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Career Colleges General Interest Online learning

Here’s how to stress less about college applications

Applying to college—whether you’re a parent or student, it can be hugely stressful. Information overload, looming deadlines, and attempts to submit the perfect application can weigh you down, creating a pressure-cooker of anxiety. Fortunately, there are some ways your family can work together to keep your cool and avoid burnout during this hectic season. We’ll explore a few of them in this blog post.

For students


1. Start early and prioritize your time

It’s a good idea to start thinking about college applications well before you reach your senior year, but if you’re already there, take a deep breath and set small, actionable goals that can be completed from week to week. Give yourself deadlines for getting each college application and admissions essay done, and schedule time to work on them every day (you might even want to consider doing these before school starts to keep from overloading yourself). Stick to your schedule to prevent everything from piling up at the last minute, and you’ll avoid unnecessary stress.

2. Pay attention to deadlines

Standardized tests, applications, financial aid forms, and more have strict deadlines you’ll have to abide by if you want a shot at getting accepted by your schools of choice. When you set your schedule and application goals, keep these deadlines in mind and plan your process accordingly. The last thing you want to do is miss out on applying to your dream school because the deadline passed you by.

3. Apply to a variety of colleges

If you have one ideal “dream college” in mind, great—but expand your options to include other great schools, too. No one wants to be rejected by their top choice, but the reality is that rejection is a possibility, so it’s best to do your research and choose several other colleges that appeal to you. Choose some “safety,” “target,” and “reach” schools for the best mix of possibilities.

4. Don’t compare yourself to your peers

One of the hardest things about college application season is wondering how you stack up against your friends and peers. It might be tempting to discuss your college applications with your friends, but if you want to cut down on stress, it’s probably best to avoid it. Don’t make the mistake of second-guessing your choices and competing with your peers; just focus on the task at hand and get those applications out the door.

For parents


1. Don’t pressure your student for perfection

These days, parents agonize more than ever over whether their students will get accepted to the most prestigious schools. They not only drive their students to overachieve by overloading themselves with extracurricular activities and advanced classes; they also push their students into the mindset that the best opportunities for their future only come through illustrious, well-known institutions. Take a step back and a deep breath—your student’s future is bright, with or without an Ivy League admission. Instead, help your student embrace the idea of applying to multiple colleges, and take rejections in stride. Before long, this season will be a distant memory.

2. Let your student lead the application process

Your student should not depend on you to write his or her admissions essays or take control of the application process. While it’s important to be a cheerleader and source of support and assistance, this is about your student’s future—so encourage him or her to hold the reins and take responsibility for next steps. Taking ownership of the admissions process will empower your student as he or she makes the transition out of high school and into the adult world. And, it will take a load off your shoulders to see that your student is fully capable of driving the process.

3. Deal with the financial details

Your student isn’t likely to have dealt with the family finances, so it’s important for you take a lead role in researching tuition, filling out financial aid forms, and getting a handle on what the costs will look like for each of your student’s college choices. Keep the stress of college applications as low as possible by gathering as many details about finances and costs as possible. While it may be necessary to discuss a doable range of costs with your student while he or she builds a list of colleges, don’t burden him or her with unnecessary details.

4. Don’t go it alone

If you get stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for help—or even to hire an independent guidance counselor who can walk you and your student through the application process. You can also gather helpful information from the schools themselves, at events like open houses and college fairs. Other parents with college students can be a great source of information and direction, so don’t be afraid to reach out if you have questions.

The bottom line

When it comes to college applications, there seems to be an endless stream of details to manage. Make deadlines and achieve your goals by taking one day at a time and keeping the big picture in mind.

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Career Colleges Dual Enrollment Finances

The 5 biggest mistakes I made as a distance learner in college

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken remote learning fully mainstream. We can now see that millions of students—whether in a K-12 school or at college—can learn skills and obtain credentialing exclusively via the Internet. And thrive doing it!

That’s not to say that distance learning doesn’t pose its challenges. It definitely does.

I know firsthand. When I graduated from high school in 2003, the world of online learning for college was relatively new. Just under 2 million students were studying virtually at the time, compared to 6.6 million in 2017.

But I jumped in with both feet, enrolling in a community college distance-education program in early 2004.

Overall, my experience was fantastic and I’m thankful for it. 

But as you can imagine, I had plenty of missteps along the way. I’ll share them in this blog post—hopefully giving you the chance to avoid the same mistakes in your own distance-learning journey.

Mistake #1: Taking too long to commit to a career

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big advocate of using your teens and early 20s to experiment and discover the best career path for you. But you need focus and an endpoint or else you’ll waste time. I certainly did.

