Choices, Choices

24 02 2012

Although I know a few middle-aged co-eds who attend classes at a physical campus, I can’t imagine how that would even be possible in my life. After all, with the fixed commodity of time ever ticking forward, I need to consider how to fit all my responsibilities into those 24/7 units. Carefully consider both options before you enroll in one program or the other. In fact, many institutions of higher learning offer both options, so if you’re unsure, place these schools at the top of your list. (Watch this video titled Online Colleges)

Considerations

As an adult with a slew of responsibilities to be accountable for and only 168 hours each week to meet them all, counting the cost (in time units) is essential. To start, make a list of the amount of time needed to accomplish each task.  To help generate your list, how much time do you:

  1. Spend at your job.  Make sure you include travel time.
  2. Need for family commitments. This will include date nights with your significant other, running your kids to baseball practice, PTO meetings, charitable commitments and housework.
  3. Use to maintain personal health. This includes time for sleep, exercise and social activities.
  4. Estimate for college coursework. A usual estimate is two times the amount of credit hours per week. Realize that some courses will have more reading or writing required. (If you’re an English Literature major like me, literature classes will require two or three times as much reading as others; but we love to read, so no problem, right?)

Comparisons

Aside from the fact that I have only four waking hours each weekday to dedicate to college classes, I had to be able to find a reputable college at a price I could afford.  I had a friend who got a University of Phoenix human resources degree by attending class one evening per week and one Saturday per month. I wasn’t interested in this college because I’d noticed a few student teachers at our middle school who seemed to reflect that education degree holders from this institution weren’t truly equipped for the classroom. Also, I really didn’t want to spend time travelling back and forth to class; this would be an additional two hours for each and every class (and I can think of plenty of things I’d rather do than sit in a car for two hours – like sleep, for instance).

Some things to really compare:

  1. Accreditation: Most reputable colleges have the same accreditation as “brick and mortar” schools. You can check this with the state where the college is located.  I was drawn to Southern New Hampshire University because it has actual campuses, and the diploma granted is exactly the same for online students.
  2. Time: Let’s face it; I don’t have all the time in the world.  I need to be able to go to class when I have a spare minute and do most of my book work at whatever time is convenient for my schedule.  I also don’t want to be working for 8 years on a degree that I could get in 4 years at a traditional campus. (This was actually my number one deciding factor in favor of online college.)
  3. Credit Transfer: This was a big one with me.  I went to college at a state school over 25 years ago.  I really wanted to get credit for these classes.  I didn’t get the full amount of credit hours, but I was granted credits in the ratio of 2:3 (2 credit hours awarded to every 3 hours I took all those eons ago).
  4. Cost: Some online schools may require selling blood for years, or even the traditional “arm and a leg.”  Most of them will still accept government financial aid and also offer scholarships. Don’t let this point be a deal breaker.
  5. Degree options: Many online schools have only limited options for degrees they offer.  Make sure the program you want is available. Is there any point in taking classes just to take classes? Well, sure, maybe, I guess, if you don’t know where you’re going with all this.
  6. Workload: The amount of work for online classes will be comparable to classrooms. Do you have the time and energy to commit to this? People who have test anxiety might prefer online courses because all the tests are “open book.” However, only a limited amount of time is allowed, so don’t be like some teachers I work with: read your textbook first.

Choose

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the information. Don’t believe that inner voice that’s saying, “You’re too old” or “You’ll fail” or even “You can’t afford this.” U.S. News reported in November of 2011 that 96% of college graduates had indebtedness (an average of $25,250 total).  Education appears to be an investment worth making, and even going into debt to achieve.

Whether online or traditional education is your choice, choose your future. Follow your dream. Earn your degree. Choose a college and then conquer it!Online Colleges

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