Phoenix, AZ – Vanessa Hernandez is using her college education to help others navigate their higher education journey.
Vanessa explains, “I really enjoy my job as an Admissions Counselor at Grand Canyon University (GCU). It’s a really flexible position, and I get to help high school students who may not necessarily have a lot of support or knowledge about higher education, figure out what they want to do – and, what’s going to be a good path for them. Even if they don’t go to GCU, I can still help them along the way to figure out what direction to point them in and help them figure out their financial aid and course schedules, and all of that kind of stuff. So, it’s really a rewarding position.”
Vanessa, age 28, was born and raised in Phoenix and graduated from Carl Hayden Community High School in 2008, and went on to graduate from Arizona State University in 2012 with Bachelor Degrees in Political Science and Justice Studies.Vanessa then earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Grand Canyon University, graduating in 2016.
Vanessa says getting the MBA was no cake walk:
“Oh my gosh, it was so hard! It was definitely harder than I thought it was going to be, and I was working full-time while attending night school. So, it was definitely something that I wasn’t ready for but overall I finished it in the time that it’s supposed to take, and I guess that’s all that counts.”
Vanessa explains that the MBA is paying dividends, “In terms of my career, master’s degrees are really sought after when you’re in higher education, especially at the university level. I feel that it (the MBA) helps me in my position, which is really heavily financially oriented – so, I’m able to explain finance a lot better and help families and students figure out what their plan is going to be to finance their education.”
Vanessa is among the hundreds of high potential students who have earned scholarships from College Success Arizona, which provide financial support and specialized mentoring services from a team of “Success Advisers.”
Vanessa says the scholarship reduced the stress of her college experience, “The scholarship itself was really helpful because it covered nearly the entire cost of tuition at ASU. So, it was really affordable for me to attend college, and I did get to live out of my parents’ house in a location near the campus. And then the mentoring, definitely super helpful, because I was always held accountable for my grades and was always being encouraged to do different internships, and stuff like that, so it was really nice to have the scholarship.”
Meanwhile, Vanessa has some advice for middle and high school students considering their own college options, “I would say if you get a ‘C’ or a ‘D’ it’s not the end of the world, so don’t quit. I personally got a “C” during my first semester in high school, and I was freaked out and thought that I would never get into college. But, as I went through college I realized that I have to fix it and work harder, and I persevered through that. Even in college I totally turned it around and graduated Summa Cum Laude, which was insane considering that my GPA wasn’t the best. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t the best. So, just keep pushing through and keep looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel, because it’s definitely there.”
Vanessa tells us that her family was always supportive of her college career, “I think my family always knew that I was going to be successful in college and get more degrees that one degree. My parents barely graduated high school, and really don’t understand the amount of work that goes into a master’s degree or a doctorate degree, but they’ve always been really encouraging and pushed me to go further. So, it’s always been really helpful to have their support.”
In terms of transitioning from college to career, Vanessa says, “I think it does take some adjusting to realize that the 8-5 job schedule is not the end of the world, and you just need to find hobbies to fill in your time. Maybe not always make your career be your joy, and definitely try to find joy in other areas of your life, because your career can be rewarding, but it’s not meant to be your end all and be all.”
And looking back to those college years…“The best part of college was definitely the freedom and the flexibility of getting to choose what you want to study, and not being stuck to that 8-5 routine we experience in high school. It was really nice to have the four-day weekends and get to socialize with friends and not be stuck in the same daily routine. And then post college, I would say the best part is experiencing the mix of life. Getting to pick a house and choose the neighborhood where you want to live, and getting to choose the career positions you want to take on in life. So, that’s been really nice.”
Vanessa adds that her post-secondary educational journey may continue, “I think it depends on what my next position will be at GCU. It just depends on where you’re working within the organization. There’s some positions that would prefer that I do have a doctorate, whether it’s a DBA or another doctorate degree. It’s not a requirement, but it would be nice to have and it would definitely help my career. And, I think I do want to continue working in the education sector, but I don’t know if I want to stay in the same exact position. Ultimately, I see myself moving up, either in an admission management position or another job.”
Since 2005, College Success Arizona has worked with nearly 1,300 students, and provided more than 16 million dollars in scholarships and success services to help increase the college attainment rate in Arizona. If you would like to be part of the mission of providing educational opportunity to high potential students from low income circumstances, your tax-deductible contribution can be made through the “Donate” button on the top of this page.