Winner of Best Colleges Online’s 2012 Online College Professor of the Year contest LeAnne Prenovost will be blogging for Edventure Calling throughout the school year on issues that new online students face.
When I was a teenager, my grandma became ill and the nurses — not the doctors — were the ones always there for her. After she died, I decided that I wanted to be a nurse so I could help people just as those caring nurses had helped her. The only nursing program in my town at that time was a two-year associate degree program. I looked into the bachelor’s degree programs in the state but the closest was 90 miles away, and as a young wife and mother, I would not be able to commute 90 miles to school. So, I enrolled at a traditional ground university and earned my associate degree in nursing in 1980, yet I knew in my heart that one day I wanted to earn that bachelor’s degree.
For the next twenty years, I wanted and talked about getting my bachelor’s degree, but I always had an excuse — the time wasn’t right, I needed to pay off some bills, a wedding was coming up, and on, and on. I tried a couple of times to start my bachelor’s degree, but the process was so overwhelming. To save money, I thought that I needed to go to the community college to take the lower division classes and then transfer to a local university. I drove to the community college and a couple of local universities to pick up their academic catalogs and schedules. I determined that I needed to complete 72 credits to earn my bachelor’s degree, but with a family and a full-time job, I could only take one class at a time. I was trying to piecemeal my degree together, and it was frustrating.
In the meantime, I did begin one class at the community college, which was at least a start. But with the academic schedule there, I was looking at a graduation date eight years away — that would never work. If I took two classes every semester, I could graduate in four and a half years. Not only was it difficult to fit two classes into my schedule, but the classes I needed met at inconvenient times. There was no way my employer would let me off early two days a week, and I could only miss a total of three classes per semester. Discouraged, I felt that a bachelor’s degree was out of my reach.
Eventually though, it occurred to me that I was barking up the wrong tree and needed to look at online schools because of their convenience and flexibility. Some of the other nurses I worked with earned their bachelor’s degrees online and were still able to work, manage their families, and find time to study. Online education would offer me the ability to take and focus on only one class at a time and graduate in a reasonable amount of time. I quickly dismissed the thought however, believing there was no way I could go to those “online schools” — I didn’t own a computer, know how to work one, or even have an email account. Yet, in the back of my mind, I knew the only way that I would ever get my degree was online.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I was still trying to figure out some other way to make this college education thing work for me, but, by then, I finally had a computer and was ready give online learning a chance. Still, when I discovered how much more the tuition was for the online program compared to that of the local college and university, I almost did not go through with it. It was just too much money to spend, I thought. With all the credits I needed, I would end up owing tens of thousands of dollars.
I knew I had to carefully consider this. And I came to the conclusion that at my current rate of earning three college credits every 20 years, the truth was I would never earn a bachelor’s degree. For me, it basically boiled down to what that level of education would mean for me and my life, and if I was willing to literally “pay the cost” to get it. I might end up paying more for the convenience and flexibility of going to college online, but I would also end up graduating and would finally have that bachelor’s degree I had wanted for so long. I figured that in my life I’d spent a lot of money here and there on far worse things … of which I had nothing to show. I realized that I have but one life on this earth — I wanted this college degree and knew it could, and would, change my life.
Little did I know then, the extent to which my college degree would change everything. Online classes were very difficult at first, as I was on a steep learning curve trying to figure out time management, learning technology, typing, and Microsoft Word on top of course material. Yet slowly but surely, I persevered and earned not only the bachelor’s degree that I wanted for more than twenty years, but I kept going to school online and earned three master’s degrees as well.
Today, I have the life I dreamed and talked about for so many years. My college education increased my income, flexibility, and freedom not only in my jobs but overall career. Even in the toughest of economic times, I have a strong competitive edge over those without a college degree. I am also qualified to work in more than just one small area that I have experience in. My education has opened many doors for me, and I’ve had wonderful opportunities that I never would have had without online college. Even though I owe several hundred dollars in student loans each month, I gladly make my payments without any regrets. Because to me, one of the most precious things in life that I hold most dear is my college degree, and you just can’t put a price tag on that.
Hear more from Professor Prenovost!
- The New Online Student: After the Honeymoon Phase
- Using Your Time Wisely: How to Manage Your Personal and Educational Priorities During the School Week
- Surviving the Season: Getting Through the Holidays Without Sacrificing Your Grades
- A New Year, A New You: Health Tips for the Online Student
- Searching for Academic Resources: The Importance of Learning Your University’s Online Library
- Written Communication: A Beginner’s Guide to College Writing Assignments
- Learning to Learn: Identifying My Learning Style