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5 Reasons to Take College Classes in High School

If you’re an academic achiever in high school and excited to start college, you can get a head start with an early introduction to college-level coursework. Earning some college credits in high school can help you impress college admissions departments, explore academic interests, and save some money on tuition. 

Whether you have a college plan in mind or you’re just getting your feet wet with the college experience, there are many reasons to take college courses in high school. Find out more about your options and how to get started. 

Can You Take College Classes in High School? 

If you want a head start on your college credits while you’re still in high school, there are plenty of ways to do it. 

Advanced Placement 

One of the most common options is advanced placement (AP) courses. These courses are developed by CollegeBoard and available in over 30 subjects, so you may be able to knock out a college-level course and high school requirement at once. Once the course is complete, you will have to pass an AP test to receive college credits. 

Dual Enrollment 

Unlike AP courses, which offer preparation to assist high school students with more rigorous coursework, dual enrollment allows students to enroll in full college classes while in high school. You can complete college-level assignments and receive credit that’s applied to your high school diploma and your college degree at once. 

Summer Courses 

You can take college credits in high school by completing summer programs. This has a few benefits, including preparing you for the college experience, allowing you to explore academic interests at the college level, and focusing on a single course to ensure your grades don’t suffer. 

Online Courses 

Online courses have been growing in popularity, especially after the pandemic. Colleges, universities, and learning platforms like Sophia offer online courses that you can take in high school to earn college-level transfer credits, typically in gen ed classes. Some of these are self-paced, meaning you can complete the coursework on your own schedule to ensure that you don’t become overwhelmed with your academic schedule. 

5 Reasons to Take College Courses in High School 

Taking college courses in high school offers many benefits beyond getting a head start on a college degree – and saving some money in the process. Students can build valuable skills in high school that will serve them well in college, bolster their college applications with rigorous coursework, and gain confidence with more advanced concepts. 

Some of the benefits of early college classes include: 

1. Saving Money 

One of the main reasons students take college courses in high school is to get some college credit under their belt to reduce their total tuition. Whether it’s AP, an online course, or class at a local community college, they’re typically much less expensive than tuition at a four-year college or university. Even a few credits before high school graduation can make a huge difference in the long run. 

2. Shorter Track to Graduation 

Typically, the courses taken in high school are in the general education or core subjects. These courses are required for every degree, no matter the subject area, so you don’t have to decide what your major will be to get them out of the way in high school. Taking some gen ed courses also takes care of some freshman and sophomore year requirements, so you could have a faster track to a degree 

3. Exploring Academic Interests 

Some students have a clear idea of their career path, but others may be choosing between multiple options. Some may have no idea at all. Wherever you are in the planning, taking college classes early gives you a chance to explore some different interests related to your major, giving you a solid idea of what you want to pursue when you enroll in college. 

4. Time Management and Study Skills 

College courses are more demanding than high school classes. Taking some of these courses in high school can develop your time management and study skills, which would improve your academic skills and help you explore your individual learning style. It also shows prospective schools that you’re prepared for college-level coursework. 

5. Improved Class Rank 

If you take honors or AP courses, some schools offer additional grade points for more challenging college-level courses. This can help your overall class rank and makes for an impressive college application. Keep in mind that not all schools handle these courses the same way, so speak to your guidance counselor to learn more about the grading and class ranking policies. 

Should You Take College Courses in High School? 

While there are many benefits to getting a jump on your college courses in high school, it’s not the right choice for every student. College courses are a stark contrast to high school courses, often including heavier workloads, a faster pace, and more abstract concepts. 

Students have to have a lot of initiative and self-discipline to manage college courses in high school, especially if they’re taking them alongside a full high school schedule – including extracurriculars that are beneficial for college applications. If it’s too much to manage, summer college classes, either in person or online, may be the best choice to ensure that grades don’t suffer. 

If you’re not sure if college courses are right for you, your high school guidance counselor can be an asset. Typically, students that are advised to take college-level courses in high school have already demonstrated proficiency in the subject area and their overall academic burden. Your counselor can help you determine if adding more courses will help or harm your GPA and applications. 

  • Here are some questions to ask your counselor: 
  • Can I take a college-level course as a replacement for a required high school course? 
  • Will my grades in college-level courses reflect on my transcript? 
  • Can I have flexibility in my schedule to attend college courses? 
  • Do I need to meet any requirements to take courses? 
  • Are there any restrictions on the courses I’m permitted to take? 
  • What are my options for college courses? 
  • How can I enroll in my selected courses? 

