association’s fledgling mentorship program, I became an agricultural journalist. I wrote for magazines and eventually staffed community newspapers, first becoming an editor at the age of 21. By 23, I was managing two weekly newspapers on the Central Coast of California with a staff of more than 20 in two locations. Again, thanks to the AAEA, a stipend I won took me to the International Agricultural Journalists Association’s annual meetings in Finland. That was September 2001. I took the opportunity of low-cost flights after the terrible events on 9/11 and went to Europe half a dozen times over the course of a year. It was then I decided it was time to take the leap.

While working as a journalist, I took some courses at a local community college but didn’t make much progress. I tried to finish my degree online through another university, but by the time the books made it through Spanish customs to Sevilla where I had decided to start my new European adventure as a freelance journalist, it was too late, and I had failed a full load of courses. Back then classes were still based on physical textbooks rather than digital. Yet again, I gave up.

How to turn your career goals into a career strategy

Returner program

But by chance circumstances, I ran across an article some 10 years later about Montana State University having won a research grant for biofuels, which was my main career focus by then. I checked out the website and not only did they have a degree program specifically for returning, typically adult, students, but my grades didn’t matter. Once a Bobcat, always a Bobcat! That was 2016. By January 2017, I was back at MSU taking a single course per semester.

It wasn’t easy to balance with my workload, which by that time had me flying around the world regularly, or while building my dream ranch in the north of Spain, and sometimes I skipped a semester because I just didn’t have the funds to pay for the very expensive (to me) courses. But step by step, I did it. I met some amazing professors, was able to bring “my world” to theirs in amazingly unexpected ways, and beginning in January 2021, I was surrounded by post-it’s on the walls of my office until I managed to bring together a final research project I was truly proud of.

No matter what stage of life you are in you can create a plan to support you to reach your goals.

Class of 2021!

On May 1, in a virtual ceremony, since COVID-19 kept me from walking across the stage in person, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies, having achieved top marks in all of my courses since the day I returned to MSU as an online student. In January 2017, graduating seemed like an impossible feat, just as it did back in 2003 when I tried and failed at the other university. But I succeeded with flying colours, in no small part thanks to the support my husband who gave me to allow me the space I needed to study and finally “get ‘er done”.

And if after 25 years I could finally get my undergraduate degree done, you can too.


Do you take time to think about your career goals and strategy?

Use these career reflection worksheets to structure your thoughts.


Meghan Sapp Contributor
Meghan has extensive experience achieving holistic change in agricultural, food and energy systems. She is a senior sustainability executive with 15 years of experience leveraging best practices and networks globally with focus on creating synergies, efficiency and partnerships.

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