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Five Tips for Finishing Your Degree During Recovery

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

November 17, 2023

Table of Contents

You want to graduate, but don’t feel motivated to go to school. After all, you’re still in recovery and you want to focus on that. There’s all sorts of excuses a person can come up with, but the truth of the matter is that part of your recovery means changing yourself for the better. Getting a college degree will help you secure a better financial future for you and your loved ones. Whether you’re applying for grad school or halfway through your degree, finishing your degree is a good idea.

5 Ways to Stay Motivated to Finish College

Would you rather be bored with your humdrum life, or be challenged to achieve new goals? Would you rather go to your same old job every day for the rest of your life, or step outside your comfort zone? Would you rather waste away in a job you hate, or LIVE life fully? Do you want to live paycheck to paycheck for the rest of your life? Getting a college degree opens up exciting new worlds. In today’s global economy, many companies won’t even consider a person without a degree. Sure, there are good paying trade jobs (ex. plumbers, mechanics, etc), but few people want to be bent over the hood over a car at 55 years old.

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1. Focus on the reasons you want your degree

What goal will school help you accomplish? Will it help you get into the career you want? Will it help you get a raise at your current job? Will finishing your degree help you to get the job you want? Maybe you have academic goals that you’ve always wanted to achieve. Maybe you want to earn a few hundred thousand dollars a year, and you know the best way to do that is to get an MBA, law degree, or medical degree. Or, maybe you want to heal the sick or defend the vulnerable – in any of these scenarios, getting a college degree is essential. Or maybe you just need to finish your G.E.D. before you can move on to higher education.

2. There are many types of degrees

During my time serving as a mentor for young people, I often reminded them that a traditional college degree isn’t the only option. Vocational schools are worth looking at. So too are schools focused on training healthcare professionals. Becoming an Occupational Therapist for Licensed Vocational Nurse are two very good options. Both jobs pay well and don’t require many years of education.   For mechanics, pursuing a VoTech College to earn an ASE Master Certification might be more to your liking. Do some research online. Call the schools. Ask about financial aid. Read reviews for any school you’re considering. Whichever path you choose, you can have confidence that finishing your degree will open doors for you.

3. Even if you didn’t get great grades in high school

Whether you’re applying to grad school or just trying to stay motivated to go to class today, remember that good things take time and effort. I truly believe there are numerous and meaningful rewards of being a college or university student, interacting with peers, learning how to counsel people (or whatever you want to specialize in), and even writing a thesis. The people you meet in college or university will change your life, and can even become lifelong friends. Just like in recovery, your fellow students form a bound made stronger by the shared experience of a challenging curriculum. Look to them for support. To stay motivated to go to school, remember that you are changing your life in important ways.

4. Don’t be intimated by the course work – or the application process

Expect it to be difficult, at least initially. Universities often test students prior to entry to help determine where their educational skills are lacking. The test seems intimidating to some but in reality, it’ll help shape your curriculum.

Once that’s set, it’s time to choose your major. Obviously, it should be something that matches your interests and goals. It’s a great idea to talk to people already in that profession, especially recent graduates. They can help guide you on what you need to learn, how to get help when you need it and what to expect as you go through your studies.

5. Imagine how good you’ll feel when you graduate

Few things make a young man or woman more proud than graduation day. The immense satisfaction of tackling the unknown is one of the best self-esteem boosters possible. Getting a college degree will be worth it in many ways. Upon graduation, you’ll have recruiters chasing you with great job opportunities, some in new cities, some for companies you’ve admired for years. Going to grad school will be tough – I’m not looking forward to the long bus ride to UBC every day, and I hate the thought of leaving my dog alone all day! And of course there’s the financial and personal sacrifices that university or college forces you to undergo. But I know I’ll graduate if I stay focused on my long-term goals.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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