You should also contact the registrar’s office at the college you want to attend and ask about courses that are open to high school students. Online courses are another option that gives you more flexibility in the classes you can take – and where you can take them. 

Also, some colleges may not accept honors, AP, and college credit in the same subject, so be selective about which courses you take in high school. 

When it comes time to apply, find out if your college credits will be on your high school record. If they won’t, request a transcript from the school where you took them and send it along with your college application. 

Start a Free Trial at Sophia 

If you’re interested in trying out college-level courses as a high school student, Sophia offers self-paced online gen ed courses for students of all ages. Earn your college-level transfer credit in your own time and get a valuable head start on the college experience. Explore our courses today! 

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Tips for Navigating the Add/Drop Deadline

Most colleges offer a three-course, 15-credit load for full-time students. If you want to max out your schedule and get classes out of the way, you may feel inclined to take as many courses as possible, even exceeding this three-course maximum. 

However, doing so could be more difficult than you might expect. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you first start, especially if you put too much on your plate before you learn the ropes of college courses. Fortunately, dropping a class is an option. 

Whether you’re being too ambitious or you’ve changed majors, you can drop a class to get a more balanced schedule. Students may also drop courses if they’re struggling with the material, since dropping by the deadline avoids a low grade and ensures a fresh start in a future course. 

Changing your schedule can have major consequences for your GPA, financial aid, and graduation timeline, so be sure to consider your options carefully. 

The Basics of Adding and Dropping Courses 

High school has a lot of oversight. In college, you’re empowered to make informed decisions about your academic journey – and you’re responsible for your success. Most colleges and universities give you a deadline at the start of a term to make changes to your schedule, the add/drop period. Often, this period is about two weeks, but it can vary by school. 

During this time, you can add or drop courses easily, but there are often deadlines and limitations to be aware of. 

When you drop a class, you’re withdrawing from it within the add/drop period. It’s usually simple to change schedules early in the term, but waiting too long can have major repercussions. Dropping a course early may entitle you to a tuition refund and won’t result in a poor grade, but dropping late can affect your financial aid or get you a failing mark that will show on your transcript. 

Also, if you drop early enough, there may be space available for you to add a different course that works better for your schedule. Keep in mind that course availability once the term starts is very limited, however. 

There are several reasons you may want to drop a course, including: 

  • Disliking the course material or not clicking with the professor 
  • Struggling to get good grades 
  • Signing up for too many classes 
  • Changing majors 
  • Schedule conflict with work or home responsibilities 
  • Medical or mental health issues that impact school 

Things to Consider Before You Add or Drop a Course 

Making a change to your schedule during the term can be helpful, but there are consequences to consider. Here are some tips to navigate your add/drop period and make an informed decision: 

Confirm the Deadline 

If you drop a course early in the term, it won’t show up on your transcript. If you drop after the add/drop deadline, however, your transcript will show a “W” for withdrawal. This has no affect on your GPA. 

Depending on the school, you may have to complete the course, request an incomplete, or risk earning a failing grade. If you have a failing grade at the time of a late withdrawal, some schools have “withdrawal fail” that will show up on your transcript as “WF.” When it comes to GPA, this is weighted as an “F.” 

Your academic calendar should have add/drop deadlines. Most schools allow changes within the first week or two of the term. You may need to fill out paperwork and pay a fee for schedule changes, especially after the add/drop deadline. 

Learn Your Financial Aid Options 

Financial aid has requirements for half-time or full-time students. If dropping a course puts you under a half-time or full-time status, depending on the requirements of your lender, you could lose eligibility for certain grants, scholarships, or loans. 

Be sure to speak to your school’s financial aid office before making a final decision on dropping a course. They can tell you if changing your course load can impact your financial aid and what options are available. 

Consider Your Schedule and Academic Goals 

Once classes start, review your syllabi and consider which courses excite you. You should have a balance of challenging and easier courses to avoid becoming overwhelmed. If you have too many difficult or time-consuming courses at once, you won’t have the time to devote to studying or assignments. 

You should also think about your schedule both in and out of school. If you have schedule conflicts or an overly full schedule with back-to-back courses, it may be a sign to make some changes. 

Some courses are required for your degree program, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. For example, if you’re in a course that satisfies a gen ed science requirement, but you know it’s not right for you, you can drop it now and take a different course in the future. 

Consider Pass/Fail Options 

If your schedule is overloaded or a course just isn’t clicking for you, dropping can seem like the best option. There could be consequences later on, however. For example, if the course you want to drop is a general education requirement, you may need to retake. Also, if it’s a major-specific course or a prerequisite, you will need to take it to continue on your academic track. 