After I graduated from high school in May 2003, I knew that college was in my future. I wanted to earn a credential in order to support a family one day. But I also had a dream of publishing my first novel and becoming a full-time fiction author (preferably bestselling, of course). 

My initial plan was to bypass school and shoot for the stars with this dream—what ended up being a foolish goal. My dream was great, but it needed to be based in reality. I could have pursued my writing passion while enrolled in college and working. Instead, I floundered for months trying to finish my novel and get it published, all unsuccessfully. 

It wasn’t until early 2004 that I actually enrolled in community college and got a job. Even then, I took a small number of courses and worked only part time, continuing to pursue my dream.

Two years later in 2006, I finally realized that fiction author would not be my career trajectory, at least not right now. By then, I had only earned a small number of college credits.

The upside is that when I did finally commit to my college studies and pursue them with vigor, a career path quickly emerged that I love—and one that pays the bills!

The bottom line: Explore your career options and dream a little bit, but stay grounded. If you do want to pursue a dream—say becoming a writer or a professional musician—continue to work on your more practical alternatives at the same time.

Mistake #2: Not following an accelerated path sooner

All told, it took me six years to earn my bachelor’s degree. That’s a full year longer than the national average of five years, which itself is hardly an impressive number. Even worse, I only worked part-time during this period. I was spinning my wheels and wasting time.

That reality struck me in mid 2008 when I took stock of my credits earned toward a bachelor’s degree: In the prior five years, I had netted only 70 credit hours. That was just over half of the requirement for a bachelor’s degree.

The one thing I am proud of: Over the next 10 months, I kicked into high gear and knocked out the remaining requirements for my degree through a combination of CLEP tests, portfolio review, and condensed three-month courses. (All of this came through Thomas Edison State University, which has a robust online learning program.) In April 2009, I officially graduated with a BA in journalism.

Imagine the possibilities if I’d followed an accelerated path in early 2004 when I was just starting out. (For more on this, read You don’t have to be a genius to speed through college).

Mistake #3: Not taking distance learning seriously enough

Remote learners know that discipline is mandatory. You don’t have a set time to be in class, so you have to find international motivation to get your studies done. 

Early on, I was pretty bad about practicing this habit. I never set a daily schedule, let alone short- or long-term goals. As a result, I floundered quite a bit.

What’s my advice for avoiding the same mistake?

Begin by deciding what hours of the day you’ll study and then protecting that chunk of time no matter what. These “core hours” could be something as traditional as 10am to 3pm. If you’re an early bird, 5am 10am—or 10pm to 3am if you’re a night owl! 

That isn’t to say you won’t study outside of these hours, but having the discipline of this time reserved exclusively for schoolwork—day in and day out—will serve you well.

Another must do: Work with advisors at your college to map out a clear academic path toward your degree, with dates plugged in. Even if you’re still deciding on a major, the first two years of a bachelor’s degree are usually prerequisites, anyway. Having it on paper will give you some long-term accountability as you advance toward a degree.

Mistake #4: Being too reticent to ask questions

Clear communication would’ve made my distance learning journey so much better. Truth is, I was flying blind for most of it. Looking back, it’s fortunate that I didn’t waste more time and money due to my reticence to ask questions and seek clarity.

For example, I was blessed that all but three credit hours from my community college years transferred over to my four-year school and counted toward my bachelor’s degree. I never clarified that this would be the case prior to taking the classes. The scenario could just have easily been that half of my credits wouldn’t transfer, sinking years of learning and thousands of dollars down the drain.

I also never took advantage of the college and career counseling resources available to me at my colleges. These counselors can help you map out a plan for your degree and offer suggestions for alternatives if you’re not sure what you want to do.

In sum: Don’t be afraid to ask questions like I was. Clear communication is essential for any part of life, but especially for distance learning since you don’t have the benefit of in-person contact with your advisors and teachers.

Mistake #5: Remaining socially isolated

Online learning meant that I didn’t have access to the same social connections as students enrolled in traditional colleges. Looking back, I spent most of my college years lacking regular, meaningful social connections. 

As a distance learner, I should have done a better job thinking creatively about ways to connect with other learners my age—for example, through local meet-ups or a church college and career group. Interacting with my instructors and fellow students online was fine, but nothing beats in-person relationships. They should be a priority.

Of course, that’s even harder in today’s world of pandemic social distancing. But as our world slowly begins to return to a new normal in the coming months and years, making in-person social interaction a priority for distance learners will be essential.

