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Michaela, Northwestern College M.A. Counseling Student
Are you considering starting your master's degree, but it never feels like quite the right time?
Are you a current graduate student wondering, can I really manage this all? Michaela shares her experience in the M.A. in Counseling program – and encouragement to go for it! 

A Note for Graduate Students–You Can Do It!

If you’re reading this and questioning if it’s the right move, the right time, or the right place to begin a master’s program, take this as your sign to say YES to a wonderful and unexpected adventure.

My name is Michaela and I’m a graduate student in Northwestern’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. Before I officially began this journey I already worked full-time, coached high school soccer, and was a social individual. My biggest fear was not having the time or energy to survive the program.

"My mindset began to shift from “IF I finish this program” to “WHEN I finish the program"

Here’s the thing though – when you feel a strong sense of calling for your life, you’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. While it was an adjustment in the beginning, I have learned how to balance work, my social life, and school so it feels like a perfect fit. On top of that, the nature of the program (exclusively online) has allowed me even more opportunities to tweak my schedule as needed and still complete assignments each week. My mindset began to shift from “IF I finish this program” to “WHEN I finish the program.”

I cannot say enough good things about Northwestern, my professors and classmates, and my overall experience in the counseling program so far. The amount of support I receive each week from others in the program is astounding and it keeps me motivated to work toward my goals. So, if you’re still wondering, say YES today. Start your journey now. You will not regret it.


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Five Reasons to Become a Counselor

 So, you’re thinking about becoming a counselor. Amazing, you are needed! A career in helping is rewarding and fascinating. Your career will focus on understanding human behavior and promoting positive change in individuals, families, or groups.

I will share a few insider secrets with 5 more benefits of the profession!

  1. Freedom
    Be your own boss. If you choose to start your own private practice, you can set your hours. Work when you want to work.

  2. Fulfilling
    Learn and experience a deep appreciation for humanity. See God’s miracles firsthand as you guide people toward healing and holistic health.
  3. Never Grow Bored
    Choose a specialty that excites you. Then, later in your career, choose a new specialty that excites you all over again!

  4. Self-Awareness
    This is a profession where you ARE the “tool” that is used to help the client. Much like a surgeon must keep her scalpel sharp…a counselor must keep herself AWARE. That is, you have to work on your “issues” and continue your personal growth. Balance and acceptance are key.

  5. Mandatory Self-Care
    As a counselor, you will have to practice mandatory self-care. This is the holistic kind that requires setting boundaries, self-compassion, and having down time…just to mention a few.

I’m excited you’re preparing to join the counseling team! There will never be a dull moment unless it is one you’ve scheduled in your calendar.

Learn more about Northwestern's online M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling programs. 


  About the Author

Dr. Julie Merriman is an associate professor and clinical coordinator for Northwestern's online Master of Arts in Mental Health and School Counseling programs. Dr. Merriman’s background in the mental health field ranges from running her own private practice since 1999 to being a school counselor to running an adolescent
program to creating a school for severely emotionally disturbed students to serving as
a director for Abilene Psychiatric Hospital. She currently maintains her private practice in Meridian, Texas. 

Author Dr. Julie Merriman

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Recently I heard a sermon about rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep (Romans 12:15). My fear of missing out (FOMO) spikes when I see social media posts of my vacationing friends and this was a good sermon for me to ponder. It is a lesson I have tried to teach my own kids in my own house. Among my six kids, there hasn’t always joy when one kid gets to choose the breakfast cereal or sadness when one kid gets hurt on the new skateboard. 

I enjoy visiting with new teachers and recently I had a conversation about classroom management with a new elementary teacher. He has a large and busy class. He was telling me that behavior management has been the biggest challenge for him. The behavior exhibited by one child is particularly concerning. This child often thinks he gets the short end of the stick or another child is the teacher’s favorite. He complains that others get better seats, more time, a better deal in general. He disrupts the class often.  

The teacher told me about the interventions he was trying. He had given the child frequent breaks; preferential seating, including a standing desk; fidgets; a handheld gaming device to take on the bus. I thought that his plan sounded good. At the end of the conversation though, the young teacher asked, “What will the other kids think of him being rewarded for his behavior? Won’t they want to act like that too?” 

The question stopped me up short. Did the accommodations seem like a reward? Would the other kids in the class begin to act out so they too could have their behavior “rewarded”?   

What do you all think? I know behavior can be contagious, but I do not think that kids without behavior issues will start misbehaving to see if they too can have accommodations. Will all of the kids want fidgets? Perhaps. Will all the kids need fidgets? Probably not. Teaching positive behaviors is difficult for all of us, especially for new teachers.  

I taught my own kids a little song when they were little. I sang, “When good things happen to people we love we are…and then I would point to them and they would say GLAD!” We would continue by saying, “When bad things happen to people we love, we are SAD!”  My goal was to teach them to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. I hope that teachers can do that too. Can we create communities where we all want the best for all kids in the class?  

Tell us what you think!

  About the Author

Dr. Heitritter currently serves as a special education strategist with the Northwest AEA. Prior to her retirement from Northwestern, she served in many full-time roles including department chair, licensure official, and professor of undergraduate and graduate education courses. Before joining Northwestern's education department, Dr. Heitritter served as a language arts consultant and taught at both public and Christian elementary schools.

