Categories
Career Colleges COVID-19 Dual Enrollment Family Finances General Interest Online learning

8 great benefits of distance learning

Is distance learning right for you?

This is something you may have said (or thought) if you’re considering a college. At The Distance Learner, we obviously think distance learning can be a good idea for a lot of students. 

Why? Here are eight benefits we think you’ll like.

1. It typically costs less

Did you know that distance learning is often less expensive than in-classroom learning? This makes sense, since you’re not paying for the upkeep of classroom buildings or maintenance fees for keeping the college looking spick and span.

So save some money where you can. Life typically only gets more expensive.

2. It requires no driving

Speaking of saving, distance learning cuts back on travel costs. If you have a car, you’ll save money on gas, oil, and general wear-and-tear. If you don’t have a car, you’ll save on your bus fare (or at least not have to worry about getting a ride from someone else).

Also, there’s the whole “no-traffic” thing. So if you’re a big fan of sitting in traffic, distance learning may not be for you!

3. It’s flexible

The benefits of a flexible learning schedule rely on knowing what time(s) of day you think best. So say you’d rather have your mornings off to go for a jog or you’d rather take a break in the afternoon to play a video game. Distance learning gives you the flexibility to do this.

4. It’s great if you have a job

This flexibility is especially useful if you have a job. Whether you’re working part-time or full-time, distance learning lets you do the work when you can. You are not beholden to the class schedules of in-classroom learning. So if you want to get some work experience while you’re in school, distance learning may be the route to take.

5. It allows you to learn at your own pace

If you’re like me, you need only a little bit of time for studying English and history courses, but you need an exorbitant amount of time for studying math courses. With remote learning, you can learn at your own pace. This gives you greater control over your education.

6. It allows you to learn just about anywhere

Want to view lectures at your momma’s house as you wait for a delicious, home-cooked meal? You’ll likely be able to do this, provided she has decent Internet service.

Maybe you prefer going to class out in your yard where your home’s Wi-Fi is still good enough to watch lectures. This is possible through the magic of distance learning. 

7. It can help you get better at time-management skills

Learning how to manage your time is especially important for folks who are used to having someone else dictate their schedule, like their high school or parents. But time-management skills are a necessary part of any professional’s life, and the flexibility and self-paced nature of distance learning can help you hone these skills. 

For instance, employers are increasingly allowing their teams to set their own working hours. Since you have been setting your own schedule via distance learning, you should have no problem with doing this. 

8. It prepares you for remote employment

In the age of COVID-19, more and more businesses are going remote (or at least partially remote). Remote work is a trend that likely won’t go away when the pandemic ends. This is where distance learning plays a key role: It gets you used to the idea of working remotely.  

That means you are:

  • Learning how to be comfortable with working online
  • Learning how to collaborate with classmates
  • Learning how formal email etiquette works

These are all skills that are useful for working in a remote position.

Categories
Career Colleges COVID-19 General Interest

7 tips for transitioning from in-classroom learning to distance learning

Distance learning has become increasingly popular in the past decade—especially for college students—and that trend has caught even more momentum in the age of COVID-19. But if you’re preparing to switch from learning inside a classroom to learning online, the change can be a little jolting. 

For one thing, you’re not interacting with people in-person. Human beings were not made to socialize via screens. So while using screens to communicate is better than nothing, screens and Wi-Fi will never be as effective as in-person communication.

It can also be tough to adjust to distance learning after getting used to someone else playing a big role in your schedule. Now, class times and professors will likely not dictate your schedule—you will. And where are you supposed to view lectures if you’re not in a classroom? These are all things you’ll have to address when you transition to distance learning.

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate any issues that might come from the change.

1. Stick to a schedule

Having a general schedule will provide some structure and stability to your day, which can help you focus. It doesn’t have to be incredibly rigid, but you will likely want to have something in place so that you know you can get everything done.

Here are some tips:

  • Have regular sleep/wake times
  • Set aside time to view lectures and take notes
  • Set aside time to do your homework/study
  • Have a set lunch period in your day
  • Have a general cutoff date to each day, though this will likely need to be adjusted depending on your workload
  • Set aside time for rest and relaxation so that you can mentally prepare for the next day

2. Be willing to be flexible

While it’s good to stick to a structured schedule, it’s also helpful to be flexible. For instance, if you need to spend more time on one class than another or you want to take a longer lunch with a friend, be willing to do that. The beauty of distance learning is that it allows for the flexibility that traditional classrooms do not.

3. Set aside a space just for learning

By setting aside a space that you only use for schoolwork, you can make it somewhere your mind associates with learning. This can help you think clearly and focus on what you’re doing when you’re in that space. If you have a small home, you may want to have a certain chair that you only sit in when doing schoolwork.

