7 Websites for Nontraditional Students

ON POINTTechnically, anyone can use these sites. They are not specific to nontraditional students. If you are just starting school and need some extra help with transitioning to student status, here’s a list of seven of my favorite websites that might help.

Chegg.com

Chegg is a website where you can buy or rent text books. I have found this site to be cheaper then renting books through my school. In addition to text books, they also have tutoring services. I used the tutoring while taking calculus and I found it to be really helpful. There is also a monthly subscription where you can get help with homework questions, which I also used while taking Biology.

Ratemyprofessor.com

If you attend college, this site is a lifesaver. Students from your school can go in and rate the instructors which helped me greatly with picking classes. The first time I used this site I was trying to gauge how hard an American history class would be if I took it online. Reading through comments for the class I discovered a lot of people who said this instructor was the easiest A they had ever earned. They were right! I took his class for sections 1 and 2 and got 105 in each class with only about 10% effort! I know that sounds bad, but it’s not like American history is my major. Anyway, I would caution to be careful not to take every individual post as the gospel truth because you never know who’s just a disgruntled student, but I would advise looking for patterns and trends in the comments.

Lynda.com

If you are not up on the latest versions of MS Office, or if you must take a computer course then Lynda is a great resource. Lynda teaches everything from MS Word for beginners to Photoshop for graphic designers. It’s a great way to learn or improve your computer skills. FYI, this is a paid site but many colleges provide this service to students.

KhanAcademy.com

I used this site while taking calculus (I needed a lot of help in calculus y’all). They have free videos for several subjects. Great resource for learning hard concepts like calculus.

Youtube.com

If you only use yt for makeup videos you are missing out! I have watched debates, learned calculus concepts (again), study skills, and organizing through yt. It took me years to realize that test taking and studying were actually skills. I unfortunately learned this half way through last semester and yt helped me develop those skills. Unless you are blessed with a photographic memory, you are going to need to develop this skill set.

Quizlet.com

Quizlet is basically a place where you can find or create your own digital flash cards. I have never created my own flash cards there but I have come across other people’s flash cards while looking for an answer to a homework problem.

easybib.com

At some point you are going to have to write a research paper and you will be expected to credit your sources. This site generates the citation once you put in the information. This was a time saver when I was taking English, and literature.

So, there you have it. My favorite 5 links/websites that have helped me. Do you have any sites that helped you in school? Leave them in the comments!

Paying for School

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Higher education is not cheap by any means and finding ways to offset the cost could make or break your school plans. The first thing you need to do is apply for financial aid. In order to do this, you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. You should probably complete this now as many schools have deadlines for FAFSA applications.

Are you unemployed?

If you are unemployed, the first place to look for funding would be through your state employment commission. There are some programs run through the state and federal government that help provide training for the unemployed. Usually, the programs they fund are trades, but there are some opportunities for community colleges as well. Generally, you have to prove that your chosen career field is competitive. For this reason, getting funded for a degree in Art is probably not going to happen. I will say that because these are government programs, the funding may not always be there. Still, your state employment commission might be able to direct you to local funding sources. The department of labor and social services (if you receive certain benefits) may also provide information on returning to school.

Are you employed?

There are some companies that offer tuition reimbursement as part of their benefits package so your HR department is the first place you should go. Some employers may offer the tuition assistance up front which would mean submitting paperwork to them and they would pay your tuition before school starts. Others, you may have to pay for your classes up front and they would reimburse you after you had finished the class. There may be some restriction but overall, this is a great benefit and one that I myself am able to take advantage of.

Just remember that if you do go this route, there may be some stipulations tied to it. Usually, there is a grade requirement for the class so if you were to get a D or an F, your employer would not pay for the class. Also, some companies have stipulations about your length of service if they pay for school. Some may require that you work for the company at least 1-2 years after you have completed a course.

Even if your company does not have a formal reimbursement program, still talk to your supervisor about getting education to move up within the company. A friend of my mother’s worked as a nursing assistant at a nursing home. She expressed to her employer a desire to become a Registered Nurse and they gave her funding on the condition that once she became an RN, she would work for the facility for two years.

