***University names are hidden for privacy reasons.
I just turned down an $80,000 scholarship at one of the best private universities in the Midwest. Yep, you read that right, 80K. Enough to buy a decent house in my community or two brand new cars. Why did I do it? Because I still would have had to pay over 40K to get my degree. That’s just the tuition, not including textbooks and supplies, gasoline, and car maintenance.
But that’s not the only reason. I also wanted the freedom to learn at my own pace, using my own methods, and while saving money. Wait, did she say she was going to use her own methods? Will she not have professors teaching her? That’s right. There won’t be any direct contact with professors, because I’m going to an online state college (OC). I will be majoring in business administration with an emphasis on organizational management.
The private university (PU) was my first choice. It’s ranked third in the Midwest, and it is a very strong college. I could also commute, since it’s about 20 minutes away from my house. However, my plan was to get my driver’s license when I was 18, so I didn’t have to pay for driver’s ed. The Ohio BMVs are now closed until further notice, due to COVID-19. My parents would have to go with me to campus every single time until I got my license.
It is also expensive, like most private colleges. I received the presidential scholarship with my ACT score, but I would still have to pay about $14,000 per year. That’s a lot of money. At OC, I will be paying about $12,000 for my entire degree!
I have been taking college credit plus (CCP) classes for four semesters, and I will have earned about 75 credit hours by the time I’ve graduated. PU does not take nearly as many of these transfer credits as OC. Also, they were not willing to work with me to graduate in under four years. Registration for PU opens in March. Freshmen cannot register for classes until after orientation which is in June. Now, this would be understandable if orientation were applicable to class registration, but it is not. When I emailed someone with my class schedule, she said that after orientation, she would do her best to put me in those classes. This is the person who was supposed to be guiding me on the classes I should be taking in the fall. So, orientation is necessary, but incoming freshmen can still take whatever classes they want after completing orientation? How does this make sense?
As of today, three of the five classes I wanted to take, including two major classes, are completely full at PU. I would have been transferring over 60 credit hours to this institution, so I don’t have the option to replace those major classes with electives or gen eds, because I’ve already fulfilled those requirements. I would have to add an extra semester to my education, which is an extra 16 weeks of classes and $7,000. Is this really the best use of my time or money?
My plan was to major in Communication Studies, but after going to an incoming freshman day, I realized that most of the Communication majors were people who had not decided what they really wanted to do with their life. They had just settled on a major. In a way, I did too, because I did not find any other degrees that would enable me to graduate early. Their business degree looked interesting, but it is over 75 credit hours. Also, any business classes that I had already taken would not transfer. For example, if I had taken Foundations of Management at a different institution, it would have transferred as Introduction to Management at PU. I would have transferred a lot of credit hours, but not useful classes. At OC, most of the business classes that I have taken will be transferring as useful major classes. At PU, I would have had to go for four years if I wanted a business degree.
At OC, I am on track to graduate two years after I start. If I really wanted to, I could graduate in three semesters, but I want to get as much out of college as I can. I like going my own pace with things, and OC will allow me to finish when I want. It has a much broader credit hour limit, because I can be a part-time student at a community college (CC) while I am a student at OC. I can also test out of classes through CLEP and DSST exams while I am enrolled at OC.
Many people think that online colleges are inferior to traditional universities. What if I were to tell you that I am required to take 30 credit hours of upper level classes at OC? The Communication Studies major at PU only requires 9 upper level credit hours. Isn’t that a big difference? I will be forced to be self-accountable with OC. Nobody is checking on me or pushing me to get my assignments done by the deadline. I won’t have classmates that will outshine me, who I’ll be working toward. It will be up to me to get my degree on time.
However, I have already completed 75 credit hours by taking online classes from a CC. I’m hoping that this four-year OC college will be more challenging, but I have still learned a ton from my CC classes. I have discovered through various experiences and conversations with other people that I have learned more from my online classes than they have in their in person classes. I don’t have lectures that I can fall asleep in. The only time I am learning is when I am forcing myself to focus wholeheartedly on the material in the textbook. Also, I really don’t like lectures. I like teaching myself information, which is how I will be graduating high school with a 4.0 GPA, including my 75 college credit hours.
By attending OC, I will be able to continue being involved in my community. I am in several community activities that only take place during the day. I cannot skip classes to be involved in these, but I would miss being involved in these activities. The class times for PU would have even potentially cut my work hours.
Since I was a freshman in high school, my goal has been to graduate college with no debt. I know it is trendy right now, but that has also been my parents’ goal since I was a little kid. There is no reason to graduate with debt if there is an alternative. Overall, OC is a much better fit for me. PU has amazing statistics and produces some amazing results, but it is not for me. I am very happy to save over $30,000 so I can go to graduate school, stay at home with my family, work more hours at a job that will lead to my dream career, and continue being involved in my community.