Author Laura Heitritter


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Dr. Poornima D'Souza and colleagues are spreading hope, kindness and cheer as they deliver meals and educational materials to students in the Sioux Falls school district. Who says you can't also have a little fun during a pandemic! 
Her advice for educators is to focus on building relationships. Watch her full video below. 

Dr. Poornima D'Souza works with students and parents in the Sioux Falls school district as a school-parent liaison. As a Parent Educator and as a liaison, she provides immigrant families with knowledge of the school system and academic programs and supports the adaptation of immigrant families into a new and alien culture. She helps students, parents and teachers celebrate the beauty of diversity and multi-cultures.

She also teaches graduate courses in Northwestern's online Master of Education program. If you're interested in taking classes with Dr. D'Souza, explore our upcoming online graduate education courses or email

She shares some helpful resources from Parent University:

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For adult students, there can be a big time gap between completing one degree and pursuing the next. Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve been in the academic mode, or maybe you’re continuing right after a semester of classes. Either way, it can take time to adjust to new paper deadlines and adding one more thing to the busy-ness of life. We have found 3 keys to success to creating your personal “class time” - a consistent study time, location, and environment.   

Here are 3 tips to help you be successful in your academic goals:

  1. Set a routine

Develop a routine of studying in the same location, approximate time, and even day. Find where you work best and can feel distraction-free. This doesn’t have to be one sole space, if you can focus at a favorite coffee shop, your kitchen table, or empty classroom, it will establish a routine for motivated work time. You don’t have to pressure yourself to finish everything in one sitting. It can be helpful to break up the class assignment across the whole week with at least one rest day. Some students segment their homework time into 20-minute sections, which means you focus your attention on one item and then take a 5-10 minute break to stand up, go for walk or drink water in between your next 20-minute work session. Be creative with your in-between times. You may have a few minutes during a prep period or work break that you can check discussion questions; this way you can think about your answer on your drive home and be ready for your established study time. An academic routine integrated into daily life will help you meet your goals.

  1. Create study rules, and follow them

If you sometimes struggle with not feeling productive during your personal class time, set a few ground rules that you stick with. You might make sure you have a comfortable environment in your study area. Make sure you’re not having in back or wrist pain, have good lighting, and all your materials ready before you start. Your study zone might be sitting down with a cup of tea after the kids are in bed. Whatever you decide as your rules set them and stick to them. The structure lends to success.  

  1. Build a support team

Having accountability and support in pursuing your academic goals will help keep you on track. Share your routine and rules with your family, friends, and kids - so they can help you not only stick to it, but it also allows them to assist in creating the positive learning environment. Share with your classroom or co-workers about your academic pursuit. It will create mutual encouragement, and give them an opportunity to share in your accomplishments. What better inspiration than to show you’re always learning too! You may be an inspiration for others to pursue their goals. 

At Northwestern, we are your first academic support team. We are here because we want to make a difference in your life and walk alongside you to achieve your academic goals. 
Take a look at Northwestern's adult learning programs. 

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I’m excited to write my first blog for NWC!  What’s even more exciting is that I can write this about a fun topic that we all enjoy – FOOD!!

My goal in this particular blog is to give you some helpful hints in trying to manage your family schedule, homework, household chores, etc. while feeding your family.  I know that there are some weeks it seems I especially fail, so don’t feel that this is by any means the best method.  Make sure you give yourself some grace!

So how do I figure out what meals to make and when?  Well, there are a couple of methods I use:

  1. Look in your cupboards and freezer to see what should get eaten or has been sitting there for awhile. If it’s not expired, determine what you can make with it.  You can do this by looking for recipes that contain a few of your ingredients.  One of the best websites I have found for this is

  2. Take out one of your cookbooks each month and view recipes you think your family might like. Lay them out on a calendar according to your schedule. Make sure you write down any ingredients you might need for your next shopping trip to the grocery store. 
  3. Once a month sit down and plan your meals according to the family’s schedule. Make sure to assign crockpot meals for those nights you are super busy!  Also, build in some leftover days.  Make sure you take advantage of tailgates and fundraising meals at various churches, schools, and other community events!  It’s a great way to ease the stress and mess!
  4. Look at Pinterest for Meal Planning tips and tricks. Find one that best suits your family, food preferences, and lifestyle.
  5. Cook some meals with friends! I love to get together with a group of friends and set aside a day to make meals!  You can also participate in meal exchanges too!

Ultimately, you need to do what works for you and your family’s lifestyle.  No matter what or when you eat, I would encourage you to enjoy your family meals together!  Ask each other about your day.

Remember some of the fondest memories are made around the table together!


Crystal Rozeboom

Meet the Author

Crystal is the senior enrollment counselor for the Graduate School and Adult Learning. She works especially with our Master of Ed. students in preparing to begin the program, advising on classes and registration, and walking alongside as they progress to graduation. She also completed her MBA online all while balancing work, family, and life commitments.

When Crystal is not helping students register for classes or building programs of study, you might find her training for a half-marathon, cheering on her kid's sporting events, volunteering at church or cooking meals with friends.