If you can’t be at home, consider going to a local library, coffee shop, or even a park (if you can get Wi-Fi out there). Again, the point is to have a place where learning can occur effectively.

4. Get organized

Once you have established your learning space, it’s time to get organized. Note-taking is an art of sorts, and organization is the key to making it beautiful (and useful). 

Sites like Trello allow you to make to-do lists that you can use for every class. Of course, you can go with traditional organizing tools such as Microsoft Excel, but Google offers a free alternative in Google Sheets.

5. Get outside

Vitamin D can be great for lifting a person’s spirits. And by going for a walk or doing any other form of exercise, you’ll get your heart pumping and your blood flowing. This can reinvigorate your body so that you can learn better. 

Side note: Be sure to wear sunscreen if you think you might get sunburned. Having to rub aloe on your sunburnt nose will likely distract you from learning.

6. Take mental breaks

Even if you don’t go outside, you should still take mental breaks throughout the day. Often stepping away from the thing you are working on will allow you to more effectively tackle it once you get back to it. That can include doing something mindless (like watching a sitcom on TV) to working on your favorite hobby (like building ceramic penguins).

7. Socialize with people in person

There’s a lot of social interaction that happens with in-person learning, which can teach you valuable social skills like teamwork and listening. Setting aside time during the week to socialize is especially important for extroverts who love the face-to-face interactions that come from being in a classroom.

Even if you’re someone who generally prefers being alone, consider getting out with family or friends each week. If you’ve been wanting to try out a new restaurant with your friends, you can use the excuse that going out is helping you refine your social skills and acclimate to distance learning.

Categories
Career Colleges COVID-19 Online learning

Is a hybrid college right for you?

Today’s average college student looks far different than the typical caricature of a bright-faced 18-year-old setting foot on campus for the first time.

Does that surprise you? It’s a relatively recent phenomenon.

Today, 45 million Americans have some college experience but no degree. What’s more, the population of non-traditional college students is rapidly growing. One report from found that around 73% of students currently enrolled in college have at least one non-traditional characteristic: being independent for financial aid purposes, having one or more dependents, being a single caregiver, not having a traditional high school diploma, delaying postsecondary enrollment, attending school part time,

or being employed full time.

Enter the world of the hybrid college.

A hybrid approach to college combines online learning with face-to-face interaction with a coach and a physical study space to mix and collaborate with other students. It’s a method of post-secondary learning that’s become commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. But even as life returns to a new normal, hybrid colleges are likely here to stay.

Trademarks of a hybrid college

There are several hallmarks of an effective hybrid program:

  • A curriculum that’s tightly focused on credentials with real-world application in the job market.
  • Many on-ramps throughout the year that allow students to leap into a degree program quickly and easily.
  • Employs a combination of online and face-to-face instruction and coaching.

A hybrid example: PelotonU

A great example of a hybrid campus is PelotonU. Based in Austin, Texas, PelotonU takes a multi-faceted approach to helping individuals gain work experience and an accredited, marketable credential. PelotonU was founded in 2013 to create a seamless pipeline that matches students with accredited online learning options, job placements, a community-based local learning environment, and a coach to help them through the process.

The cost component is a big positive factor with PelotonU. Average tuition expenses are in the range of $6,000 per year compared to $11,039 for a public in-state school in Texas. On average, students complete their associate’s degree in 12 months and their bachelor’s degree in 36 months, with an overall graduation rate of 81 percent. Those who persist to complete their bachelor’s degree see an average earning increase of $19,107 per year.

But costs aren’t the only aspect that make PelotonU workable for working adults. New cohorts of students start every month, giving busy adults a nimble way to leap directly into a degree program rather than taking months to apply and start a course of study. Maintaining motivation is a significant factor for these non-traditional students as well, so the program pairs each learner with a coach for weekly meetings built around guidance and inspiration.

Another PelotonU offering that nudges students along are local study spaces where students are free to pursue their studies. PelotonU describes the spaces as more like a coffee shop than a classroom. Equally important is the fact that PelotonU links students with individual mentors, or coaches, who help keep them on the path to graduation.

Categories
Career Colleges General Interest Online learning

The best tech tools to make distance learning in college work better

There has never been a better time to attend college exclusively online than right now. A big reason is because of all the amazing technology available to make the journey easier. And all of that tech has never been cheaper or more accessible.

To help out, in this blog post we’ll explore the best tech tools—both software and hardware—to ensure you’re successful.

1. Google Docs

This one depends on how your college handles assignments, but if you’re looking for an easy way to handle word processing that also happens to be free, you can’t beat Google Docs. This online suite gives you options that closely resemble Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It offers the chance for real-time collaboration between students and teachers.

