Is an Online Degree Right for You?

students

Doc Seidman Says…

…Years ago, completing a college degree online didn’t exist. It wasn’t even an option. As the years went by, and online learning began to take shape, the reputation of an online college was only so-so at best. Traditionalists scoffed at their innovative approach to teaching and learning. Online colleges were widely criticized as not being robust enough, or simply being a “fake” education. And to a certain degree those criticisms were correct. Many, if not most online degrees were not worth the paper their diplomas were printed on. Employers and graduate schools shunned their validity. The degree was practically worthless.

Today, that has changed; and changed in a big way.

As of 2018 there are more than 28,589 fully accredit online programs at the associates, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral level as well as various certificate programs. The colleges and programs range from the elite (Columbia University) to the not so elite (Argosy University). As expected, tuition varies with each college, but research shows an average tuition of just over $23,000 a year. This is still a costly investment, but it is a bit less expensive a face-to-face counterpart.

An obvious advantage of attending school online is that it gives students a lot of flexibility. If you are a morning person, you can do your coursework in the morning and be done with it by the afternoon. If you are a night person, you can do your work at night. It does not matter when the work gets done because in most cases there are no designated class meeting times. Students are completely on their own as to when to get their classwork done. For anyone that has a job or other important daily obligation, this can be extremely valuable.

Another advantage taking classes online is there it eliminates commuting back and forth to campus. No bus fare to purchase or parking passes to buy. Additionally, you one need not pay for an on-campus dorm room or any type of housing near campus. No student meal plan to purchase either. In other words, online students are free from whatever ancillary costs there are to attend college other than tuition and related fees. Over the two, three, four, five years or beyond that someone is enrolled, that can be a significant savings.

So, what’s the downside?

To many, the biggest downside is the online classroom environment reduces personal interactions with classmates and/or the professor. True, there are discussion boards and other forums students can use to interreact with each other, but they do not totally replace a face-to-face meeting with classmates. As many professors will tell you, myself included, the college experience is much more than learning from the professor. The learning experienced outside of the classroom through friendships and experiences can be much more valuable than what you learn inside the classroom.

Another disadvantage is if a student is someone who needs to learn from physically sitting in a class in front of a teacher, the online class might be more difficult. A big difference in an American college from an American high school is the independence and self-motivation the college classroom requires. Students may see the professor only a few times a week. In many cases a professor sees his or her role as a disseminator of knowledge and not someone who feels obliged to constantly reminding students of the class responsibilities. That is usually left to the student. If a student is not someone who thrives in a self-directed learning environment, the online classroom experience could be a problem.  Furthermore, each online instructor may teach multiple classes maybe even in multiple colleges. He or she may have hundreds of students. Students might just become a number. It’s easy for a student to get lost in the crowd.

Another limitation is the effectiveness of student support services. In the online environment support services may not be as effective as in the more traditional, face-to-face environment. The occasional email from your financial advisor is nowhere near as powerful than the face-to-face interview. Need tutoring in math? Your college level English isn’t that strong and it is bringing your grades down? Granted, the online colleges have tutoring and support for this, but again, the cyber assistance you will receive is nowhere near as powerful as sitting directly in front of your tutor.

Do you thrive in clubs and organizations? Were you president of the student body in high school? Online programs don’t provide you that experience. Is athletic competition important to you? Perhaps you were on the football team in high school, or you were even a cheerleader. No pads and pompoms in your online school. It’s just you and your laptop. If extracurricular activities are an important part of the college experience, the online program is clearly not as fulfilling.

Is an online education right for you?

That clearly depends on whatever the individual circumstances are. For many students it is a viable way forward, for others, the limitations outweigh the advantages. Many students attempt to online courses or programs and do not succeed. They quickly discover that their style of learning is not compatible with an online class. Moreover, student might enroll in a subpar program, making a significant investment, and fail to complete it. Many do complete it, however, and find that the poor reputation of the college and/or program do little to advance their career.

When making this decision, or any other college decision for that matter, it is important to carefully consider all options. In most cases, not succeeding as an online students is worse than not attempting it at all.

 

A B.S. in Mrs.

ring

Doc Seidman Says……

….In 1960 in the United States, a six-pack of beer was 99ȼ, a loaf of bread was 20ȼ, and a movie ticket was $1. Minimum wage was $1.25 but with gas at 25ȼ a gallon, you could still live large.