Wrapping up: A distance ed degree is worth it

This blog post has been devoted to regrets and mistakes. Here is one thing I don’t regret: Earning my degree online in the first place. Even though I made plenty of errors along the way, distance learning allowed me to obtain a credential in a field I love, get practical experience while I studied, and keep costs to a minimum (my bachelor’s degree ended up costing less than $10,000, all told).

Today, I’ve been working over 13 years in the same field I studied for (journalism and marketing communications) and loving every minute of it. I look back with fondness on my college years, particularly the latter half when I accelerated my learning and had true focus.

So, that’s my story. What about yours? If you’re a distance learning graduate, post your experience in the comments below. Or if you’re currently learning remotely and have questions for me, ask away. In any case, best of luck as you pursue your studies!

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Apprenticeship Career Colleges Finances General Interest

5 ways to use 2021 to become a lifelong learner

The primary purpose of education isn’t to impart knowledge. Instead, its purpose is to teach you how to learn.

Does that concept sound like the utterings of a ninja master to his young apprentice? 

For sure!

And at first look, it may even sound nonsensical. After all, when we think of K-12 schooling or a college education, our thoughts immediately turn to mastering grammar or memorizing equations in mathematics.

But particularly in our modern economy that is so knowledge-based and rapidly changing, the ability to be a lifelong learner is crucial. Graduating from school with mastery of a set of information is important, but what’s more crucial is leaving with a toolbox of resources for ongoing learning.

“The most critical role for K-12 educators … will be to equip young people with the curiosity and passion to be lifelong learners who feel ownership over their education,” writes columnist Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. Or, as business expert Peter Drucker put it, “The most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.”

An advantage for distance learners

Lifelong learning is mandatory for high school graduates if you want to be successful in your career and your life. Most areas of our economy change rapidly—often from year to year, but definitely from decade to decade. This is particularly true of technical occupations. So in this way, how far you go in your career is dependent on how well you learn new skills and concepts along the way, not just in school.

The great news is that distance learners are accustomed to taking responsibility for their own learning, especially in the high school years. You already have a strong foundation for becoming a lifelong learner. 

To help you cultivate that ability even more, here are 5 tips to put into practice for 2021.

1. Stay curious

Curiosity is the foundation of lifelong learning. To cultivate curiosity, ask plenty of questions and listen carefully to the answers. Aim to read two books a month, and keep a running list of books you would like to read in the near future. Step out of your comfort zone and seek to solve complicated, even thorny problems.

2. Be humble and teachable

It goes without saying that teachability ranks high on the list of attributes of genuine lifelong learners. Understand that no matter how advanced you get in a given area of life, you’ve never fully arrived. You can always learn more. That level of humility will serve you well.

3. Accept responsibility for your own learning

Distance learners have a big advantage in this area. Self-directed learning is a hallmark of distance learning for high school students. The flexibility of online learning—existing outside the rigid structure of a traditional classroom environment—helps students more easily own their educational outcomes and not rely on teachers to learn everything. As a distance learning graduate, take that same sense of responsibility for your own learning with you as you launch into adult life.

4. Launch a major project

Personally, I find this one of the best ways to practice the art of lifelong learning. Envisioning and launching a larger scale project—it could be a business, a personal hobby, or something entirely different—is an excellent way to keep your mental faculties sharp and to stretch the boundaries of what you think is possible.

5. Schedule time in your week for ongoing learning

I set a goal in 2021 to read 10 self-improvement books. Creating a benchmark like this is a good place to start, but lifelong learning will look different for each person. Maybe for you it means mastering a new hobby, earning a certification online, or attending a workshop. Remember, as the great inspirational writer and speaker Dale Carnegie said, “Learning is an active process. We learn by doing. Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind.”

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Career Colleges Finances General Interest Online learning

Should you pursue an advanced degree in college?

Earning an advanced degree can be a tremendous career booster for distance learning students. Enrolling in medical school, law school, or graduate school to pursue a post-graduate or professional degree could set you up for success.

An advanced degree can open many doors for you, and in some cases, has the potential to help you earn upward of six figures after college. Through careers in medicine, law, engineering, aerospace, and many others, you have the chance to make a positive and far-reaching impact on the world.

So, is it worth it to pursue an advanced degree in college? Let’s look at a few important considerations you needs to keep in mind while making the decision.

1. Extra time spent in school

It takes two to four years to earn an undergraduate degree, depending on what you chooses to study. An advanced degree takes significantly longer than the initial degree.

Here’s a quick snapshot of how long it takes to earn certain common post-graduate degrees:

  • Law: 3 years
  • Master’s degree: up to 2 years
  • Medicine: 4 years plus residency (up to 7 additional years)
  • Nurse Practitioner: 2 to 4 years
  • Ph.D.: 8 years, on average, after earning a Master’s

You will want to consider the amount of time it takes to earn a chosen degree. While many advanced degrees are worth the time and effort required, some are not—and it will be important to know which degrees are the most lucrative.