Pass/fail is an option for some courses. Switching to pass/fail means your grade will be determined by either passing or failing the course, rather than letter grades determined by percentages. If you’re concerned about getting a low grade, but believe you’ll pass, this can help you get through the course without worrying about getting a C or D. 

Keep in mind that most colleges have a deadline for pass/fail grading. Also, most prerequisites require a C or better to ensure you have the foundation to succeed in the next course. Major-specific courses may not offer pass/fail grading, but it depends on the school. 

Talk to Your Academic Advisor 

Your advisor is your partner in success. If you’re considering dropping a course because you’re struggling with the material, your advisor can help you find university support services like the writing center or tutoring. They can also help you learn your options for dropping and adding courses, switching to pass/fail, or asking for an incomplete to finish the coursework at a later date. 

If you choose to continue with dropping a course, your advisor can help you fill out the appropriate paperwork, apply for applicable tuition waivers or refunds, or appeal for a late withdrawal as needed. 

Create a Plan to Make Up the Credits 

Dropping a course may be the best option if you’re concerned about a poor grade, but you will need to make up those credits. If your course is a gen ed, you may be able to add another course that satisfies the subject requirement. If your course is a major or prerequisite, speak with your advisor about when you can make up those credits to stay on track

Optimize Your Schedule with Sophia 

Adding and dropping college courses is a helpful option, but doing so can affect your schedule in both the short- and long-term. Whether you dropped a gen ed course or can’t fit it in your schedule, Sophia can help. With our self-paced courses, you can complete your gen eds when it works best for you – no schedule conflict or overwhelm. Start your free trial today! 

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Make the Most of Electives to Support Your Career Goals

For many college students, electives can be the most exciting aspect of the college experience. You have an opportunity to choose what classes to take, and in what subjects, to explore your interests and indulge your curiosities. 

All degree programs have electives built in to ensure that students get a worldly education and encourage intellectual curiosity. You have to be strategic in deciding how you want to use those electives to support your academic and professional goals, however. 

Types of Electives 

Electives are courses that you get to choose. Your electives may fall under a degree requirement, but you typically have a few courses to choose from that satisfy it. In some cases, your electives may act as prerequisites for courses that are part of your major or minor. 

General Education Electives 

General education requirements are the courses that are required as part of a degree program. Most general education requirements include some elective credits, which give you the freedom to choose which course you’d like to take within that category. 

For example, you may be able to take a creative writing or a Shakespearean literature course to satisfy your English requirement. 

Area of Study 

Most majors and minors require a certain number of elective credits that fall under your program but aren’t necessary to complete your degree. Basically, these are related to your course of study, but you have some flexibility in which courses you choose. 

For example, if you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology, you may be able to choose from electives like the Psychology of Film, Animal Behavior, or Criminal Psychology, based on what interests you or supports your career. 

Free 

Free electives aren’t restricted to your major, minor, or a specific area of study or general education requirement. You’re only limited by what courses are available at your chosen university or college. 

The idea behind free electives is for students to pursue interests and graduate with a well-rounded education. Depending on what’s available at your school, this could include a class on modern film, a dance class, a photography class, or just about anything else that sparks your interest. 

How to Choose Electives Strategically 

Maximize Subject Interests 

Naturally, you’re going to be more passionate about a course that’s in a subject that interests you. Your electives are a good opportunity to not only have fun but explore different options to ensure that you’re on the right degree path. 

Most introductory courses count as electives and give you a strong introduction to a subject, such as art history, geology, journalism, psychology, or finance 101 courses. 

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone 

It may be tempting to choose courses that are related to your major or things you already know about, but that’s not serving your long-term academic and professional goals. Studying different subjects means challenging yourself a bit, which can broaden your viewpoint and develop different learning strategies. 

Take Courses That Align with Aptitude 

While you should challenge yourself and push your limits a bit in college, there’s nothing wrong with taking courses on new topics that align with your interests and strengths. By the time you reach college, you probably have a good idea if you’re naturally strong in math, writing, science, history, or other subjects. 

For example, if you already have strong writing skills, taking more communication courses can deepen your knowledge and polish the soft skills that will serve you In your future career. 

Balance Courses by Topic and Difficulty 

Even if you’re a stellar student, burnout is a possibility if you’re taking too many challenging courses and have a packed schedule. When you’re creating your class schedule, make sure you balance the courses based on topic and difficulty level. 

For example, taking three math courses at once can be much more taxing than a varied schedule that includes a math class, a history class, and a fun elective. 

Another thing to consider is how many electives you have and your degree requirements. It can be tempting to fill up your schedule with electives, but at some point, they no longer count toward your degree. 