Also in 1960, just over 7.5 million students were enrolled in U.S. colleges. Of that, approximately 54% were men and 46% were women. Fifty-five years later, in 2015, those percentages reversed themselves. While the number of students enrolled in college jumped to 17 million, 56% were now female and 44% where male. What gives?

For one, women weren’t pursuing careers sixty years ago like they were today.  Having a career aspiration back then was not very common. The years leading up the 60s prioritized women staying home, raising children, and taking care of the household while men went off to work. Women’s careers were pretty much limited to teaching and secretarial work in those days.

It was often noted that women who did go to college experience went to not only get a degree, but to find a husband. The median age for a first marriage in 1960 was 22.8 for men and 20.3 for women; the college age years.  In 2015 the ages men and women got married were 29.2 and 27.1 respectively. Men and women were a bit more in a hurry to find a lifelong spouse several generations ago than they are now. Without Match.com or Tinder at the ready in 1960, college might have been the matchmaking app of its time. Your mother swiped right.

Many have speculated why that was the case. Was it true that a college woman wanted to spend the rest of her life with a college man? Did she feel the secret to a happy life and marriage was to be with someone with “book smarts” and not “street smarts?” My mother, a college graduate, told me that a big reason she went to college was to find a husband. She, like many others, also wanted to get away from home. College to the rescue! A four-year college experience in a new city provided the opportunity to move away from home and find a husband.

Was the same thinking true for college men? Was a college man in 1960 keen to spend the rest of his life with a college woman, or did he want a stay at home wife? There were probably cases of both. Many men back then were intimidated by a female college grad. A woman’s place was in the home, wasn’t it? It certainly wasn’t in the corporate boardroom.

Things have certainly changed in since then.  More women than men are not only attending college, but using the experience to launch their careers instead of their marriage. Hookups and “friends with benefits” are more the college norm than finding that special someone to spend the rest of your life with. And why not, college is expensive. With close to $40,000 in student loan debt for the average college graduate, there is too much on the line. It is career first, then husband. Furthermore, more than three out of every four college students hold at least one job while they are attending college. Who has time to find the perfect partner anymore?

Clearly, attending college to receive a B.S. in Mrs. Is a thing of the past. True, there are still many women and men who find their lifetime partner while attending college, but nowhere near as frequently than in the past. College is a big expense and a serious business, today’s students therefore want to get down to business…the business of graduating and starting their careers.

My Time in a U.S. College: Things my Parents Would Not Want to Hear

marijuana

Doc Seidman says….

…Should parents be worried about their son or daughter’s behavior in college? Guest blogger Natasha Kurt may have some answers.

College in the United States was a great time. Coming from another country, I was surprised at how different the experience was for me. I made many new friends, both from America and other countries. I learned new things and enjoyed most of my classes. I also got to see places in the U.S. I never thought I would see as a child. Most of all, I enjoyed the parties at college. College in the U.S. was like a big party. I had a lot of fun.

I did not know what to expect when I arrived in the United States for college. I tried to prepare myself but it was not what I expected. Now that I have graduated and have my diploma from a good American college, I can share some of my fun experiences.

  • Drinking alcohol: The drinking age in the United States is 21 but you would never know it. Alcohol was everywhere. American beer was the most popular—and not very strong—but other alcohol such as vodka, rum and tequila were popular too.
  • Smoking marijuana: Marijuana laws are crazy in the United States. It is illegal on the national level (laws made for the country in Washington, D.C.) but legal in some states. I went to college in a state where it is not legal. It didn’t matter. Marijuana was popular. Smoking it out of a pipe or bong was common but many people still smoke it as a cigarette. It was always found at parties or even sitting in an apartment with friends. Someone always seemed have a marijuana cigarette.
  • Watching pornography: Thanks to the Internet, and free campus wi-fi, another popular activity. Americans do not have censorship.
  • Procrastination: Like many of my friends, I often waited until the last minute to complete an assignment. I could have done a much better job if I had started earlier, but it all worked out for me.
  • Skipping class: Not going to (skipping or cutting) class is also popular on the American campus. I don’t know why because college costs a lot of money. I would say that more American students missed or “cut” class than us international students. Many Americans did not seem to take college very seriously. It was strange to see that as my family had to spend a lot of money for me to be there.
  • Drinking Caffeine: This is also popular. Coffee is a popular drink (we had three Starbucks on our campus and they were all very busy). Americans also drink many sugary drinks with a lot caffeine such as Pepsi, something called Mountain Dew, and Red Bull. Coming from another country I was not used to drinking so many of these beverages. They keep you awake though.
  • Sex: After four years of watching everybody, I would say about half of the students were having sex regularly. I would also say that more than half of the students bragged about having sex regularly. Friends would “hook up” with other friends and just have sex. Many had multiple partners. Coming from a country with different values about sex, I found this very different. It seems like most of the sex was not part of a long-term relationship. It was just sex for the sake of having sex.

