Lillie Osborne will always remember her first day of college as a first-generation student: After her father dropped her off for orientation, Lillie navigated an unfamiliar campus while battling overwhelming feelings. But what she lacked in advice or preparation for what was to come, she made up for in her desire to get an education.
It was a moment that taught Lillie the value of never setting a limit for herself, and that she could overcome most things with persistent effort — a perspective she’d use to earn her Maryville Online Master’s of Science in Accounting.
Finding Maryville. Finding opportunity.
When Lillie was nearly finished with her bachelor’s degree, she planned to enter a master’s program to eventually become a certified public accountant.
“I’d heard of people who’d waited years to go to college or who’d planned to return but never did, and I didn’t want to end up like that — so I wanted to go straight into a master’s degree right after I graduated,” she said.
Lillie considered a few graduate schools, and Maryville impressed her with its online availability — an ideal format for her versus moving to attend school.
“Being able to be at home and surrounded by people that supported me [earning my degree] allowed me to focus, still go to work, and not have the stress to get to class at a certain time,” Lillie said.
She also saw earning her master’s as an opportunity to get enough credit hours to sit for certifications as a public accountant.
At the end fo the accounting program, Maryville provided the Becker program to help position students on the path to earning their CPA.
Broadening goals and building perspective as an online student.
Lillie’s program exposed her to scenario-based learning, and she learned about the possibilities and restrictions of public, private, and government accounting. Additionally, her coursework covered the intricacies of management in each accounting sector and explored multiple firms and the types of accounts they typically handle.
“I earned a point of view of what I could potentially face if I were to go a certain path in accounting and enter the workforce,” she explained.
The experience helped Lillie to pinpoint the areas of accounting that she most preferred to work in — for her, public or private —and to feel more prepared to enter the field. She also honed several key skills over the course of the program, too, like time management, and developed greater attention to detail within accounting.
But there were also some unexpected surprises in the coursework, as well.
“Elizabeth Cutting’s coding class was really enjoyable — and she was able to offer a lot of one-to-one personal connection,” she said. “In her class, we learned how to examine and organize data in a professional way, and also to give presentations on our data sets. Our class discussed all the ways our results could benefit potential clients.”
The immersion brought Lillie close to her classmates, and through the projects, they bonded — even as online students. This camaraderie culminated during graduation, where she was able to meet her fellow students for the first time in person.
Bravely pioneering higher education as a first-generation student.
Being a first-generation student for both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees has deep meaning to Lillie.
“I grew up in a very small community on the outskirts of Kentucky. It’s very tiny, and not a lot of people from there went to college. My mom didn’t finish, and my dad only completed high school, but that’s as far as it went. There, if your parents went through the workforce, you were expected to do the same.”
Growing up in that environment, Lillie was always determined to pursue more by going to college — even though she had to navigate it all by herself.
“It’s not like my parents could help me through it. Getting my degree was something I had to go through on my own, and it was a lot scarier,” she said. “But for me personally, earning my bachelor’s in four years allowed me to see that I can earn my master’s degree, too.”
When she completed her master’s program in 2022, Lillie traveled out to St. Louis for graduation on Maryville’s campus. There, she was able to truly realize how far she’d come through what once was unfamiliar territory as a first-generation student. She thought of her parents, who were cheering her on back in Kentucky while watching the service online — and she was as proud of them as they were of her.
Knowing where my family came from and how hard they worked to get to where they are now, it motivates me to do better for myself and anyone in my future.
“Give yourself new challenges”: Lillie’s tips on success and perseverance.
When Lillie started her master’s program in 2020, it was during the COVID-19 pandemic, which created difficulty for her to find work in her field as an enrolled student. But she wasn’t deterred. She took specific jobs to build her skills, including operating a sophisticated billing system for a corporation, and she currently has her sights set on earning her certified public accountant and certified management accountant certifications.
“I want to be able to work for myself, but I don’t want to do it by myself. I’d like to be part of a bigger firm. That’s the end goal,” Lillie said.
She also learned the value of separating work and school. By designating her time for specific reasons — whether to study or to rest — Lillie was able to prioritize better and not get overwhelmed by her workload. She also taught herself not to stress about other activities when she was firmly occupied with a certain task. And when not studying, Lillie filled her personal time with acrylic painting, creating digital art, and reading. These hobbies helped her to avoid anxiety and enjoy much-needed breaks.
Looking back on her time as a Maryville Online student, Lillie now considers success and perseverance as one in the same.
“Success for me is looking back and seeing everything I’ve accomplished, but also understanding where I can keep going and what I can continue doing,” said Lillie. “For me, success isn’t something that’s going to end. I don’t want a roof; I don’t want a ceiling. I want to be able to keep going.”
Similarly, she’s also found the value in challenging oneself in the pursuit of a goal, and leveraging the confidence that emerges in the process.
Bravery to me means to give yourself new challenges – it’s in seeing something that you want and being able to conquer it.
Lillie credits her degree experience with Maryville Online with opening her up to various strategies and new perspectives, both personally and within her career.
“There’s so much you can do with accounting. There’s not just taxes. So many people hear about accounting and think ‘that’s just taxes.’ I’m like, no, there’s a broad range of things you can do with this degree that has nothing to do with taxes most of the time. You can be a financial advisor and look at someone’s financial records, not just their taxes.”
By not limiting herself in her studies or experiences, Lillie has gleaned more wisdom throughout her journey as a Maryville Online student and she hopes that other students can be motivated by this same truth.
“Don’t stress. Make sure you are organized every day. Give yourself enough time for your assignments. Read thoroughly. Prepare well for exams. And just keep going.”
If you’re ready to see how Maryville Online can help you be brave and pursue your educational and professional goals, we’re here for you. Check out our online bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorate degrees, or schedule a call with an advisor today.
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