2. Expense

Depending on the degree you choose, post-graduate education costs significantly more than an undergraduate degree. Graduate degrees can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans, depending on a number of factors, including:

  • The school you attend and any name recognition associated with it
  • The degree you pursue (for example, a Ph.D. costs more than a Master’s degree)
  • The location of your college

Thankfully, certain financial aid programs, such as getting a graduate assistantship, are available to some students to lighten the financial burden.

3. Return on investment (ROI)

Graduate school will likely leave you with a significant amount of student loan debt. Because of this, it’s important that you focus on a course of study in a lucrative field that will help you pay back loans over time.

Choosing an advanced degree that will prepare you for financial success is extremely important. You can find resources on high-paying advanced degrees herehere, and here.

Some professions that require graduate degrees and pay well include:

  • Physician
  • Lawyer
  • Dentist
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Aerospace engineer
  • Computer scientist
  • Optometrist
  • MBA
  • Pharmacist

4. Long-term career viability

When it comes to an advanced degree, high ROI goes hand-in-hand with the idea of choosing a degree with long-term career viability. You need to gather as much information as possible regarding how viable your degree may be in years to come.

Another way to think about this is to consider whether the degree is likely to be recession-proof. If you choose to study law, medicine, or IT, for example, you are more likely to be able to continue working even in difficult economic times.

It takes many years to earn an advanced graduate degree. Look for a field that will stand the test of time—the investment could absolutely be worth it.

The bottom line

There are many factors to consider as you make all-important career decisions that will impact your adult life. Earning an advanced degree could be an excellent opportunity for you to excel and share your unique gifts with others.

If you as a distance learner decide to pursue an advanced degree in college, then choosing a viable career with a good ROI is crucial, no matter what. As you make decisions on where to enroll, take overall expenses, student loan debt, and the time required to earn the degree into account. All those factors will help you choose the right graduate school.

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Career Colleges COVID-19 Online learning

It doesn’t matter where you go to college—really

In a day and age obsessed with getting into the best college, does the decision really matter in the wider scheme of life?

Overall, the answer is no.

This is particularly the case in the age of COVID-19. One survey of college presidents from mid-2020 found that 72 percent are very or somewhat concerned about “a perceived decrease in the value of higher education” because of the virus.

The on-campus frills surrounding college are gone—think of the ivy-covered walls, classroom interactions, the social groups, etc.—all replaced with Zoom classes and online message boards.

As we begin 2021 with the hope that life will eventually return to normal, now is a good day to assess the age-old question of whether the college you choose matters, and if so, how much. We’ll do so in this blog post. Read on!

What about better jobs and income?

First, let’s tackle the earnings question. Depending on your area of study, a degree from a more selective college has no bearing on your future earnings.

For students majoring in science-related fields, there’s no statistically significant difference in earnings between graduates of elite colleges and those from less-selective schools, according to research from Michael Hilmer, an economist at San Diego State University, and Eric Eide and Mark Showalter, economists at Brigham Young University.

The biggest difference in earnings comes for business majors. But even here, students who graduate from elite schools earn, on average, just 12 percent more than their peers at mid-tier schools.

As Elissa Nadworny and Anya Kamenetz write for National Public Radio, “An individual’s choice of major, such as engineering, is a far more powerful factor in her eventual earnings than her choice of college.” One poll found that attending an elite college doesn’t make you happier later in life, either.

And don’t forget that many of the world’s most financially success people—think Steve Jobs and Bill Gates—dropped out of college.

Remember, going to an elite university is more about prestige and social connections than anything else

For wealthy people, college is more about social connections than acquiring knowledge. Granted, those social connections are often the key to getting the right high-paying, influential job after graduation. And many of them do. (The U.S. Supreme Court, for example, is exclusively represented by graduates of the Ivies.)

But if your ultimate goal is to acquire knowledge—and more importantly, to continue to learn how to learn—headed toward a well-paying job in your field, then your choice of college begins to matter less and less.

What’s more, surveys show that hiring managers don’t really care where you went to college—just that you have the hard and soft skills to actually get the job done. Having an Ivy listed on your LinkedIn profile is a definite mental boost (and it can’t hurt during a job hunt), but the cost of getting in and completing a degree isn’t always worth it.

Focus on the main thing

In the vast majority of cases, the name of your college doesn’t matter. What matters is earning the credential. It doesn’t have to be a bachelor’s degree, either. Don’t give in to our culture’s obsession with getting into “the best” college, a preoccupation that needlessly stresses out young people.

