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Students "stop out" of college (leave before they earn a degree) for a variety of reasons – health, money, family, lack of direction or motivation – or maybe some combination. But often what brings them back is newfound sense of purpose:

  • Set an example for their family.
  • Have a steady income.
  • Pursue their passion.
  • Check it off the bucket list.

Whatever the reason, we know it takes commitment, perseverance, and a juggling of multiple roles that can often feel overwhelming. We also know achieving the goal you’ve set for yourself is overwhelming in the best way possible way because returning students tell us time and time again. It is an accomplishment, a message to yourself and others that you can do it.

Read on to hear the stories of grit and gratitude, doubt and delight, second-guessing to success, from those who made the decision to come back.

We want to hear about your success! Share your story here.

"Returning to the U rewarded me with some of the most fulfilling years of my life. Initially, resuming college in midlife was intimidating, but my family, professors, counselors, and classmates encouraged me to show up and work hard. With their support and my determination, I graduated with honors in 2019. I am proud of my strength and resilience, and the example I set for my children."  - Tiffani DiGregorio 

Stopped out to focus on her career, then returned 25 years later, graduating in 2019 with a BA in English

"As [graduation] was hitting me, it made me really appreciate the University of Utah and everything they do and all the resources that they’ve made accessible. I mean, there’s no way that you can fail here. To anyone that’s on the same path that I was on, being away from school that many years, intimidated, life takes over ... I’d tell them everyone’s got a why, why you do anything. Find your why. The effect that it has on your life, economically, socially, so many different ways, it’s totally worth it. Don’t feel intimidated. Particularly with this university, coming back, there’s so much help here." - Jamal Carter


Scholarship Recipients 

Through a generous donation from the Parent Fund, the Return to the U initiative has been able to award needs-based scholarships annually for the past two years to help students finish their education. Applications are typically available in the fall. To find details about this and other scholarships, click here.

"It was Christmas day when I opened the email congratulating me for being awarded the Return to the University Scholarship. I read incredulously as a tear left my eye. I am moved with a jolt of gratitude and a warm feeling of resiliency. The battles of 2020 (COVID-19, lockdown etc.) were only scratching the surface of where I had found myself. I poured my heart out on the application. I wasn’t judged; I felt a warm hand pulling me to my feet. This warm hand was this scholarship. The scholarship will let me accomplish my goal of gaining a bachelor’s degree. While looking to grad school with the feeling of support behind me. In choosing me, I am indebted to not only breaking through my potential, but giving back what has been given to me. Merry Christmas; Happy Hanukkah; Happy Kwanzaa; and Merry Omisoka. Thank You." – Austin Myslinski

"I wanted to take a moment to write a thank you for awarding me the Return to the U scholarship. I am so incredibly grateful for the assistance it will bring. This scholarship will be a huge help for me as I pursue my goals in attaining a master’s degree in Secondary Education. Just like many, I have had trials and hardships that made attending college very difficult. I am thirty-two years old with three children at home. I believed for a long time that I would never have the opportunity to receive a college education. Due to my current circumstances, I am unable to work and attend school at the same time. I have had to rely on student loans to pay not only my tuition but the general needs of me and my family. This scholarship has come at a time when money is extremely tight. I will be able to continue my schooling efforts as well as support my family through the next semester. Thank you so much again!"   Stephanie “Nikki” Horner

"I am humbled and appreciative to be the recipient of the Return to the U Scholarship. By awarding me this scholarship, you have lightened my financial burden which allows me to focus more on the important aspect of school, learning.

"I am currently in the RN-BSN online program and I work full-time in Radiation Oncology at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital. I feel like I have been really supported throughout this pandemic by everyone here at the University of Utah. I plan to pursue my DNP in the hopes of becoming an instructor of nursing upon graduating. Thanks to you, I am one step closer to that goal.

"Your generosity has inspired me to help others and pay it forward to the nursing community. I hope that one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart during this difficult time."   Brenda Baker


Additional Testimonials

"Since I've returned to the U, I've realized what I truly want to accomplish and have an even greater motivation to complete my degree. I've learned that it's never too late, and my advisors are always supporting me throughout my journey back. As a new mother I was afraid that I was never going to come back because of having a family, but my advisors encouraged me even more to pursue my degree, which then fueled my desire to finish for not only myself but my new family. The only thing I regret was not coming back earlier. I made excuses, and now that I'm here I can only look forward to the starting line because there's no finish line when it comes to education. Once a Ute, always a Ute!" - Bernice Mauinatu

"Because of the Return to the U program, I’m able to complete my BSN degree that I started in 1990! Return to the U aims to support students with some college but no degree, and Annie (the Return to the U Student Success Advocate) assisted me in completing my first bachelor's degree by offering individualized support, flexible options and advocacy for me, 'the adult learner.' . . .  The idea of women—mothers—going to school, even when they have young kids, is more than a nice idea, or something to get you "using your brain," or a way to not go crazy (although it served all three of those for me). It’s your most precious asset. Having a college degree, no matter when you get it, is a way to help ensure your financial situation." Brenda Baker


"As a single parent in my early 40s who works full-time, I had really given up on the idea of being able to return to college and complete my degree. My younger years I had moved all over the country and pursued a variety of degrees including film and history, but when I became a single parent shortly after my child was born, I knew I needed to focus on my career in the financial industry instead of school. It was hard to let go of my dream of earning a college degree, though, and I hoped to be able to go back to school "someday." An email in the summer of 2019 from the Return to U department gave me new hope and a new passion to pursue. I was surprised to learn I could pursue a degree in Psychology entirely online. This information came at a time I was trying to do my own research into gender identity so I could be a better ally to my child, who had just come out as non-binary, so I decided to give it a try.

"I have been met with enthusiasm and support in every possible way through the application process, registration, and matriculation. I am now in my last semester and will receive my B.S in Psychology in May. Even through COVID-19, I was fully supported by my academic advisors and professors who were always understanding of my non-traditional student challenges. I have started applying to graduate school programs with the goal of becoming a licensed therapist for Transgender adolescents and their families. I cannot overstate how much this opportunity has meant to both me and my child. To say that it has been life-changing is no exaggeration. Returning to the U is one of the best decisions I have ever made!"  - Kirsten Caron

Last Updated: 3/8/22