Graduation Day. A day that at first seems so far away and then before you know it, it has arrived. All you feel is a sense of pride, and even better, you see it in your two sons' eyes.
This is AIU Online alumnus Carl Aulet's story. A single father of two. A full-time worker. An army veteran. An AIU Online graduate. And now, deputy coroner at the Will County coroner's office in Illinois.
After serving in the U.S. Army following his high school graduation, Carl knew he needed more. "I always wanted a bachelor's degree. I knew I needed to establish a career and make myself more competitive and marketable," he says.
However, his lifestyle wasn't conducive to attending school in person. "AIU's online program met the demands of being a full-time worker and full-time daddy of two. No matter the time of day, I could check in, set my pace, and not get locked into one specific timeframe."
With flexibility on his side, Carl earned his Associate of Arts in Business Administration from AIU Online in 2010 then returned for his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a specialization in Law Enforcement. "Once you get moving, don't stop. Discipline yourself. Stay with it, run with it. You can easily get caught up in your hectic lifestyle—job, kids—but don't lose focus. Don't doubt your time for it. The program is structured where you can check in 24 hours [a day]," he says. "There is always a sacrifice to be made. Make a promise to follow through. Set goals; create a program of timelines to get your work done. There's little reason why you can't [get your degree] online."
To succeed, Carl learned to be creative with his time. "I'm a homeowner. I clean, cook, and I had to juggle. ... I would help my sons with their homework, put them to bed, and then start in on my work. If they had an activity that lasted a few hours, I would drop them off, bring my computer to a coffee shop, and work," he says. "If I can do it with my hectic lifestyle, anyone can."
When he needed inspiration to keep forging ahead, he would watch AIU's graduation videos. "They helped boost my excitement. I thought, 'I'll be there one day.' They kept me motivated." Additionally, Carl felt the support of close friends and family made a difference. "Without my fiancée Nicole pushing me along the way, I would have let my exhaustion and frustrations let me down. She was my rock."
Even before completing his degree, Carl learned the benefits of simply pursuing a degree. "It opened up doors for a promotion. It helped me get my current job as deputy coroner. I investigate all deaths within the county, from natural to crime-related." Even though he didn't officially have his degree yet, he says, "They knew my degree was in progress. While I worked my way up in the field, you need a degree in this competitive market. I knew I had to finish my degree with AIU."
Finish he did, and graduation day arrived sooner than he thought. "I was so focused that graduation day came and I thought, 'It's already here. I can't believe I already did it.'" He walked across the stage in July 2014 and graduated cum laude. "It was awesome, well worth it." With his sons in the audience, the day was even more memorable. "They thought it was the greatest thing ever. I may have gotten a late start, but I still did it, and I was able to set a pattern for my sons."
Fresh out of AIU, Carl is in the process of preparing to take the LSAT test with hopes of one day attending law school and then becoming an attorney. He thanks University Dean for the School of Criminal Justice Dr. Michael Mounts for the push to consider law school. "I spoke with Dr. Mounts at the alumni event the day before graduation. I told him, 'I turned 40 this year. I don't know if I should do it—if it's too late in the game.' He told me, 'Don't give up, it's not too late. You obviously still got it in you, so go for it.'"
As Carl pursues his next dream, he is thankful for his time at AIU. "From landing a job to graduating, I did it being a single, full-time daddy with two kids. I'm so grateful for the program. It's a great school. They treated me well, took care of me, and made it so much easier."