2. Tools for managing assignments: Trello or Asana

We know that distance learning students tend to be much better than their peers at self-directed learning. A way to help out with that is keeping on track and on task with a project management app. Here are two to consider:

  • Trello offers an excellent way to visually represent various buckets of assignments and schoolwork and move them from “in progress” to “review” to “complete.” This is the project management app I personally use for my business. With Trello, you can create individual cards that represent assignments and then move them between “stacks” showing progress and momentum. The app also makes it easy to add attachments or make comments. As a parent, you can also access your student’s Trello board to monitor progress.
  • Asana is similar to Trello except that it offers more customization and detail on individual tasks. Another big difference is in the visuals: If your high school student works better with a “check list” type format, then Asana is ideal. If he or she prefers a more visual approach, Trello is the ticket. The bottom line: If you want to go more granular, Asana can be a great tool. But if you want to keep it simple, go with Trello. For most high school students, Trello will be more than sufficient.

3. A time-tracking app

There are so many great time tracking apps out there. One app that combines some fun with helping you stay on track is Forest. When you commit time to a task, you plant a tree and watch it gradually grow. If you get off task, the tree dies. RescueTime is another option. This one is perfect to not only track your time, but to block out distractions (like social media).

4. A laptop

As a tech tool, a laptop is close to indispensable for high school students because they will inevitably use them during the next step in college or other vocational training. A laptop doesn’t have to break the bank, either: Chromebooks can easily be found for under $300 (some of them $200) and offer much of what’s needed to aid a college education.

Why not get a desktop? While they’re cheaper, in the long run a laptop will serve you better and prepare you for life after college. Plus, you always have the option of connecting a laptop to an external LCD and keyboard to mirror a desktop experience. (See point 5 below.)

5. Tablet

This could be an Apple iPad, an Android tablet, or even a Kindle or Nook e-reader for books. A tablet could actually be a decent replacement for a laptop. For example, if you want an Apple device but can’t stomach the $1,000 entry-level price for a MacBook Air, you can combine an iPad with a smart keyboard for around $450.

6. Headphones

They must have a built-in microphone. A bonus is if they are noise cancelling, especially if you have a larger family.

7. External monitor

Having a portable device like a laptop, tablet, or smartphone has its perks, but screen real estate is not one of them! That’s why it can be beneficial to have an external monitor on hand where you can hook up your portable devices to enjoy a bigger screen.

8. High-quality webcam

Whether it’s Zoom, Skype, or one of the many other apps out there, video conferencing has become a way of life in 2020 and 2021. To make the most of it as a remote learner, you need a high-quality webcam. Most laptops come with built-in cameras, but it’s with investing an extra $50 in a higher resolution camera. Here is the model I recently bought off Amazon.

Categories
Career Colleges Finances Online learning

An 8-step distance learning productivity schedule that will help you get the most out of your day

We all want to make the best use of our days. But as a remote learner, that goal can be tricky. It takes a lot of self-motivation and self-discipline to be successful. The great news is that there are a few tips and tricks you can implement to make the journey easier.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, that’s the topic of this blog post. Based on my own experience as a remote learner through college—plus the experience and wisdom of others—I’ve compiled eight steps to help you become a more productive learner. 

Let’s get started!

1. Block out specific hours of the day for learning

As a remote learner, it’s entirely possible to match the productivity of a traditional learner sitting in a classroom. In fact, it’s entirely possible to exceed that level. All it takes is having the right structure in place and the discipline to stick to it.

“Time blocking” is one building block for successful distance learning. Since you’re learning remotely, you’ll have a lot of distractions around you each and every day. That is why you need core study hours during the day.

Begin by thinking through what your typical week looks like as a distance learner: When you need to be in Zoom classroom meetings, what time and day assignments are due, when you need to participate in discussion chats or boards, etc. Then build your core hours around that.

The process could be as simple as blocking out 10am to 3pm as core study time where you will not be interrupted or take care of other tasks. Then divide those chunks up by your various classes.

Many people find this “blocking” approach easier to maintain than keeping a lengthy to-do list. Try it out and see how it works for you!

2. Eat a healthy breakfast

I’m not trying to sound like your mom, but this one really is important. Even if you’re not a morning or breakfast person, getting in a healthy first meal of the day will set you up for success. “Research shows skipping breakfast negatively affects short term memory and foregoes a boost in cognitive performance, precursors to productivity,” writes Scott Mautz at Inc.

If you’re anything like me, you also need a jolt of caffeine to get started. It’s never a good idea to down that cup of coffee or tea on an empty stomach, though. Be sure to get protein, starch, and add in some healthy fruits for good measure—all to maintain level energy throughout your morning.