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Career Colleges General Interest Online learning

Is self-employment right for you? A guide for distance learners

Being your own boss—at some point, we all dream of it. But so few of us actually take the leap to self-employment. The exciting part is that independent work can be an excellent fit for distance learners.

Regardless of where you are in your education journey—middle school, freshman in high school, on the verge of graduation, or entering college—this blog post provides guidance on the question of whether self-employment is the right choice.

More of us are ‘living the dream’ of self-employment

Independent work has been growing rapidly in recent years across the U.S. Today, there are around 16 million self-employed workers. And there is a lot of diversity here—covering everything from independent contractors and freelancers to “gig” economy workers to business owners. The average income for full-time self-employed workers is around $65,000—for Millennials (those in their late 20s and 30s) the average wage was $43,800.

College completion doesn’t appear to factor into the decision to pursue self-employment, either. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that among those 25 years or older in 2015, self-employment rates were higher for those with a high-school education or less or for individuals with a professional degree. The lowest rates were for those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees.

Millennials and Generation Z (loosely defined as people younger than 40 and older than 10) also show a propensity to lean toward self-employment as a preferred career pathway. So, is self-employment right for you? Read on to find out!

A look at self-employment five years in: My story

First, a quick intro. I’ve devoted my career to online marketing for small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits. For eight years prior to making the jump to full-time solopreneur in 2015, I worked a traditional 8-to-5 job. While I enjoyed my duties and co-workers, I seldom felt truly stretched and challenged, and I craved more variety in my day-to-day activities. So that prompted me to try something new—voluntarily quitting my day job and launching my own business.

In the past half decade, I’ve nearly tripled my income compared to my old full-time job, had more time off, and enjoyed far more meaningful work. I’ve learned a lot and gained an entirely new perspective that continuing in a traditional employment path couldn’t have given me.

If I can do it, so can your homeschool student! In fact, there are so many ways that home education prepares a young person for the entrepreneurial life. And by entrepreneurial, I don’t mean kickstarting the newest Silicon Valley tech behemoth. It can be something as simple as hanging your shingle as a freelance photographer or programmer, launching a local lawn care business, or a host of other pursuits.

Six ways to know whether self-employment is right for you

#1: You’re a self-starter: When I first made the jump to self-employment, I thought my stress levels would plummet. They definitely declined overall, but I quickly discovered that one type of stress replaced another. True, I no longer had to commute, be at my desk from 8 to 5 each day, deal with office politics, and all the rest. But I did have to “make it all happen” each day. As entrepreneur Neil Patel writes, “To be self-employed is to trade one variety of stress for another.” The wonderful flexibility of self-employment meant that I had to be disciplined—not only to do well on my current projects for clients, but keep a steady stream of new projects in the pipeline for the future. If you’re a natural self-starter, self-employment is probably a good fit.

#2: You value flexibility: If you want to bring a high degree of flexibility into your work one day, self-employment is a wonderful path. Want to take an afternoon off? You don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. You can do it! Just remember that with that flexibility and freedom comes the need for discipline. And although you don’t have a boss in the typical sense of the word, with self-employment you really have a bunch of small “bosses” in the form of your clients! You are still accountable to them.

#3: You have unbridled enthusiasm for a work or business idea: It goes without saying that passion is essential for self-employment. That passion will help you make it through the tough times. It also will help you get up each morning and face challenges with enough resolve to keep moving forward.

#4: You’re comfortable in multiple roles, and can switch between them throughout the day: Regardless of what their core offering is, the self-employed have to wear multiple hats throughout the day: Accountant. Salesman. Project manager. Secretary. Customer service representative. To name just a few. My own workday involves switching between these roles multiple times, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I thrive on the variety. If you prefer a set routine and predictability, the self-employed lifestyle could be a challenge.

#5: You’re OK with risk: We’ve all heard the grim statistic that eight out of 10 entrepreneurs fail within 18 months of starting their businesses. Self-employment definitely carries more risk. That said, trying out self-employment early in a young person’s career gives them a chance to experiment without as much on the line. It’s much better to try and fail in your 20s without dependents, a mortgage, and other obligations. Right now is the optimal time to experiment.

#6: You’re comfortable with sales: A mentor of mine shared some priceless advice a few years back: “David, you’re a writer. But when you go into a job interview or pitch a client, you’re no longer a writer. You’re a salesman.” One of the most challenging aspects of self-employment is that you can’t just be good at your craft—whether that’s photography, programming, roof repair, or anything else. You also have to be an expert at sales. The good news is that sales is an acquired skill, like anything.

