She started college in the 50s. Decades later, she fulfilled her dream of graduating at age 84

Earlier this month, an 84-year-old woman walked across the University of Minnesota's commencement stage to receive her bachelor's degree – 67 years after beginning coursework at the school.

Betty Sandison, who graduated on May 7, first attended the University of Minnesota after graduating high school in 1955, but was unable to complete her degree while starting a family. Decades later, she returned and finished what she started. 

"[Earning my bachelor's] was a goal and a dream that I fulfilled," Sandison told USA TODAY, adding that she remembered going to concerts in the same auditorium of her commencement back the 1950s. "Oh my goodness, it was wonderful... Here I was walking across that stage."

Betty Sandison with her University of Minnesota diploma.

In the '50's, Sandison worked in a hometown cafe to make $600, which was the cost of attending one year of school at the time.

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Sandison first earned a one-year certificate for a licensed practical nurse. She then set off to get a teaching degree, which would have led her to earn her bachelor's, but decided that she no longer wanted to pursue teaching part-way through the program.

She also soon she met her husband, got married and had two children – leading her to pause her education.

Betty Sandison and her family with her University of Minnesota diploma.

In 1979, the couple got divorced and Sandison returned to school. She earned an associate's degree to become a registered nurse – and practiced nursing for the following 30 years.

It wasn't until 2018, after Sandison retired, that she decided to finish her bachelor's – at the same university she begun her higher education career. 

"I always had this in the back of my head that I wanted to get a degree from the University of Minnesota. And on May 7 of this year, I succeeded," Sandison said.

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Sandison said despite the age gap between her and most other students, "I always felt like I fit in. Never felt like an outsider, they always included me."

The University of Minnesota grad also noted that, with the exception of taking a year off when the school went to only online courses during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, "I never missed a class in the four years I've been going back."

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She added that the "hardest course" she took was a history class for 1945 to present day.

"I thought, 'Oh, that'll be easy. I've been alive the whole time' ... [But] there was so much that I didn't know had happened in my lifetime," she said.

Betty Sandison at her University of Minnesota commencement ceremony.

Sandison, who received her bachelor's degree in Multidisciplinary Studies from the university's College of Continuing and Professional Studies, also hopes to continue her education journey. If possible, she plans to audit classes in the future.

She's motivated by her never-ending love for learning.

"I really want to encourage people of all ages to go and fulfill their goals," Sandison said. "To do their dreams – if it means getting a diploma from high school, an associate's degree, a bachelor's like I did, whatever. If nothing else, audit classes. Keep that brain engaged in what your world is doing around you."