3. Try intermittent fasting

I just told you not to skip breakfast, now I’m suggesting you skip meals. What gives? Bear with me.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, intermittent fasting is when you go a set number of hours—say, 16—without food during a 24-hour period. Then you repeat that fast on several days during the week. People use intermittent fasting mainly for weight loss or weight maintenance, or for general health. But it also has productivity benefits.

“When practicing intermittent fasting, many people report feeling more focused, energized, and at higher levels of concentration,” writes Kelsey Michal at Ladders.

If you’re medically able to try this approach, give it shot to see how it impacts your focus and output.

4. Take breaks

Taking a break is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s essential for long-term success. Yes, it might mean disrupting your flow, but you’ll likely find your mind sharper when you return to your schoolwork.

What does a good break look like? That’s an individual question. You need to figure out what works best for you. It might be just a matter of switching mental gears from studying to a lighter mental activity. Other good options:

  • Try a few minutes of prayer or meditation
  • Take a nap
  • Go for a walk (physical activity is always a plus!)
  • Chat with a friend
  • Listen to some music
  • Catch up on some non-school reading

5. Tap into the power of momentum

Harnessing the potential of momentum in your school day is a huge leap forward. The first step in doing that is just getting started. I call this the “kickstart.” In my own life, I find that if I can get five minutes into a challenging task or project, half the battle has been won. It’s the equivalent of putting on your sneakers and just walking out the door to go exercise—that first step is often all it takes for you to end up finishing your walk or run.

“Success requires first expending ten units of effort to produce one unit of results. Your momentum will then produce ten units of results with each unit of effort,” said Charles J. Givens.

Start small and take things one step at a time, and momentum will carry you along.

6. Designate an area in your home for study

Remote learners face the same challenges as remote workers: When home is your workspace, it can be hard to find the “off” switch when transitioning between work and play. A big step toward a solution is to designate a specific part of your home for study.

Depending on how much space you have to work with, this could be a corner of your apartment, a spare bedroom, or an entire floor of your house (a finished attic, for example). It’s important that this area be customized to what helps you study most effectively.

Some possible aids here include:

  • Ambient background noise
  • Natural sunlight (or at least adequate lighting)
  • A comfortable desk and chair (skip studying in a big easy chair or in bed, as you might fall asleep)

7. Reduce distractions

Notice I didn’t say “eliminate distractions.” Depending on your stage of life, entirely doing away with distractions is a pipe dream. There will always be some, and many of us face significant distractions in our remote school or work environments at home. The key here is to reduce those distractions as much as possible and work around them.

Some tips:

  • Use a pair of noise cancelling headphones
  • Have a white noise machine running
  • Find a space for study with a door that locks
  • Turn off your phone and tune our social media

8. Track your time

Tracking your time spent studying is the equivalent of setting a budget in your finances. Regardless of how you spend your time or your money, admitting it “on paper” is a huge step forward. It enables you to look back and evaluate how effectively you’re using your time during the day (or how you’re spending your money, to keep the analogy going!).

The good news is that so many great time-tracking apps exist to help you. One app that combines some fun with helping you stay on track is Forest. When you commit time to a task, you plant a tree and watch it gradually grow. If you get off task, the tree dies. RescueTime is another option. This one is perfect to not only track your time, but to block out distractions (like social media).

Now it’s your turn!

So that’s my list. What about you? What approaches do you find most powerful for staying productive as a remote learner? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Categories
Apprenticeship Career Colleges General Interest Online learning

Is college right for you? Eight alternatives to the traditional path

For many students, college is an important step after high school. College can provide training for a specialized career like medicine or law, or an opportunity to study at a deeper level than in high school. But for too many students, college is “just what you do after high school,” and they end up graduating (or dropping out) with crippling debt and no real prospects.

So it’s important to consider seriously whether college is a good fit for you. Let’s take a look at some alternatives.

1. Community college

Some of the fastest-growing career fields, including dental hygiene and veterinary tech, only require a two-year degree, and community college graduates may be better off financially than their peers at four-year colleges.

Tuition is much lower—think $3,400 a year instead of $9,400 for an in-state public university or $24,000 out-of-state. In addition, most community college students can live at home, zapping the cost of the dorm and cafeteria. Young adults can enter the workforce faster and without the burden of student loans.

2. The military

Joining the military after high school can be a great opportunity to spread those wings. Some young adults join the military because they aren’t interested in college or don’t have the grades to pursue something they want to study. Others don’t have the financial means to make it work. Some do it for patriotism, others for adventure.

3. Apprenticeships

Apprentices are busy both working and learning, and they’re paid for it. Apprenticeships include training for a particular job, and employers pay for their apprentices’ college or vocational degrees in some cases. By the time a young adult completes an apprenticeship, he or she will have the skills, experience, and credentials needed for employment in the field he or she apprenticed in—and no college debt.

