Are you thinking about returning to school or starting college for the first time? For many non-traditional students, deciding to enter the world of academia is a comprehensive decision-making process. Where to attend school? How much will it cost? Do I have the time to study? How do I balance work and school? Will the coursework be too hard? What does my support system say? Do I even have a support system? These are all questions that boggle a student’s mind when deciding whether or not to pursue that degree. There have been many times when I’ve interviewed a student for admission, accepted them, within the first week of school, the student decides to hold off. Sometimes, it’s because some sort of tragedy struck; but, a lot of times, fear crept in and took over, causing the student to defer admission. So what do you do if you’re just not sure whether or not to pursue that degree? Try it out!
The great thing about school today is that there are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). MOOCs exist for a variety of students. They are for the lifelong learner who wants to take a course at their leisure. They are for the person who wants to survey a bunch of courses before deciding which one to fully dive into. More importantly, they are great for students who are testing the waters of academia before deciding where to attend, which area to study, and whether or not they are ready for the college endeavor. Plus, MOOCs are free! How amazing is that? You can take some college level courses for free and really see what your life can look like with a mix of school, work, family obligations, etc.
Another online platform is Coursera, which has more specific courses, degrees, professional development and certification programs taught by various colleges and universities. Whichever platform you choose, there are free or low-cost options to learning where you can test the waters before actually earning that degree.
Will I get credit?
For some platforms, you will receive credit for the work that you complete, but make sure that your research those offerings and that they state that you will receive credit for your work. Now, if you want courses that directly tie to the college you are choosing to attend, then there’s another route to take. Some colleges offer you to “test” the degree by taking a few courses (usually up to three) for a certain amount of money. Every college calls this option something different, but here’s how it works:
- You enroll as a “special admit” student, where you are not officially apart of any program, but there are some introductory courses that you’d like to take as part of a desired program.
- You will take those courses in a limited amount of time (ex. Two or three semesters)
- If you earn high marks in those classes and choose to move forward with a degree program, those course credits will apply towards your degree.
Unlike platforms similar to Coursera or MOOCs, being a special admit student at a college might be a faster route towards earning a degree. However, here’s a word of caution: In order to not waste time or money, choose to become a special admit student at a college after you have 1) decided that the chosen college is where you want to stay; 2) after you have chosen the major you want to devote your time to; and after you have addressed financial need. This option is also good because many of these courses are face-to-face. So, if you do not want online learning, here’s your option. This way, you can enter a program that you feel confident about progressing through.
During the summer months, consider trying out college through MOOCs and other online platforms. Be mindful of how you learn, how you study, whether online learning is best for you, and whether or not you’re ready to commit time, money, and resources, to your education. It’s always great to “get your feet wet” before fully diving in.
Keep moving forward,