Starting School

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Back To School

So you picked a program, picked your school, and have gotten financing? Congratulations you are well on your way to achieving your goals. I am tempted to say the hard part is done, but that wouldn’t exactly be accurate. You still have classes, advisers, traditional students, kids, family, bosses, friends, significant others, dogs, cats, and god only knows what else left to contend with! So let’s talk about ways to make your life run a little smoother while in school

First things first, school has to become a priority. I am not saying it has to be your only priority, but it needs to be on your top 5 list. People generally protect and guard the things that are a priority to them. You don’t blow off your child’s graduation to go play golf with your friends because your child is your priority, right? Well, you don’t blow off school work to go play golf with your friends either. It has to be a priority.

Establish a relationship with your adviser. Plan to meet with them at least twice each semester. The first meeting of the semester should be to discuss any issues you may be having and to find resources that are available to you.  Have them draw up a time line for the classes you have to take and check in with them at the end of the semester to ensure you are on schedule.

Parents

I don’t have children, but I find so many nontraditional students who have children struggle with returning to school the most. This is especially true if you have small children. Most important for parents is to have a support system in place who will help pick up the slack. From the beginning, you should let people in your life know what you are trying to accomplish and ask them to help. Arranging child care is going to be important. If finding child care is an issue, you might need to seek out schools that have online classes.

Organization

I began getting organized late in the game. I realized I was getting overwhelmed and began looking for ways to manage my schedule. I have a master planner that lays out my daily schedule but I also keep deadlines, test dates, and school activities in it.

I also set out to organize my study habits. I actually decided to look on youtube and found a lot of great info there. Most of the advice was from traditional students but I still was able to use some of it. One of my favorite youtubers is Gabby Aikawa. She has great videos on everything from creating study guides, to planner organization. She also has a video showing her grades so I knew I was following the advice of someone who was truly an A student. Thomas Frank from College Info Geek is also another great youtuber who makes great videos. Another is Mariana .

I would also advise having a specific study area. That area should be organized, comfortable, well lit, and most importantly, free from distractions. Here a couple more video on study strategies that should help.

Connections

If you wind up at a traditional college/university you might feel out of place. Traditional college students are young and generally don’t have the same responsibilities. You may be tempted to keep to yourself and not deal with them but that would be a mistake. I am not saying go partying with them, but it is possible to connect with them on a level that is beneficial to you. Also, these people are going to be going into the same industry so there is an opportunity to network for jobs in the future.

Introduce yourself to your instructor. Do this in the beginning. Let them know you are a nontraditional student and ask what you need to do to get the grade you want in this class. I am not saying be a teacher’s pet, but introducing yourself can help you stand out and shows your instructor that you are serious about their class.

Good Luck!

 

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Picking a School

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The next step in this process is to figure out what school you need to attend. This can be a daunting task but research is your best friend. Also, don’t let a school talk you into enrolling in a program. Before you walk through the door, you need to be armed with the facts. First and foremost, you need to choose a school that has the proper accreditation. Years ago I met a women at my community college who was pursuing a nursing degree. One day she mentioned to me that she had originally started attending a different school for nursing. She had started without doing research and she later found out that while her school was accredited, the nursing program was not. She had only attended 1 semester but once she began talking to other nurses/healthcare professionals, she realized that a degree from that school would only hinder her career.

What school should I attend?

This is dependent on what you want to do. Remember last week when I asked if you needed skills or a degree? Well if you just need skills, you should speak to your HR or supervisor about what those are, and where they can be obtained. Computer skills are easy to develop with so many online options out there (some even free!) you can gain these skills quite easily.

Trade/Career Schools

Some occupations require trade licenses and school, i.e HVAC techs or mechanics. If this is your career path, find out if your local school district has an adult vocational school. In my area, the city offers classes in everything from cosmetology to medical assistant. Their classes tend to be cheaper than career schools. There are sometimes extra steps involved in going this route though. For instance, cosmetology school usually have their own salon where real clients pay reduced rates for services. This provides students with hands on training that is required to sit for the state exam. This is not the case with the vo-tech here and many cosmetology students have to get an apprenticeship in order to get the hours required to take the exam. This apprenticeship they actually have to find on their own. Still, it is about 10K cheaper to go the vo-tech route.

There are career schools that specialize in a certain vocation. These schools can be pretty pricey but if that is the only option available, you need to be very careful about the school you choose. It goes back to accreditation. If they are not accredited, don’t waste your time! Also, ask them if they provide any sort of job placement. Find reviews online or try reaching out to people in that field for guidance.

Community College

Most community colleges have a combination of trade programs and academic programs. You will get an associate’s degree or career certificate here. Accreditation still needs to be verified – both the school and the program/major. Community college is also a good option if you have plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree. An associate’s is basically the equivalent of your freshman and sophomore year at a traditional four year college/university. You cam save a lot of money going this route. A 3 credit English class at my community college was about $400. A three credit class at my University is about $1400. Huge difference! Most community colleges also have guaranteed transfer programs with four year schools. I didn’t bother to apply to multiple universities when I graduated from community college because my school has a guaranteed admissions program with my university. I knew I was automatically accepted to my university’s business school based on the fact that I had completed my associates with a certain GPA.