4. Vocational training/the trades/certificates

The skilled labor shortage in this country is not a secret, but it could be a huge problem for the economy. A 2015 study predicted that by 2025, 2 million manufacturing jobs would not be filled. More than 80 percent of executives who responded to the study’s survey said they would not be able to meet their customer’s needs because of that gap. About the same number said they are willing to pay above market rates. 

What does this all mean? A vocational training program could jumpstart a stable, well-paying career. Most programs only take a year or two and may be ideal for someone who wants to earn credentials but cringes at the thought of four more years of school.

5. Entrepreneurship

The year after high school can be a great time to be an entrepreneur. If you have a particular passion or skill—and a lot of hustle—you might consider starting a business or nonprofit.

High school or shortly after can be a great time to start a business—at that age, most people aren’t trying to support a family or pay down massive loans, so the stakes are low if something doesn’t work out.

6. Volunteering

If you are passionate about a cause, the time after high school—with almost nothing in the way of family or financial obligations—is an ideal time to dive in. You could spend a year in the U.S. or abroad giving your time to a nonprofit or church group.

In addition to being a service opportunity, volunteering gives you the chance to explore your passions, gain experience in the field, and create a network of people who can vouch for your skills or connect you with further opportunities.

7. A side gig

Whether it’s driving Uber or substituting for organists at area churches, more than 30 percent of workers in the U.S. have side hustles, and the trend is growing. Some side gigs can turn into full-time jobs, but another advantage of side gigs is their scalability.

8. A gap year

Some students will benefit from a year spent exploring their skills and interests, whether it’s volunteering, apprenticing, traveling, or working. A gap year can allow you to recharge your batteries and take a breather before diving back into academics. It can also help you clarify what (or whether!) you want to study in college.

In some cases, a gap year spent working is just a plain good decision. If you want to attend college, but money is tight, a year of work can be a good head start on the tuition bill.

Wrapping Up

While many students benefit from pursuing a four-year degree immediately after high school, others will be better off taking a gap year or a different route altogether. When college tuition costs are rising and non-college opportunities are multiplying, it makes sense to think seriously about what’s best for your future.

Categories
Career Colleges General Interest Online learning

7 fast facts: Should distance learning students bother applying to an Ivy League school?

Ah yes, the prestigious Ivy League—Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Penn, and Yale. Considered to be among the crème de la crème of American universities, these eight private schools rank high on the list of many high school students—including homeschoolers—when it comes to applying to colleges.

And what’s not to like? Known for their academic excellence, selectivity in admissions, and elite social connections, Ivy League schools often deliver a high ROI to grads who are able to translate their pricey degrees into high-paying jobs in the upper echelons of America’s top career fields.

And thanks to multi-billion-dollar endowments, students from middle-class and lower socioeconomic backgrounds can benefit from generous financial aid packages that offset high tuition rates and make an Ivy League education more affordable—and no longer the exclusive domain of the rich and powerful.

But even with these positives, many students and their parents look at the average $65,000 annual price tag for tuition, room, meals, and fees and ask themselves the big question: Is an Ivy League degree really worth it? And perhaps more to the point, why should you even bother applying to an Ivy League school when there are so many other high-quality, lower-cost public and private higher education options available?

Are Ivies worth the trouble?

To help answer these questions, Dr. Kat Cohen, founder and CEO of IvyWise, a college counseling firm, offers some insights from her days as a former Yale application reader.

For her, it’s all about the financial aid package. Beyond this, Cohen says the most important element of a student’s college education is what they make of their experience on campus. And while an Ivy League education can be valuable, she believes that many highly motivated students who are proactive about fostering rich academic and social experiences with classmates and faculty can get the same caliber education at other schools for a fraction of the cost.

Bottom line: Simply attending an Ivy League school isn’t enough to guarantee long-term career success. However, if an elite-level school offers a combination of scholarships and other assistance that significantly offsets the high tuition costs, then it makes sense to apply and see what happens. As the old saying goes, you never know until you try!

The good news is that no matter which college a student chooses, those who are active on campus, maintain top grades, develop defined interests, and connect with classmates, faculty, and alums will get the most out of their educational experience. And there are plenty of great public and private options available in every state across the nation.

So, while it may make sense for students to shoot for the stars and apply to an Ivy League or similar elite-level university, it’s always good to have a backup plan that includes a solid mix of educational options at varying price points.

With this in mind, here are seven fast facts to keep in mind if you’re considering decide to throw an Ivy League school into their college application mix:

Fact #1

Most homeschoolers have a higher GPA than traditional students—making them relatively more competitive from the get-go.

Fact #2

Elite-level colleges like Harvard, Yale, MIT, Duke, and Stanford want homeschoolers—and are doing everything they can to actively recruit students who have been homeschooled. They recognize that homeschooled students are often better prepared for college than their non-homeschooled peers. And they see the value in going after them.

