Career Prep 

Meet Dana Smith

Dana Smith sent a text to her friends last year. “I will be off the grid for the next 16 weeks. Please do not invite me to do anything,” she wrote.
Smith is a full-time paralegal in a Kendallville, Indiana, law office and a wife and mother of three. When she sent the text, Smith had just enrolled in 15 credit hours at Ivy Tech Communitdana-smithy College.
“I basically had a schedule for 16 weeks that I stuck to: class, homework, and study,” Smith says. “I studied in the car before my son’s baseball games because I had 45 minutes to kill. I studied in the wee hours of the night.”
“You have to want it bad enough that you will do whatever it takes to get there,” she says.
For Smith, “there” meant her associate degree, which she received in May, after two years of driving two hours, twice each week, to Ivy Tech in Fort Wayne.
Now she’s on to Trine University, taking classes at the nearby Angola campus to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. With Ivy Tech credits transferring to Trine, she hopes to finish in 18 months and continue on to law school.
If all goes as planned, Smith will be applying to law schools as she turns 41, but age doesn’t deter her.
“I’ve done everything in my life backwards,” she explains. She married at 17 and was a new mother during her senior year of high school. In 2000, Smith went to work in a law office where she received paralegal training and experience. But without a college degree, she had limited opportunities for advancement.
With the encouragement of her employer and family, Smith enrolled in Ivy Tech in 2014, just as her oldest daughter was going off to college. She chose Ivy Tech for two reasons: price and location.
She chose Trine for similar reasons. While Trine’s “sticker price” is higher than some lower-cost schools, Trine discounted her tuition thanks to her high grade point average and membership in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at Ivy Tech. And Smith is completing a work portfolio that could result in college credit that will shave time and money off her degree program.
“My kids kept calling me an overachiever,” she says. “I tell them, ‘See, it paid off.’”
Smith advises prospective students to proceed—but with caution. “It really has been a truly amazing experience. I have met a lot of really neat people, from professors to other students,” Smith says. “But don’t start if you are not 100 percent determined. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I would hate for anyone to spend the money and end up without a degree.”

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