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Teen Speak: I Took a Different Path to College and I’m Okay With That

My path to college was fairly typical—until it wasn’t. I applied to 10 colleges my senior year of high school with every intention of going to a four-year college after high school. Yet as May 1st approached, I found myself with an unexpected alternative to going to college. In the end, I decided not to attend any of them. Instead, I signed a contract to dance professionally with the newly-formed Cleveland Ballet for the 2015/2016 season. I have trained in ballet since I was three years old and so this was a dream come true. I was ecstatic about my decision and about the future, yet that summer and into the fall was pretty weird.

While my friends were starting school, making new friends, and having the college experience, I was living at home, dancing a lot, and working at Starbucks when I wasn’t rehearsing. At first, I wanted to have the best of both worlds. I would visit my friends at Ohio State University for the weekend, send letters to my friends in college, and look forward to my friends coming home for breaks. It took time, but eventually I began to accept and actually appreciate the fact that I wasn’t having a typical college experience.

A Different Path to College

This is now my second season with the company, and I love it. Spending all day doing ballet is incredibly fulfilling—and for me, it’s better than spending the day in a classroom or looking at a computer screen.

I’m also a college student now, attending Arizona State University online for free. Through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, I am reimbursed 100% for my classes. I am working towards a degree in healthy-lifestyle coaching. I take one class every seven and a half  weeks, since that’s all I have time for right now. ASU is great because the classes are flexible and I am able to complete my schoolwork any time I want.

It definitely took time to get used to the fact that my path to college is completely different than all of my friends from high school. At first, I felt like I was missing out on some great and awesome experience. But through connecting with fellow ASU students and Starbucks employees, I now see that while I took one path to college, there are many different options that someone can take after high school. There is no wrong or right.

I am incredibly happy I took the leap of faith after my senior year. And I’m glad I decided to be okay with not doing what everyone else was doing. I am getting a college education. And even if it takes me longer than everyone else, I get to receive my education while doing what I love every day.

Madeline Taylor is a ballerina/barista/online college student. In her spare time, she likes to work out and sleep.

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