Fact #3

Many colleges are adjusting their admissions policies to be friendlier to homeschooled applicants. Instead of relying on transcripts, many now accept work portfolios and offer a more flexible admissions process.

Fact #4

Homeschooled students often stand out in highly competitive admissions situations. Why? Because when a large pool of students competes for a few coveted spots, homeschoolers have an edge when it comes to excelling in independent study situations that require a high degree of self-motivation—traits that point to a greater likelihood of success in the rigorous academic environment of an Ivy League school.

Fact #5

Don’t believe the rumor that homeschoolers must get a GED to be eligible for federal student aid—it’s simply not true. Unfortunately, some colleges continue to hold this incorrect view. In reality, however, homeschooled students are exempt from this requirement.

Fact #6

Homeschooled students are ahead of the curve and typically earn more college credits than their traditional-school peers before they even get to college—on average 14.7 college credits for homeschoolers compared to 6.0 credits for traditional-school students.

Fact #7

Homeschooled students do very well in college—so much so that they tend to outperform traditional students from start to finish during their college careers. For example, first-semester homeschool freshmen have an average 3.37 GPA, compared to 3.08 for other freshmen. And homeschooled college seniors earn an average GPA of 3.46, compared to 3.16 for their counterparts educated in traditional schools.

Wrapping up

In the early days of homeschooling—30-plus years ago—there were significant hurdles that homeschool students faced when it came to admission to elite-level colleges. Nowadays, Ivy League schools are rolling out the red carpet to welcome homeschoolers and making it easier to navigate the process and receive full and fair consideration.

Coupling this trend with the generous financial aid and scholarship packages that most elite-level schools offer, the pie-in-the-sky dream of attending an Ivy League college may not be as far-fetched for homeschool students as it once was.

Of course, there are more factors to consider than just cost and potential career earnings when it comes to deciding which schools to apply to, but there are plenty of good reasons for homeschool students to spice up their college applications with a couple of Ivies and see what happens.

Categories
Apprenticeship Career Colleges General Interest

Top job-hunting mistakes that distance learning students make

Graduates of distance learning high school programs have a lot going for them when it comes to the job market. As the product of an innovative, flexible approach to education, they tend to be good at thinking outside the box—a crucial skill in today’s rapidly shifting economy.

But no matter who you are, venturing into the job market for the first time can be intimidating. In today’s blog post, we share a few common pitfalls that you might face when first entering the job market—whether directly from high school or after graduating from college.

Here they are:

1. Starting the application process with no work experience or practical skills

If your entire skillset is book learning, you have a problem. Employers are hungry for graduates with real-world experience. In fact, a survey from 2012 found that employers listed “internships” and “employment during college” as more important than “college major” when making hiring decisions.

What to do instead: Look to establish a track record of practical work experience. This can include summer jobs, internships, volunteering, foreign mission trips, and more. An added plus is to match your work or volunteer experience to your major in college. We share more ideas here.

2. Relying too much on online applications

There is a place for spreading your resume hither and yon through online applications (also known as “spray and pray”), but the success rate leaves much to be desired.

What to do instead: Ditch the online application pool. Get out and meet new people, make contacts, and let people know you’re looking for work. Professional relationships are truly the gold standard here.

3. Not keeping your social media identities tidy

You can rest assured that many potential employers run your name through major social media sites, or simply Google your name. Look at your social media identities from the vantage point of a hiring manager—would you hire you?

What to do instead: Keep a professional appearance on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. That doesn’t mean everything on your social media identities needs to be work-oriented, but it should reflect personal integrity and professionalism. Here are more tips for navigating the world of social media when it comes to college applications.

4. Not sending a handwritten thank you note after the interview

In the past, sending a handwritten thank you note was the expected norm following an interview. But today, that practice has fallen on hard times.

What to do instead: It’s simple … always send a handwritten thank you note! Be sure to drop your interviewer an email thank you as well. This one-two punch will help you stand out as a gracious, polite individual. Get more ideas here.

5. Only looking at jobs publicly posted

We all know that the best jobs are seldom posted publicly. That harkens back to our second point and our encouragement to get out, form professional relationships, and make contacts. That way, you’ll know about job opportunities long before they are posted online.

What to do instead: Identify specific employers you’d like to work for, and reach out to hiring managers there (LinkedIn can be a handy tool for this). Try writing a personal letter with your resume attach, explaining your interest in the company. This article in Forbes has many additional great ideas.

6. Refusing to settle

Don’t expect too great of a job when you’re just on the first rung of the ladder. Oftentimes, the best opportunities come along when you’re hard at work in the trenches in a job you don’t particularly like.