College/University

If a bachelor’s degree or higher is needed, this is the route you will have to go. Colleges and Universities are probably the most expensive route. We can break this category down to for profit schools vs non-profit schools. I talked about the dangers of for profit schools here.  so I won’t got into that. I will say, not all for profit schools are created equal so do your research! Whichever college you choose, it should be accredited. Read more about accreditation here.  The big accreditation for colleges and universities is regional accreditation, but as mentioned above, some programs may still need to have additional based on industry standards. Again, research is your friend!

Next Week: Paying for school

For Profit

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I recently did a presentation for my public speaking class and thought the information might be helpful to people who read this blog. The presentation was about for profit schools. I actually took a couple of classes at a for profit school a couple of years ago and began to wonder if they were worth the cost as I was attending. I certainly don’t want to tell people what schools they should or should not attend, but I am going to share some of the information I came across while researching this project.

In American society today, we are taught that in order to be successful, we need to have an education. The more education you have, the more money you make, the more upwardly mobile you become. Because of this constant emphasis on education, people are looking for ways to return to school and pursue their goals. This need has fueled the rise in for profit education but are they worth it?

For profits schools are businesses that make money for its shareholders by offering a service. Non-profits are learning environments designed to serve student interests, helping them finish their college degrees and achieve career success. For profits appeal to non-traditional students because they offer night and online classes. Their offices are open during times that are generally more convenient for people who work full time jobs. They also offer accelerated degrees and promise to use your work experience as part of your degree.

The Cost

On average, for profits schools tend to charge as much as tradition colleges and universities and tend to be more than community colleges.  Where I live, students who are interested in getting an Associates in Business Administration have the option of going to Strayer University or going to a local community college, but Strayer is double the price of the community college. A four credit course at strayer is $1420 while four credits at the local community college is $620.

Reputation

30% of for profit graduates say their education was not worth it.  Why such a high rate of dissatisfaction? First, they think that by having an education, their salaries will rise. This is not always the case. According to U.S News, average salaries of graduates of for profit schools are about the same as people who have never attended college.

Graduates of for profit schools also have a harder time of it when they are applying for positions as well. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia sent out 9,000 fictitious resumes of recent graduates. The resumes that listed for profit degrees were about 22% less likely to receive a callback from a prospective employer than applicants with similar degrees from nonselective non-profit schools.

Student Loans

Most troubling about for profit schools is the student loan default rate. Student loan default rates from for profit schools account for almost half of all defaulted student loans. As a matter of fact, the rise in the student default rate over the past 10 years is linked to the growth in for profit education that has been going on.

Now I will say that all for profits are not created equal. In my research there were definitely some schools that had a decent reputation. If you are really interested in attending a for profit school, be sure to research the school thoroughly. You don’t want to waste your time, and money if you are not going to receive any benefit from it.

Associates down and a Bachelors to go…

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So Monday was my official last day at my community college. This summer has been really hard due to taking a writing intensive English course and calculus. The calculus gave me the most problems and I have pretty much spent the whole summer concentrating on that. Between having class two nights per week and going to tutoring two nights per week while working full time, I am truly burnt out! Taking calculus during the summer was a bad idea.

So with the end of my calculus and literature course, I officially hold an Associate’s degree in Business Administration! It feels really good to type that. I feel like I have had so many false starts when it comes to my education that I am just ecstatic to actually finish this leg of my journey. It hit me yesterday when I checked my final grades online. You actually do have a degree!

I also had my orientation at my university a few weeks back. While I tried to wiggle my way out of attending, it was mandatory. Still, I was excited to attend. Going to community college, it is not unusual to see nontraditional students, especially in the evening classes. Not so much at the university though. It was a daytime orientation and the bulk of the students were traditional students there with their parents. Because parents were there I didn’t stand out too much. At least not until they asked the parents to go into another room and 95% of the people left were probably under 25. I did manage to meet another nontraditional student.  She was a stay at home wife and mother who was also coming from the same community college as me. We talked a bit and hopefully I will see her again.

Classes start up in exactly 19 days, and there are a few things I want to do. My school has a subscription to Lynda.com and I am very interested in taking some of the courses on there. Not just for school but for this blog and because I am interested in learning about googles adwords. School supply shopping, renting textbooks, visiting the school career services office as well as the advising office is also something I need to do.

Until next time…

An Introduction…

9syokyrq-re-jeff-sheldon.jpgHello all,

Just thought I’d introduce myself and give a little background. First, this blog is about me being a non-traditional student. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it just means that I am an older student who has been out of school for some time. I originally started college straight out of high school like so many others but I didn’t finish my degree as I had expected. I dropped out of school after about 4 semesters and entered the workforce. I have worked mostly as an Administrative Assistant but I never really embraced this profession as I never felt it suited my personality.

So I am trying to move out of this profession. I am currently finishing out my last two classes at community college and will have an Associate’s degree in Business Administration in August. Also I was recently accepted into business school at my local university and plan to begin classes there in this coming fall.

I am starting this blog for two reasons. First, I have wanted to start a blog for a long time and I thought there might be other nontraditional students out there interested in connecting and sharing knowledge. Secondly, this is my attempt to improve and gain skills. I enjoyed writing when I was in high school and thought blogging might be a good way to rediscover that lost love. I also plan to use this blog to help build up my tech skills, which I will share on this blog as I learn new things.

I am excited about the transition my life is taking as dropping out of college was always one of my biggest regrets. I know I am looking at several more years of school but I am up for the challenge!