Alumni Stories: Terri McRhoads, Always Planning for the Future

Terri McRhoads

Terri McRhoads receives her college diploma during Excelsior College Commencement, July 11, 2014.

At 65, and the prospect of retirement looming, Terri McRhoads remained as vigilant as ever with planning for the future. For her, that meant a college degree.

“We may retire but we don’t stop working,” says McRhoads, a business systems analyst for AAA’s California Automobile Association (CSAA). “I knew a fresh (education) credential would help if I wanted to do project work. It will also let employers know that while I may be old, I still have my marbles!”

With a background in underwriting and management, McRhoads chose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Business at Excelsior College , drawn to the institution due to its broader transfer acceptance policy, which includes the acceptance of military and corporate training that has been approved as college-level equivalent by the American Council on Education.

To that end, McRhoads was able to transfer both credit from community college as well as coursework with the Insurance Institute of America, towards Excelsior’s undergraduate business program. She completed the rest of the degree requirements via Excelsior’s online courses.

“I had taken some online courses but the majority of my academic experience was within a traditional classroom setting,” said McRhoads. “Excelsior’s instructors were wonderful – they were always willing to go the extra mile.”

Balancing a demanding, full-time job with her coursework was a challenge. McRhoads often felt overstretched. Fortunately, her employer picked up tuition costs and her husband, sister-in-law and daughter were there to offer her the support she needed to succeed, whether that be with housework, child care or cooking meals.

“I am 65 and to be able to do that, to balance it all and complete a degree, is a wonderful feeling.”

McRhoads will continue to work for AAA for at least a few more years – she’s still supporting one college student at home, she jokes – but with a degree she’s ready for the next stage of her life.

In the meantime, McRhoads, an amateur essayist and poet, will continue to enjoy all life has to offer. This month, she traveled to Albany, New York with her husband and other members of her family for Excelsior’s Commencement. It was the first time McRhoads traveled east of Chicago.

As for her advice for others thinking about heading back to school?

“Anytime you can continue your education, do it,” says McRhoads. “It maintains your value in the workplace and is personally rewarding.”