What to do instead: Don’t be afraid to “settle” for a job that doesn’t appear to be the perfect fight. But always look for new opportunities to advance into the job of your dreams.

Wrapping up

As a homeschool graduate, hunting for your first job is an exciting time, but it can also be intimidating. Hopefully, the tips we’ve shared today will help you in your search. Good luck!

Categories
Apprenticeship Career Colleges General Interest Transcripts

Rejected by a college? Here’s what to do next

It’s a scenario no family wants to face. You and your high school student have done the right thing and applied to a variety of colleges. Next comes the waiting game. And when the letters do eventually trickle in, there is nothing quite like that sinking feeling of getting rejected by one of your top-choice schools.

Ouch!

It can be tempting to fight back. One North Carolina teen went so far as to pen her own rejection letter after Duke University turned her down. While that might be somewhat therapeutic, let me share a few more practical suggestions with you that you can apply immediately if your student is rejected by a school.

1. Don’t take it personally

In-demand institutions receive tens of thousands of applications each year. For example, the University of California Los Angeles received 86,548 applications for the fall 2014 semester and admitted only 16,059 of these students. A lot of times, your student might be right up there with the top performers, but there simply isn’t enough room to accommodate everyone. And with admission rates for many highly competitive schools in the 10% or lower range, chances are that your student will likely be rejected—or perhaps waitlisted—from at least one school where he or she applies.

2. Embrace feelings of disappointment

The truth is, rejection hurts. And if your student has been rejected by one of your top picks for a school, it hurts even more. But while the truth is we will all face disappointment at different points in life, the key is learning how to deal with rejection in healthy ways and be better prepared for real-life ups and downs. So as a family, go ahead and process your disappointment, but be prepared to move forward.

3. Realize it might not be because of your student’s academics

Often times, colleges are striving to put together a diverse student body, and that doesn’t mean that academics alone are the deciding factor for admissions. In fact, admission rates can vary widely depending on your student’s gender, race, age, disability, veteran’s status, income, state residency, nationality, and other non-merit factors. While there have been legal challenges to affirmative action quotas for some non-merit factors, courts have generally determined that the goal of achieving a level of student body diversity can overrule strictly merit-based criteria.

4. Look for weaknesses in your transcript

Rejection can be a good time to reflect on the strength of your high-school transcript. Are standardized test scores as good as they could be? Does your student have strong recommendation letters? Has he or she proven to be a varied student with lots of extracurricular activities? Don’t overthink it, but take an honest look at your transcript identify any weak points.

Once you’ve identified weaknesses, take steps to correct them. This may mean retaking a standardized test to raise a score. Or it might be a great opportunity to accept a summer internship or volunteer to broaden your student’s background.

5. Try applying for a later term

Sometimes a temporary setback can be the best thing that ever happened. And what often distinguishes successful people from others is dogged determination in the face of rejection and disappointment. When it comes to getting into college, this may mean re-applying to a school that rejected your student for a later term. Sometimes, admissions rates vary from fall to spring to summer semesters. While your student waits, he or she could get a job or internship to gain valuable work experience that will make a subsequent application even stronger.

6. Consider alternative options

Turn lemons into lemonade and remember that your family has other options. With their open enrollment policies, community colleges can be a good way to earn college credit and then later transfer to a four-year school. The good news is that going this route will likely mean big cost savings because community colleges are generally significantly less expensive than their four-year public and private counterparts. (Learn about 10 of the top-ranked community colleges in the U.S.)

Another option to consider is the military. Depending on your student’s field of interest, careers in the military often involve high-level training that can equal or exceed that of a college degree. And depending on the skill set acquired, men and women entering the workforce following a stint in the military are often highly sought after by private sector employers.  

Finally, some students may want to consider taking a gap year. While gap years have traditionally been more widely embraced by Europeans, Australians and New Zealanders, more Americans in recent years are choosing to take a break between high school and college to stretch themselves with some type of transformative cultural immersion—typically abroad, but perhaps even in the U.S.

With a gap year, your student can experience a variety of exciting and fulfilling experiences tailored to individual interests, including language immersion, non-profit volunteering, or even just travelling to broaden horizons and meet people from all over the world. For many students, gap years provide clarity and focus—enabling them to pursue their education goals with passion and enthusiasm upon returning home. Learn more about gap years here.

Categories
Career Colleges COVID-19 Family General Interest Homeschooling Online learning

The best and worst states for homeschooling in 2021

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that education in America has changed dramatically. In a matter of days, tens of millions of families were forced to pivot to both working and teaching their children at home as schools across the nation closed in 2020. Although this new homeschool reality was a shock for many families, it was business as usual for the 2 million Americans who were already educating their kids at home.