I am not sure if my parents would have sent me to college in the United States if they had known what college there was like. I had a lot of fun though and I would do it again! If you have the money, you should go. It is a good time.

Natasha is a contributor to www.internationalcollegestudent.com and will be writing for the upcoming site sexandcollege.com.

Community Colleges: A Guide for International Students

college hall

Doc Seidman Says…

….A U.S. “community college” is a school that offers a two-year degree (associate’s) instead of a four-year degree (bachelor’s). Because it is a two-year school, it costs a lot less money to attend. Community colleges are sometimes called “Junior Colleges” or “Technical Colleges.” Some community colleges offer both two and four-year degrees.

Students attend community colleges for many reasons.

  • Some students are not sure they are ready for a four-year degree. “Trying things out” with a less-expensive two-year degree close to home can be a better option.
  • Many students are older; in their 30s, 40s or more. They may be returning to school to learn new things or complete a degree they started but did not finish.
  • Many students cannot afford to attend a four-year college right away. They will attend the local community college, earn their associate’s degree, and then apply to a four-year college as a transfer student. In many cases, they can now earn their bachelor’s degree in two years, instead of four years (depending on the number of credit hours that transfer, or are accepted by the four-year school). Starting at a community college can save a lot of money. The average cost of tuition is around $3,500 a year, much lower than at a four-year school.

If you decide to attend a community college, know that most do not offer on-campus housing, or dormitories, for their students. Students are usually on their own to find a place to live. In the U.S., many students live at home with their families while they attend community college. The price of an apartment will vary based on where the college is. In many cases, however, it is easy to find lower cost housing near a busy college.

Since students do not live on campus, they need to find a way to get to and from their classes. Many people in the U.S. have cars so driving to school is common. If you do not have a car, most community colleges are part of a major public bus route where students can ride a bus to and from school. (You would want to review bus transport in advance because every region and school is different.) It is also possible to walk if you live close enough, weather permitting. Even if you can walk to school, you will need to find a way to get to other places (grocery stores, shopping, restaurants, etc.). Keep in mind, however, that cars are extremely popular in the United States and most places are built to accommodate them.

When it comes to college in the United States, you often get what you pay for. The more you pay to attend (higher tuition) the more services and advising your college is likely to provide. In many cases, the less you pay, the fewer services and personal attention you may receive.

If this is something that may interest you, research possible community colleges you may be interested in. Try and avoid a college that is “for profit.” That means it operates like a more traditional business and the college might be more interested in having you as a paid student than seeing you succeed. A good community college will have an office for international students. It would be a good idea to contact the director and get more information about the international student population. They can also answer any questions about how the school is accredited and what opportunities are available to international students both during school and when they graduate.

If you want to attend college in the United States but do not have a great deal of money, the community college option can be right for you. Most do very good work and make every attempt to see their students succeed.

10 Dorm Must-Haves for Under $30

dorm room

Doc Seidman Says…..

….anyone you know getting ready for college? Read this helpful post from my colleague Rachel DeHaven on how to save money on important dormitory supplies.

Excitement and stress are kicking in for both you and your child while dorm shopping!  After living in dorm rooms for many years, I have compiled the top ten must-haves of dorm life.   The essentials go without saying (sheets, pillows, etc.).   This post contains all the things you may not have considered when writing up your shopping checklist.  Bonus: did I mention everything on this list is under $30?! Keep your student happy and your wallet happier.