Get your general education requirements out of the way before you start taking a lot of electives, and look for opportunities to take an elective that counts toward a requirement whenever possible. Your advisor is an excellent resource to ensure a balanced and manageable schedule. 

Support Your Goals with Specific Courses 

Some electives won’t be part of your degree program, but that doesn’t mean they can’t support your career goals. Think outside the box a bit. Aside from the courses that are required to earn your degree, what courses could give you skills that contribute to your career path? 

For example, if you’re earning a degree in culinary science, taking electives to learn French could be an asset. If you’re on a pre-veterinary track, a course on animal behavior or animal nutrition at the undergraduate level can help you prepare for your graduate experience. 

In some cases, you may want to take electives to support a minor or certificate. For example, if you’re a pre-law student interested in accounting law, taking accounting courses to prepare for the Certified Public Accountant exam could get you ahead of the game before you even apply to law school. 

Gain All-Around Professional Skills 

If you’re not sure what electives to take, using them to gain all-around professional skills is an excellent use of your time. These skills are the ones that will apply to virtually any job you have in the future, such as: 

  • Business writing 
  • Career readiness 
  • Communication 
  • Entrepreneurship 
  • Finance 
  • Management 
  • Ethics 
  • Critical thinking 

Consider the Class Format 

The format of your class can affect your schedule and workload. Even if you really want to take an elective, if it disrupts your other classes on your schedule, you may become stressed out and unable to enjoy it. 

You should also keep in mind that some courses will have additional hours required for laboratory time or other requirements. Make sure you evaluate your total time commitment and plan around it. 

Depending on the elective, a hybrid or online format, such as the courses offered by Sophia Learning, may give you more flexibility to balance the electives you want to take with your required courses. 

Enjoy Your Electives 

While it’s never a mistake to take a course for fun, electives are one of the few opportunities you have to indulge your interests with a course that gives you credit and counts toward your degree. If you have a hobby or interest that you’re curious about, use your electives to explore them. 

If you’re considering your electives, explore the courses available at Sophia or start your free trial today! 

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What Are Online College Prep Courses and How Can They Help Students Get on the Right Track Heading into College?

High school students have a lot of work ahead of them to gain admission into college and prepare themselves for the workforce. Enrolling in a college prep program can help you get ready for college and learn the ins and outs of college applications and attendance.

If you’re planning on attending college after high school – or you have a child exploring college options – online college prep courses offer valuable real-world insights to ensure success.

What Is College Prep?

College prep can mean different things at different institutions, but they’re generally classes that prepare you for future education as a college student. Some may focus on practical knowledge for college like managing college applications or understanding financial aid and loans. 

Others may prepare you for the rigor of college with more challenging course work to give you a taste of what’s expected of a college student. These often focus on the core subjects that high school students are supposed to grasp before graduation: English, math, science, and social studies.

Though often grouped together, college prep courses differ from advanced placement (AP) courses. AP courses are courses you can take to earn college credit in high school, which are instructed at a college level and quite challenging. College prep courses can be equally rigorous, but they may not offer college credit.

What Do Online College Prep Courses Cover?

College prep courses that focus on college readiness, rather than core subjects, give students practical knowledge about colleges, financial aid, and the experiences they may have in college. The goal behind these courses is to prepare students for college in high school and set them up for success. 

Some of the topics covered may include:

Financial Preparation

College prep covers key aspects of securing financial aid for college, including completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and understanding student loans. This is crucial knowledge to help make important financial decisions while earning your degree.

Learning to Work Collaboratively and Independently

Taking college-level courses in high school expands the learning experience beyond rote memorization. The college experience is designed to encourage critical thinking and a thorough examination of subjects for deep knowledge, which occurs in part because of collaborative discussion. College prep courses promote deeper learning and nurture a sense of a learning community.

They also foster independent learning, however, particularly with self-paced online courses. While support from peers and professors is available, college students have to manage their time and learn to work on their own to a certain degree, which is often a shock compared to the constant oversight of high school learning. 

Identifying Strategies to Succeed in Higher Education

The college experience can be challenging, especially if you’re trying to balance school and other responsibilities like work or extracurricular activities. College prep courses help you identify strategies to make the most of the college experience, including:

  • Creating goals and sticking to them

  • Attending class and completing assignments on time 

  • Note and test taking skills

  • Assessing your learning style and using that knowledge to develop deep learning

  • Trying new things and gaining new experiences

  • Managing time with intention 

  • Asking for help when you need it

While some skills, such as studying and note taking, can be developed in high school, college prep courses take this to the next level to prepare for the rigor of the college educational experience.

