Most kids have a lot of growing up to do when they graduate from high school. Breana Vachon had more to do than most.
A late birthday combined with skipping the fourth grade had Vachon facing her first steps into adulthood at a mere 16 years old, and the Laurens, South Carolina native freely admits she wasn’t ready to take them.
“I did well academically in high school, but I was also a lot younger than everyone,” she says. “I think that explains my maturity level leaving high school . . . I had a full scholarship to Winthrop, and I just blew it. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I just went because you’re supposed to.”
So Vachon moved to Greenville and did the other thing you’re supposed to do when you grow up: She got a job. That maturity also allowed her see what she couldn’t in high school: A career path.
“Just having been out in the work force for a while you get a little bit of experience,” she says. “I was in sales, which I did not like, but the bookkeeping, accounts and ledgers, I did like.”
To get anywhere, however, she needed a four-year degree. Professors at Greenville Tech alerted Vachon to Furman’s Undergraduate Evening Studies (UES) program and the bachelor’s degree in accounting it offered, but she doubted it was a realistic option until she had a conversation with director Beth Crews.
“It seems daunting after you failed in college after the first attempt . . . I was concerned about my grades from years before, but the difference is that now, I have a different attitude about it,” Vachon says. “They made it simple and really focused on me. I had a lot of questions before I decided to apply, so I met with Beth and she helped me work through those questions. I put in my application that day.”
She still wasn’t completely confident in her ability to succeed once classes started earlier this year, but that doubt, too, quickly evaporated.
“I was a little bit nervous going from Greenville Tech to Furman because of what expectations may be from a place that has such a great reputation, but it doesn’t feel like you’re at a snobby school . . . It still feels like a regular place,” Vachon says. “Many of my classmates are in the same situation I’m in, and the professors are understanding and will work with schedules.”
Vachon continues to work part time at a cost-estimating firm but it slated to be finished by the spring of 2017 thanks in part to UES’s pilot program last summer, block scheduling and hybrid courses, which allows students to graduate more quickly by completing courses in half the time and blending classroom sessions with online learning.
“They split the summer up into two six-week blocks, so it was a lot faster and more intense,” Vachon says. Crews expects that the programs piloted with be tweaked and made a permanent feature of evening studies classes.
Vachon did her part to make the process as speedy as possible by getting married in April the weekend before exams, and honeymooning between the spring and summer semesters. It’s that kind of serious adult student Furman is after, Crews says.
“Instructors at Greenville Tech identify students with great academic promise, and introduce them to Furman. Breana is one of those who was referred to us,” Crews says. “She didn’t think she would have a chance to get to Furman . . Non-traditional students such as Breanna are much more career-focused, so the majors we offer are much more career-focused. They come to us to earn a liberal arts degree, from a top university, at an affordable price. For an Upstate resident, Furman will always be on your resume. It speaks here.”
For more information on Furman’s UES, click here.