Successful Realtor and aspiring philanthropist Beth Waller felt like a failure when she transferred from her dream school of Mary Washington College to LFCC 20 years ago. Today, she wishes LFCC had been her first choice when it came to higher education.
Voted most likely to succeed and president of the Warren County High School Class of 1996, Waller had never even considered community college when she was 18.
“That’s what you do – you get scholarships and you go away to college,” says Waller, who owns a real estate company in Front Royal, and is an associate broker with Manassas-based Keller Williams Solutions.
The trouble was, despite succeeding academically at Mary Washington, she was struggling greatly with homesickness.
“I came home every single weekend,” Waller remembers.
After her freshman year, she made the decision to transfer to LFCC.
“I lived at home and really stacked up on classes, taking 18 credits a semester for two semesters,” Waller says. “At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise.”
She took a job at the bookstore, and has fond memories of the manager, Mary Ellen Welch.
Right away, Waller realized she’d made a great decision.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to affordably take a lot of my core classes that would help me decide what path I wanted to take when I transferred to a four-year school,” she says.
And, she realized the academics at LFCC were solid. In fact, shortly before transferring to the College of Charleston in South Carolina, where she would earn a degree in corporate communications, Waller wrote a letter to the editor of her local newspaper, sharing her experiences in the hope it might inspire other young people about to embark on their higher education careers.
“Though I am now ashamed to admit it, as a high school student pondering my college destination, I would have scoffed at the prospect of attending LFCC,” she wrote. “I mistakenly thought that the community college setting was merely for adults returning to school, or for students who found four-year schools too academically challenging.”
She quickly realized her assumptions had been wrong. Not only were the academics excellent, but “each professor I encountered was dedicated to their subject and their students,” Waller wrote. Not only that, each of her credits transferred to the College of Charleston, and she was able to graduate with her bachelor’s degree debt-free.
Today, Waller realizes there are many other young people who find themselves in the same situation she did in the mid-90s, feeling like a failure for realizing she wasn’t yet ready for the four-year environment and unsure what to do about it.
“But, there’s such an opportunity locally to get such a strong foundation that will give them the tools they need to find out what it is they want to do in life,” Waller says. “I would encourage them to not just do what they feel everyone thinks they should do, but to look in their heart and do what they want to do. Maybe they’re not ready to leave home. Maybe they aren’t sure what they want to be.
“If I could do it all over again, I would have gone straight to Lord Fairfax as my first choice.”
After graduating, Waller did some traveling and worked as a flight attendant before getting her real-estate license. More recently, she has formed What Matters with her friend, Jennifer Avery, which spreads awareness for community events and causes in Front Royal and Warren County.
In addition to numerous real-estate awards, Waller has been named the Citizen of the Year by the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce, the President’s Award from the Front Royal/Warren County United Way and the Clara Barton Award from the American Red Cross.