1.    Bed Risers.

These bad boys are a must get. However, you should only buy if you have seen the dorm room first or know for a fact they are not included. Some dorms will actually lift your bed on request, make sure you know if that is an option before you buy. Lifting your bed will leave so much room for storage such as clothes, books, and luggage.  These risers are almost seven inches and will be perfect to squeeze the essentials under and keep everything organized.

2.    String Lights.

Dorms generally have poor or harsh lighting in their rooms.  String lights are great for nighttime when students are trying to wind down or even for a hip look when friends are over.  Especially great to hang over the bed for some lighting when their roommate is trying to sleep.

3.    Coffee Maker.

For those caffeine addicts this is a must have!  Skip the long morning coffee lines and make it in the dorm.  Also great for those long nights of studying.  Lifehack: use the coffee maker for hot water to make oatmeal or even ramen.  Check the university’s policy on appliances in dorm rooms first before you buy.

4.    Reusable water bottle.

Terrific for your student to bring to classes and have in their dorm room.  Also great for the environment by cutting down plastic bottle use.  My personal recommendation goes to the Hydro Flask.  The water stays cold for 24 hours and will even keep ice overnight.  Coffee and tea lovers can keep their beverages hot for over 6 hours in one of these bottles.  They lean toward the pricier side of things, but come with a lifetime warranty!

5.    Sleep Mask.

Perfect for your student when they need a little extra shut eye.  Will keep out light if their roommate is up late studying or fantastic for naps in between classes!  Perfect for the weekends when your student will most likely be sleeping long after the sun comes up.

6.    Command hooks.

Another way to utilize all the space of the room and free up room in the closet.  Command hooks are an easy way to hang coats, purses, or even backpacks. It will keep clutter off the floor and free up space that would normally be occupied.  These have a sticker back so it will not damage the wall.  Most dorms request no holes in the wall so this is an easy way around that.  A pack of five should keep anyone happy for the next year.

7.    Bedside pocket.

These are especially useful for those rooms that do not have nightstands or if your student is in bunkbeds.  It gives room to hold a phone (aka alarm clock) so they will never be late for class!  Plus, plenty of room for remotes, chargers, and even books to ensure they do not get lost in a potential disarray of the room.

8.    Bath robe.

When sharing showers your student will need coverage to get them to and from the stalls.  They are also exceptional for lounging in during nighttime dorm study sessions.  A long and soft robe will help keep them warm during the winter months.  This robe is extremely fluffy and comes in pink, blue, or grey.

9.    Slides.

Another shared bathroom must have, specifically if your student is in a communal shower situation (freshmen most likely are).  These types of showers are home to all sorts of nasty critters and many people get athletes foot because of it.  Avoid dealing with itchy feet and get your student some shower shoes.  These comfy shoes are sleek, stylish, and most importantly slip resistant!  There would be nothing more embarrassing than wearing the wrong shower shoes and having a rather unfortunate fall.

10.  Shower caddy.

The last third and final bathroom related shopping expense.  With communal showers there is nowhere to leave your belongings.  Your student will need an easy and convenient way to travel from their dorm room to the shower hall in style.  This shower caddy will most certainly hold shampoo, conditioner, and (hopefully) soap. Plastic or mesh caddies will dry easily and not get moldy or smelly.

Rachel is the editor of the #BacktomyBachelors blog for AffordableCollegePrep.com

Cheap Colleges: A Guide for International Students

College 3

Doc Seidman Says….

….In the United States, no two colleges are the same. The amount you will pay (tuition) will vary from college to college. If you are trying to study in the United States on a limited budget, the college you choose to attend will be your most important decision. You would want to go to a college with a good reputation yet not have to spend too much money.

The reputation of the college is very important in the United States. The school you graduate from will go on your resume and be part of your permanent record. As you may know, there are “elite” or top colleges in the U.S. (Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, for example) but not everyone can get into them or afford to go. They can also be very expensive. You would then want to find a good college that good reputation in the area you want to study.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, these are the least expensive U.S. colleges:

 

NAME OF COLLEGE STATE TUITION AND FEES (in US $)
Brigham Young University Utah $5,460
Arkansas Baptist College Arkansas $8,760
Tougaloo College Mississippi $10,600
Jarvis Christian College Texas $11,720
Blue Mountain College Mississippi $11,760
Alice Lloyd College Kentucky $12,050
William Carey University Mississippi $12,300
Park University Missouri $12,470
Amridge University Alabama $12,630
Bethune-Cookman University Florida $14,410