Self-employment isn’t for everyone

Of course, independent work isn’t all a bed of roses. Working for yourself means no employer-paid benefits (health insurance and retirement contributions are the big ones), no paid vacation (truly taking time off as a self-employed worker is super challenging), and the potential for a higher tax rate (depending on how a business is structured). But as we’ve explored in this blog post, there are so many upsides. And for distance learners who tend to be naturally self-motivated, the fit can be perfect.

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Family General Interest Online learning

How distance learners can protect their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

It’s tough to maintain sanity as a remote learner during the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s clear that this pandemic is having a huge impact on mental health: A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that over half of U.S. adults (56%) report that worry related to the coronavirus outbreak has caused them stress-induced symptoms like insomnia, poor appetite or overeating, or frequent headaches or stomach aches.

And we are clearly seeing the impacts of social isolation in a 1,000% increase in calls to distress hotlines in April 2020 alone.

Kids and teens are struggling, too. So what strategies can you use to stay mentally healthy during the ongoing pandemic? We’ll suggest several tips in this blog post.

Signs that you’re struggling

According to Mental Health First Aid, look for these indicators:

  • Feeling stressed or overwhelmed, frustrated or angry, worried or anxious.
  • Feeling restless, agitated, on “high alert” or unable to calm down.
  • Being teary, sad, fatigued or tired, losing interest in usually enjoyable activities or finding it difficult to feel happy.
  • Worrying about going to public spaces, becoming unwell or contracting germs.
  • Constantly thinking about the situation, unable to move on or think about much else.
  • Experiencing physical symptoms such as increased fatigue or other uncomfortable sensations.

Here are some tips to help you cope:

1. Keep a regular routine

It can be easy to let a schedule slip during trying times—staying up late, sleeping in, and delaying schoolwork. But creating a routine and sticking to it as much as possible is a big step toward better mental health. At the same time, keep things flexible and give grace to jump off the routine from time to time.

2. Stay connected socially

It goes without saying that one of the biggest downsides of the lockdown is not being able to maintain social connections. Social media can be a good alternative, or you can work to set up social time between friends while practicing social distancing.

3. Grieve your losses

Your family might be directly impacted by COVID-19 through the loss of a loved one. But even the indirect impact of extended lockdowns could mean that you have experienced other types of loss as well. For example, high school seniors are missing out on graduation ceremonies, proms, and other milestones and rites of passage. Even missing the regular routine of regular social activities is hard. Working through these emotions of loss is a big step.

4. Keep moving

One of the best ways to fight the blues is by moving your body. As the weather warms up in a few months across much of the country, outside physical activity will get even easier. Or you can try out one of the countless streaming exercise videos available online.

5. Be OK with things not being perfect

Life will get back to normal eventually, even if it’s a modified “new normal” that looks a bit different than what we’re used to. In the meantime, it’s important that you give yourself room to struggle. Things won’t be perfect, and that’s OK.

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Colleges General Interest Online learning

How to pick a college major in 2021

Are you a high-school student preparing to go to college in 2021? Chances are you’re still debating the huge decision of which major to pursue. Maybe you’ve narrowed down your list to two or three but haven’t finalized anything yet. The global COVID-19 pandemic might’ve added even more uncertainty to your decision, as you and your parents debate what college will actually look like going forward.

We get it—picking a major can be intimidating, especially in a year like 2020! To help out, we’ve put together a few ideas below to guide you through the process, plus a handful of majors and career fields that will be in high demand in the coming years (even in the crazy pandemic world we find ourselves in today). Read on!

Before you begin: 5 questions to ask

Let’s start by asking a few questions. 

1. What do I enjoy doing?

This can be anything from playing basketball and video games to shopping for clothes. List all of it out. Your answers can help you realize where your interests lie.

2. Out of what I enjoy doing, what am I good at?

This is where you have to be honest with yourself, meaning neither too positive (“I’m good at everything!”) or too negative (“I’m not good at anything”). This is about finding where your hobbies and your skills intersect. So if you love playing basketball but don’t do well with it, then “playing basketball” shouldn’t go on your list. Or you may have a good fashion sense, but have no desire to work with clothing, so leave “fashion” off the list.

3. What do others think I’m good at?

You’ll need to talk to your family and friends to answer this question. Allow them to be frank with you. Don’t be defensive or attempt to argue. Just hear them out and take note of what they say. How others perceive our abilities can sometimes give us greater insight into what we’re truly talented at doing.

