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BYU-Pathway: The Opportunity of a Lifetime

When I first applied to BYU-Pathway, I never imagined being where I am today


As a first-generation college student, I never dreamed of walking across the stage to get my degree. Growing up, my mom always stressed the importance of getting an education. But, after struggling to graduate from high school, I was convinced that college wasn’t meant for someone like me.

Onnastasia and Peter Cole
Onnastasia and her husband, Peter, got married during their first semester of PathwayConnect.

So when my aunt encouraged me to apply to BYU-Pathway Worldwide’s PathwayConnect program, I was hesitant. Between my muddied high school transcript and track record of inactivity in the Church growing up, I was sure they’d look at my application and laugh. But, with a little encouragement from my boyfriend (now husband), I decided to give it a chance — and we began the journey together.

Honestly, I was shocked when I received my acceptance email. Having given up hope for continuing my education, I knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I couldn’t pass it up.

BYU-Pathway transformed the way I thought about education. Growing up without the gospel in my life, I never really learned how to invite the Spirit into my studies, but within the first two weeks of starting PathwayConnect, my online instructor shared a scripture that changed everything for me: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance.” 1
Onnastasia Cole with her coworkers during her internship with the Ensign magazine
Onnastasia with her coworkers during her internship with the Ensign magazine

Despite having little academic confidence and what felt at the time like a child’s understanding of the Spirit, reading that scripture opened my mind to great possibilities. I knew that my success was dependent on the effort I put into learning, but it was empowering to know that I wasn’t alone. I could call on the Spirit for help any time, day or night.

With guidance from The Learning Model , I discovered the importance of preparing, teaching, pondering, and proving what I learned each week. Though I was initially nervous to attend weekly gatherings, I soon discovered the blessings it provided — including spiritual strength and a sense of belonging. My peers and I had different reasons for starting BYU-Pathway, but we were unified in our desire to progress and our efforts to help each other along the way. Combined with the Spirit’s influence, their continued support helped me recognize my divine potential, and for the first time in my life, I began to see myself as someone both worthy and capable of earning a degree.

During the final semester of PathwayConnect, my husband and I both felt impressed to apply to BYU-Idaho as on-campus students. We didn’t even know where Rexburg, Idaho, was, but we trusted that our future was in Heavenly Father’s hands. To our surprise, we were both accepted within a week.

Onnastasia Cole with her family
Onnastasia with her family

Over the next three years, I worked hard to build on the foundation PathwayConnect gave me and actively sought opportunities to learn, often registering for additional courses and spending hours studying in the library. As I progressed through my English degree, my desire to grow and diversify my education increased. So, I decided to minor in communication, which allowed me to develop skills in conflict management, journalism, and strategic planning.

In addition to working as a mentor, writing tutor, and academic communications writer while pursuing my degree, I completed three internships with BYU-Idaho, Harris Publishing, and Ensign magazine. These opportunities led me to make life-changing friendships and connections with some of the kindest, most hard working people I’ve ever met. Before I knew it, I was preparing to graduate with two and a half years of professional writing experience, a strong network, and a full-time job as an outbound marketing coordinator.

Onnastasia graduated from BYU-Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in English.

When I first applied to BYU-Pathway, I never imagined being where I am today. With limited professional and educational opportunities, I used to fear what my future would hold. But today, with my degree in hand, I look to the future with optimism, prepared for any challenge life throws at me and confident in my ability to build the life I want.

If you, like me, find yourself wrestling with fears and doubts, one of the most important things I’ve learned on this journey is to focus on progress, not perfection. As human beings, we tend to focus on the beauty of the final result and overlook the difficult journey it took to get there; however, our successes and achievements are built day by day — one small step at a time. So no matter where you’re at in your educational journey, remember how you got here and how far you’ve already come. Walking the pathway to a degree is hard but, I promise you, the experiences and opportunities it provides are worth every sacrifice.