 

The most expensive colleges are:

NAME OF COLLEGE STATE TUITION AND FEES (in US $)
Columbia University New York $57,208
Vassar College New York $55,210
Harvey Mudd College California $54,886
University of Chicago Illinois $54,825
Trinity College Connecticut $54,770
Franklin and Marshall College Pennsylvania $54,380
Tufts University Massachusetts $54,318
Amherst College Massachusetts $54,310
University of Southern California California $54,259
Sarah Lawrence College New York $54,010

 

Now that you have a low and high dollar amount for the cost of college in the United States, you can better understand how much money you will need. If your college choice or choices is/are not on the list, you can see whether the tuition they charge is on the lower or higher side. As many international students know, they will not have the same benefits that an American student will have. This includes:

  • Student Loans- money the U.S. government lends students at a reduced interest rate
  • Grants- money the government provides students to attend school. Grant money is a gift and not a loan. It does not need to be paid back. Grant money is often need based.
  • Scholarships- money for college provided to students by companies or organizations. Students must apply to receive scholarship money. It, too, does not need to be paid back. Most, but not all scholarships are merit based.

Keep in mind that there are many costs in going to college. The amounts given here are for tuition and various application fees. They do not include other important costs such as: rent, food, book, transportation, and spending money. You would want to make sure you factor in these amounts before you decided to study in the United States.

As you probably know, as an international student, you are not able to work in the United States, unless it is for employment designated by the school. That means you will most likely not be able find a job to help you pay for things. Plan accordingly. Finding a lower cost college in a lower cost part of the country can certainly help.

Finally, remember, as part of your F1 Visa interview, you will need to show that you have the financial ability to go to college in the United States. Going to a lower cost school can certainly help, however, it may not be the answer.

Cheap Places: A Guide for International Students

States

Doc Seidman Says…

….Going to college In the United States can be very expensive. 

College tuition is expensive for those coming to study and live from another country. The costs of attending the school (tuition) and the related living expenses can be very high.  Some people are lucky, they may have the money to go to college wherever they please.  For most people, however, going to an American college will cost all the money they have saved. They need to save money any way possible while still getting a good, American college education.

There are many ways to spend less money. One way is to attend college in a region of the country where it does not cost a lot of money to live, eat, and play. Where you go to school in the United States is an important consideration for those who do not have the money to go wherever they choose. In this case, it might be best to first identify part of the country that would be affordable and then look for college in that area. This can save international students a lot of money.

U.S. states that cost the most money to live. (CNBC)

For those that don’t have a lot of money, these may be states to avoid:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

The cheapest, or least expensive states to live (USA Today)

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee

Every state is different

Laws can be different in every state. This is why it will cost more money to live in some places and not others. This includes the cost of real estate (homes/apartments), food, gasoline, and other living supplies. Taxes also vary from state to state. Some states have high taxes and some states have few or no taxes. You might want to live in an exciting city such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, or Boston, but they can be expensive places to live and study.

A city can be expensive

Some states may not be on the expensive list, however, a city in that state might be. For example, the state of Florida is not one of the most expensive states to live in, however, the city of Miami, is one of the most expensive cities to live in. If you find a school in a big city, check to make sure you can afford to live there.

What you can do?

Make a list of the colleges in the less expensive states that might interest you. Visit the college website. Look to see if they have the subject you want to study. Write down their tuition. Understand that some schools might have more than one price. These schools are subsidized (helped) with taxes paid by residents and will cost less money for someone who lives in the state to go to school there. As an international student, you will not have that benefit and in most cases, will have to pay the more expensive, out of state tuition. Some schools may help you with a grant or scholarship, but that does not always happen.

Study the population

Another good idea is to study the demographics (population) of the college. For example, if you are coming from India, you may feel comfortable knowing your school has other students from India. In the United States, some parts of the country are friendlier to international populations than others, so it is important to see that your college has students from your country.

Finally, the F1 Visa

Understanding the city or region and the related costs population of the local college is a good start. Additionally, all international students need to have an F1 Visa which allows them to study in the U.S.. One of the requirements to obtain the Visa is showing that students have the money and resources to study in the United States.  Living in an inexpensive area may not be the answer, but it can be helpful.