4. What do I like learning about?

Out of all your schoolwork, what subject feels less like a chore? Maybe they all seem like chores, in which case, ask yourself, “What do I like learning in my free time?” Even if you don’t read books outside of school, every time you watch a movie, go to a basketball game, or take a walk in nature, you’re learning something. So what is it that most interests you?

5. Once you decide on a major to pursue, do you enjoy the classes?

If you take a class or two in a major and you don’t enjoy the subject, you may want to consider a different path. You may be able to count any courses you take in the major you leave behind as extracurricular classes, so the hours can still go toward whatever degree you eventually pursue.

High-growth job fields

So what jobs should you consider for the future? Here are five jobs to think through. Keep in mind that the projected job growth is through 2029. Most of this data comes from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Position: Nurse Practitioner

Projected job growth: 52%

Average salary: $115,800

College degree needed? Yes, plus graduate school

Major: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) 

Graduate school needed? Yes

2. Position: Solar Photovoltaic Installer

Projected job growth: 51%

Average salary: $44,890

College degree needed? No, but you might stand out better if you have a bachelor’s degree or an associates degree from a technical college. According to OwlGuru.com, nearly 56% of folks in this position have only a high-school diploma.

Graduate school needed? No

Major: Solar Energy Technology

3. Position: Statistician

Projected job growth: 35%

Average salary: $92,030

College degree needed? Yes

Major: Bachelor’s degree in Statistics, Mathematics, Economics, or Computer Science

Graduate school needed? Yes

4. Position: Information Security Analyst

Projected job growth: 31%

Average salary: $99,730

College degree needed? Yes

Major: Bachelor’s degree in Cybersecurity or Management Information Systems

Graduate school needed? No

5. Position: Speech-Language Pathologist

Projected job growth: 25%

Average salary: $79,120

College degree needed? Yes

Major: Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD)

Graduate school needed? Yes

Parting advice: Don’t stress!

In closing, here are two additional points to keep in mind when choosing your major:

1. You don’t have to choose a major right away

Plenty of folks don’t know what they want to do when they first start college. So you can start out by taking some general-education courses that every student needs to take while you consider your options.

2. Your major isn’t a lifelong sentence

If you graduate with a degree and then realize you hate working in that field, you have the freedom to go back to school if you want. But that may not be necessary—many folks don’t have a job related to their degree. And increasingly, people are switching careers entirely. The point is, don’t feel like the rest of your life hinges on the major you choose, because it doesn’t. 

Well, that’s all for now! We hope you’ve been able to find some useful information here, and we wish you the best of luck in choosing your major.

Categories
Colleges General Interest Online learning

10 qualities of successful people: A guide for distance learners

Success comes in many different forms. In North America, we tend to define success in monetary and vocational terms—how much you make or how far you’ve advanced in your career. But success extends to so many other areas: relationships, faith, character, and health, to name a few.

As a distance education student, you want to be successful in life. You know that getting there takes hard work. In this blog post, we’ll explore 10 of the top attributes of successful people. Whatever your future plans include as a high-school graduate, these characteristics will serve you well.

1. Resilience

How do you deal with failure? If you’re anything like me, it can be easy to retreat and sulk. But in my better moments, I view failure as a necessary step toward success. “Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure,” said American author Napoleon Hill. A defining characteristic of successful people is their unrelenting habit of bouncing back after failure.

2. Flexibility

The ability to “pivot” is crucial to success. Pivoting simply means that you have the willpower and foresight to release a path you’d planned to walk in order to pursue something better. It’s a scary thing, but this type of flexibility is a trademark of successful people. Flexibility is particularly essential for young people just starting out—you might think you know the right direction to take, but opportunities and life circumstances will present a different way forward.

3. Self-discipline

Flexibility and adaptability might be important, but so is self-discipline and the courage to stick with something even when it’s incredibly hard. Yes, knowing when to quit (or “pivot”) and when to persevere is the real test. But the fact is that so many of us give up well before we should. “With self-discipline, most anything is possible,” said Teddy Roosevelt.

4. Others focused

The most successful people in life are radical servers. They look to meet the needs of others and excel at doing so. It’s counterintuitive that serving others would bring you success, but it’s true. Some practical takeaways from this? A big one is that as you build your network, make your interactions with others about what you can give, not what you can get.

5. Frequent reader

A personal story: I quit my day job in 2015 to launch a full-time self-employed career. In the months leading up to that pivotal decision, I read through a series of crucial books that gave me the knowledge and confidence to make the jump to start my own business, including The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleThe Millionaire Next DoorYour Money or Your Life, and The 4 Hour Workweek. These books gave me the fuel to try something new and expand my horizons. The ultimate lesson? Successful people—think of Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, and Elon Musk—are also habitual readers.