Grants

Grants are probably the ideal source of funding. They are based on the needs of the individual and don’t have to be paid back. They are available for going to traditional colleges or trade/career schools as well. There are state and federal grants that you may be eligible for. Your school should be able to provide information on state grants and how to qualify for them. The Pell grant is a federal grant program that is probably the most well-known. In addition there is the FSEOG. You can read more about federal grants here. Eligibility for these grant are determined through your FAFSA.

Scholarships

Scholarships are also free and don’t need to be paid back but the process for attaining one can be complicated. Because these are not government funds, there are thousands of scholarships with a multitude of criteria for eligibility. Scholarships can be merit based or need based. There are some that will pick a random winner, and some are based on a membership in a specific group, i.e. ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. There may be added steps to attaining a scholarship like writing an essay or completing an application. Just know that the bigger the amount, the more competition there will be for it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply but there are smaller scholarship that are probably offered in your local area that will have less competition. A $500-$1000 scholarship from your local women’s league may not be as appealing as a $10K national scholarship but every little bit helps!

Research your local area organizations first. Women’s clubs, volunteer organizations, even your employer. There are several web sites available as well. Scholarships.com is one that I have heard good things about. Check here for additional details.  You should reach out to your school’s financial aid office as well. Many schools have scholarship programs geared specifically towards their own students.

Self-Pay

If you cannot find any of the above sources for funding, you may have to pay out of pocket for classes. Many schools do have payment plan options available so ask your school before registering for class.

Student Loans

If money keeps you from going back to school, I think a student loan should be your last resort. There are private loans that you can take out, and there are federal loans. Make sure to do your research to determine what will work for you. Here you can find out about federal student loans. Student loan debt is like no other debt. It doesn’t get forgiven or discharged so be careful here. You will have this debt until you pay it off or you die. If you go this route, take only what you need for school. There may be an opportunity to get more than what you need, but since loans have to be repaid, it isn’t a good idea to take it. Talk to your school about getting a loan.

 

What is your goal?

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With the emphasis that is placed on higher education these days, it makes sense that people would want to go back to school. However, going back to school is a sacrifice of your time, energy, creativity, and money. Before jumping in you need to make sure it is right for you. That starts with asking yourself what you hope to get out of it. Do you want to change careers? Make more money? Move up within your current industry/company? Is a degree a lifetime goal? Before you begin shopping for schools, these questions need to be answered or you may find yourself in a program that won’t help you achieve your goals.

For The Money or Career Change

Statistically, college graduates make more than high school graduates, but if you have dreams of making it into the 1% you might want to avoid certain Art degrees. According to Forbes list of the 10 worst majors, some art majors have a starting salaries of 30K. You really have to ask yourself how much money do you want to make, and if the degree you are seeking will provide it. The ultimate goal would be that your passion can provide the lifestyle you imagine but what if it doesn’t? Are you more interested in pursuing your passion or a hefty paycheck? Before committing to any program or school, you need to make sure you answer this question.

I would also point out that there are some careers that don’t even require bachelor degrees.  If pursuing a four year degree is just not feasible, take a look at this list of jobs that may not require a college degree.

The promotion

You are in your dream industry or company and there is a position or title that you want to achieve but something is holding you back from that position. Is a degree required or are there certain skills that you lack? Some skills can be attained without a degree so it is important to find this out. If you lack skills, find out what those skills are and how they can be obtained. Do you lack computer skills? Can you shadow someone in that position? You already have a foot in the door so start by talking to your supervisor, HR, or someone who already holds that position. If a degree is still needed, talk to HR about any sort of tuition reimbursement that might be available to you. As always, consider the debt that you may incur as a result of attaining that degree.

It’s a lifelong dream

For some people it’s not just about money or position. They value education and have always wanted to achieve a degree. There’s nothing wrong with that but you still need to consider what you will get out of the degree.

Why am I stressing examining your reasons for going back to school? Well the fact is that examining your reasons will help you focus on choosing the best school or major. It might even help with finding financial assistance. I have had several pitfall along the way and most of them stem from not having a plan of action.  Figure out what you want and follow that up with research!

Next step: Which school do I choose?

 

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!