Student Spotlight: Meg Houser
Meg Houser first began attending College of DuPage right out of high school.
“I had no idea what to do with my life, so I focused on taking some gen-ed courses, some high level biology classes – I love science – and acting classes for fun!” she said. “Our house is around the corner from COD, and a lot of my friends went to COD after high school. The in-district tuition is really affordable, and with the grants I received (MAP and PELL), everything was covered. COD also has a really fabulous reputation in the academic world, so, all things considered, why wouldn’t I decide to attend COD?”
However, Houser was forced to quit school when she was not approved for the grants. Unable to afford tuition, she worked full time while picking up a few classes here and there. The company where she worked paid for business management classes, but she realized it wasn’t for her and that it was time for a career change.
After considering many options, Houser determined that she wanted a job in a fast-paced, interactive environment. Health care was an obvious choice but she was afraid to commit to nursing.
“I thought, ‘What if it’s the wrong choice?’ or ‘What if I'm not smart enough?’ The scariest one was, ‘What if I spend all this time and money on a career that I can’t do?’” she said. “Then I thought about the difference it would make for me, for my future patients and for my loved ones if I was a nurse. What an amazing skill set in a distinguished field! Overnight I made up my mind, took the HESI exam the next day, and enrolled in a few prerequisites. I haven’t had a minute to second-guess myself since then.”
Houser returned to College of DuPage due to its excellent reputation, affordable tuition and familiarity.
“COD was like a second home to me, and I loved being there. Add in the new buildings, especially the stunning Health and Science Center, complete with the four-bedroom Sim Hospital, and there was simply no other choice for me,” she said. “I chose to do the greatest thing I ever could for myself: get an education. Therefore, I wanted to learn in the best possible place.”
Houser continued to work and take out student loans to finance her education. She also is receiving help through the College of DuPage Foundation as the recipient of the Troy Scholarship for Nursing.
“This was the first scholarship I received for college. Knowing that there was a total stranger out there who believed in me enough to invest in my future was humbling, and I’ve learned a wonderful lesson in humility and philanthropy,” she said. “This was not government money, distributed from the obligatory tax monies of the masses. This was a deliberate choice of an individual person or family to give their own hard-earned money to help someone in need to achieve their educational goals.
“The scholarship relieved me of a burden of debt. It gave me a quiet pride that reminded me that I am worth it. It left a lasting impression on me and inspired me to pay back this gift in kind one day when I can be a donor myself.”
Houser passed the NCLEX-PN, earned her Associate Degree in Nursing with honors and was the first in her class to pass the NCLEX-RN. She now works as a unit nurse at Burgess Square Healthcare and Rehab Centre in Westmont, where she was assigned during her first semester of nursing school. Her goal is to expand upon the various skills she learned in school while working toward her bachelor’s degree, which she will start in 2019.
In her spare time, Houser also volunteers with the Young Hearts for Life program, another clinical experience she had while in school.
“The group of both trained professional and amateur volunteers offers free ECGs to high school age students to help detect teenagers at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. Since my first volunteer screening through COD, I have volunteered at several other events. I’m now more proficient in running 12-lead ECGs, which has already come in handy more than once in my professional career. This year, I've already been certified as an instructor for the program and will learn more about IT troubleshooting and Team Lead support during future screening events.”
College of DuPage has allowed Houser to take the future into her own hands and make something of it.
“I never thought I’d be a college graduate,” she said. “I graduated in the top 5 percent of my high school class, but I had very little support for attending college and very little drive left. I was burned out, poor and defeated, especially after I lost my grant funding. My parents did all they could to help, but they couldn’t afford to contribute to my education. I thought I was set for a lifetime of dissatisfying, minimum wage-paying jobs.
“College of DuPage re-ignited that zeal for learning I had in high school and gave me the chance at a better future for myself and my family. I can’t wait for the day I don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck. What’s more, I can’t believe I get to make a living doing something that I love to do!
“Being part of the Nursing program at COD was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I learned to accept that failure is just an opportunity for learning – a hard lesson, admittedly. I made strong bonds of friendship with some of my classmates who understand how hard this is because we were in it together, helping each other along the way. I gained back a confidence in myself that I didn’t realize I had lost. I forgot how much I have to offer the world, and COD helped me remember. COD made me better.”
College of DuPage
425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn IL, 60137
(630) 942-2800 (Main)
(630) 942-3000 (Student Services)
2018 College of DuPage