6. Humility

Truly successful people don’t feel the need to boast about their accomplishments. They are secure in themselves and in their abilities. They don’t wear their success on their sleeve. Successful people bring others together to accomplish goals and for the greater good. “With pride comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom,” says Proverbs 11:2.

7. Abundance mindset

An abundance mindset means you believe there are plenty of opportunities and resources in the world for everyone to enjoy. You don’t need to steal success from someone else—when someone else is successful, that doesn’t mean they are taking success from you, and vice versa. An abundance mindset pairs well with resilience, because you realize that failure isn’t final. More opportunities are out there.

8. Calculated risk taking

Playing it safe leads to mediocrity. Most of us with more than a few years under our belt can look back and see that our greatest achievements in life came when we stepped out and took a risk. That being the case, don’t neglect the “calculated” part of this advice. Being a calculated risk taker means that you don’t fly blind—you examine the situation and make the right move, even a bold one, but it’s always grounded in reality, not pie-in-the-sky thinking.

9. Prioritization

We all have a limited amount of resources in our lives, time being the most precious. Figuring out your priorities and sticking with them is a prerequisite for success. Prioritization helps you know when to say yes and when to say no. If you’re anything like me, your to-do list never gets done. That’s why we have to put the highest priority items on the top and focus on those first. Everything lower can wait, or even not get done at all.

10. Love of life-long learning

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel,” Socrates said. Education in high school and college is not so much about the knowledge gained‚ as important as that is. It’s more about perfecting the ability to learn—and to continue in that ability for a lifetime.

Categories
Colleges Online learning

It’s almost time for back-to-school: 6 tips to help your student thrive during the COVID-19 crisis

As a parent, you’re likely dealing with concerns about how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting your student. As in all things, opportunities can be found even in the worst of times. It is possible for your student to thrive in the midst of a pandemic, even though society may seem upside down right now. Let’s look at 6 tips for helping your student succeed in a COVID-19 world. 

1. Get out of your home every day

If the weather permits, consider going to a park or on a walk with your student so you can both get some exercise and sunshine, both of which can help fight depression. The benefits of exercise have been shown to improve learning and help with mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and ADHD. 

While you can’t always spend time outdoors, you should be able to find a place to go. This may be driving or riding with your student around the neighborhood or making a quick trip to a store, even if just to browse. Having a variety of scenery will likely help your student (and you) feel normal, at least in part. 

2. Stay connected with others

If you can’t or are uncomfortable meeting face-to-face with others, your student can stay digitally connected with their teachers, family, and friends. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or another live-streaming service.

3. Take advantage of free or inexpensive online courses

Now more than ever, online courses that you once needed to pay for are now free or at a reduced cost. While they are geared primarily towards adults, sites like Udemy and Coursera are offering such courses. To find free courses on these sites, simply type in “free” in the search bar. Especially if you have a high school student, you might be able to find something for your student on these sites. 

Lynda.com, which is also targeted towards adults, has similar content to Udemy and Coursera, but you’ll need to become a member to take advantage of their courses. The first month is free.

You could also search for specific tutorials on YouTube. If you don’t already do this, I recommend you screen each video you want to show your student, or at least the YouTube channel that contains the video, before showing it to your student. This is due to the varied nature of YouTube videos, both in terms of quality and content.

4. Make sure to keep communication open between you and your student

Set aside a time at least once a week to sit down with your student and give him or her an opportunity to talk with you one-on-one. The focus here is not on having a conversation, but rather providing an opportunity for a conversation to occur. As such, this time could consist of playing a game, putting together a puzzle, baking something together, or doing another activity your student enjoys. 

If your student doesn’t want to talk much, that’s fine. Providing each student a weekly opportunity to discuss what’s on his or her mind with you can reinforce that they are loved, cared for, and listened to. 

5. Stick to a schedule

Schedules provide a welcomed sense of normalcy for your student. Younger children tend to thrive on repetition and routines. And no matter your student’s age, he or she will likely benefit from a structured schedule. 

If your students are older, you may want them to create their own schedules—from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. They’ll need to block out times for eating, exercising, and resting/doing something fun. You can then look over their schedules and provide feedback. My wife got me hooked on this practice while I work from home, and I’ve personally found it helpful.

6. Have something fun to look forward to

It’s important for your student to have something he or she can look forward to doing, either alone or with others. I recommend having two different types of fun things planned:

  • Fun things planned for each day, such as watching a favorite TV show alone or getting together with friends.
  • Fun things with the family that are planned days, weeks, or months in advance, such as taking a day trip to the beach or staying a few nights at a favorite vacation spot.