And while schools slowly reopen this year as vaccinations increase and new coronavirus cases plummet, a seismic shift is rocking the landscape of American education. Instead of sending their children back to school, many parents are choosing to permanently join the ranks of their homeschooling peers across the nation. Along the way, they want to know how their state compares when it comes to homeschooling regulations. 

A snapshot of homeschooling in America

While homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, each state has its own laws, guidelines, and regulations. This means that some states are more homeschool-friendly than others. 

For example, some states are very hands-on and require homeschool parents to file paperwork, teach required subjects for a specific number of hours, agree to in-home evaluations, and participate in state testing requirements. 

In other states, once parents file the initial paperwork they have a great deal of autonomy to guide their child’s education as they see fit—with very few requirements from their state government. This means they can develop their own curricula, enroll in online homeschool programs, and join cooperatives with other parents to teach subjects like foreign languages, art, and music. 

Not surprisingly, for many parents the less record-keeping, reporting, and testing required by the state the better. For them, more autonomy makes for a better homeschooling environment for their children than in those states with more invasive government intervention. 

The best states for homeschooling

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the best states for homeschooling are those with the least-restrictive legal environments. Here are some of the top states based on this criterion: 

Alaska: Perhaps the least-restrictive state in America, Alaska simply requires children between the ages of 7 and 16 to either attend a school or comply with the state’s homeschool law. This means parents who choose to homeschool are not required to notify the state, get approval, give tests, be a certified teacher, or maintain contact with the government. 

Idaho: No notice to the school district is required, nor do homeschool parents have to possess specific qualifications, obtain district approvals, do testing, or provide information about their homeschool program, if asked. But they must select an instructor for their children, which can be anybody, including themselves. They are also required to teach language arts, math, science, and social studies.

Illinois: Homeschools here are treated as private schools. They do not have to give notice to the school district, nor do they have to register with—or be recognized by—the state. However, homeschool parents must teach required subjects including language arts, math, science, social studies, fine arts, and physical development and health, and they must specify that instruction takes place in English. 

Indiana: As one of the least-restrictive states, home schools here are essentially considered to be private schools and must comply with the state’s private school statute. Parents must teach in English and provide instruction equivalent to public schools—though the state board of education is not  allowed to define what this means, nor can it approve homeschool programs. Parents must also operate their homeschool the same number of days as public schools—usually 180 days—and keep attendance records.

Michigan: While no notice to the school district is required, parents have the option to homeschool under the state’s homeschooling law, or as a nonpublic school—or both. Regardless of the option chosen, parents must teach specific subjects, though the regulations do not prescribe grade levels or how often courses are taught. 

Missouri: Although no notice to the school district is required, parents must teach specific subjects and keep records for all children under age 16. They must also provide at least 1,000 hours of instruction during each school term—with 600 of these hours in core subjects.

New Jersey: Under state law, the only requirement is that parents provide their children with an equivalent education to one they would receive in public school. So while no notice to the school district is required, parents must be sure to teach the same subjects offered by their local public school. 

Oklahoma: With no requirement to test, report, or give the school district notice, parents here have great freedom to run their homeschools as they see fit—so long as they operate for at least 180 days each school year.  

Texas: Homeschools here are considered private schools and must teach math, reading, spelling and grammar, and a course in good citizenship. And while no notice to the school district is required, homeschool parents must use a written curriculum, which can be satisfied by an online program. 

States with low regulation

Moving down the continuum, the HSLDA also looks at the amount of regulation imposed in the homeschooling arena. These states have fewer regulations and are thus considered to be relatively more homeschool-friendly:   

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

States with moderate regulation

According to HSLDA, these states regulate homeschooling more, but do not fall to the bottom of the rankings:  

  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington, DC
  • West Virginia

The worst states for homeschooling

Standing in contrast, these five states combine high regulations with more restrictions and rank among the worst state for homeschooling in the United States: 

  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

And in a surprising twist, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have no statewide system of regulation. This means that homeschool families are at the mercy of regulations imposed by local school districts. In practical terms, homeschooling conditions in these two states are inconsistent—with some districts treating homeschool families well while others overburden them with regulations. 

Homeschooling—the ultimate choice in education

Not surprisingly, opinions vary widely on the degree to which more or less regulation in homeschooling is preferable. Some parents appreciate greater regulation because—other than reporting and recordkeeping—the curricula are planned out for them. Others find that excessive regulations infringe on the freedom promised by homeschooling and see onerous guidelines as stifling. 

In the end, the option to homeschool in the least-restrictive environment possible represents the ultimate choice in education. And as Ian Slatter with the HSLDA notes, “Homeschool performance doesn’t change between students in the easy states and those in the difficult ones. There’s a lot of regulation and work placed on parents in the difficult states with no benefit.”