Developing Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the moral code or ethical policy of academia. Virtually every higher learning institution has a code of conduct for students that includes expectations for academic integrity. If a student falters, they can face more serious consequences than in high school. 

This aspect of learning covers more than just dishonest practices like copying information from other students, plagiarizing, or paying for course work. It also refers to engaging with the learning experience and committing to work that is well done and focused on a good purpose to develop character that will extend far beyond the college experience.

Planning the College Experience

If you’re like many high school students, you may not be sure what you want to do after high school. College may be on the radar, but where do you want to go? Do you have a major or subject area in mind? Do you know what career you wish to pursue?

You don’t have to have all the answers right now, but having an idea can help you get off to a strong start in college. A college prep course can help you understand more about the academic perspective and make a plan for your future. 

When Should I Take College Prep Courses?

It’s recommended to begin engaging in active college preparation in your junior year of high school. That year is spent focusing on the skills and activities you’ll want to highlight on your applications – including college prep courses.

If you’re in or coming up on junior year, it’s best to start as early as possible. Taking a college prep course puts you in a strong position to start making a college plan, seeking out schools, and developing the skills you will need for the college experience.

Where Can I Take College Prep Courses? 

Some high schools offer college prep courses as part of the optional curriculum. If yours doesn’t offer these courses, you can take summer college prep programs at nearby schools or online.

Sophia Learning also offers a college readiness course that covers the essentials for the college experience, including filling out applications, understanding financial aid, and developing learning success strategies – possibly for college credit!

Get a Strong Start to Your College Experience

College prep courses are a valuable addition to your high school curriculum to prepare you not only for college learning but the application and planning processes. If you want to get a jump on college with self-paced online learning, check out Sophia’s college readiness course and other course offerings designed to transfer!

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Tips for Working Full Time and Going to School

If you want to go back to school to start or finish earning your degree, you probably don’t have the luxury of quitting your job to be a full-time student. The responsibilities to family and tuition payments mean that work is a necessity – often on a full-time basis – to make going back to school a reality. 

Balancing work and school is no easy feat, but it is possible. Here are some tips to help you succeed in college while working full time. 

Set a Schedule – And Stick to It 

Creating a schedule and sticking to it is the best way to set yourself up for success with the upcoming term or semester. It’s best to plan before you actually start your courses and set notifications and deadlines on a personal calendar. Make sure to list everything, including your work hours, study time, errands, and assignment deadlines. 

Your schedule not only keeps you on track with time management but helps you prepare for upcoming projects, assignments, and exams. If you have something big coming up, you can prepare by rearranging your scheduled time to prioritize school. 

For example, if you have plans for an event or day trip, you have advance notice to move around your free time to accommodate studying and assignments. If you’re inundated with work, you have a comprehensive view of your responsibilities to avoid overwhelm and block out time appropriately. 

Choose Flexibility, Either in Work or School 

Flexibility is the key to balancing work and school. Having a rigid schedule for both makes it nearly impossible to keep up, so consider where you can get this flexibility. Full-time jobs aren’t always 9-5, so you may have the option to take different shifts or get different days off to coincide with your school schedule. 

If flexibility isn’t possible with your job, look for it with your education. Online programs are often asynchronous, so you can work on assignments and contribute to discussions or projects at the best time for your schedule. Self-paced online courses like Sophia Learning are another good option that allows you to work through the material at a comfortable speed. 

Consider Self-Paced Online Learning 

As mentioned, self-paced online learning offers advantages for adult learners. Though asynchronous courses (courses that are semi self-paced but within a given time frame) can help, you’re still beholden to a schedule for discussions, group projects, assignments, and tests. With self-paced learning, you can tailor your learning schedule to your own needs. 

Of course, this takes self-discipline and motivation, so it may not be right for everyone. It’s easy to lose sight of course deadlines when you’re devoting 40+ hours to work and managing other responsibilities. Staying disciplined in completing your work is a challenge but can make it much easier to complete your degree while working. 

Know Your Productive Periods 

Everyone has natural rhythms that determine when they’re the most and least productive. You may feel most energized in the morning, for example. Or you could be a night owl that thrives after the sun goes down and the rest of the world sleeps. 

If you have a workplace that’s supportive of your educational pursuits, discuss the possibility of flextime to accommodate your schedule. This isn’t possible at every job, but some offer flexible working hours to help you stay productive on the job and committed to your education. 

Make Use of PTO 

If your workplace offers generous paid time off (PTO), resist the urge to use it just for sick days and vacation. Some selective PTO days can be helpful for extra time to study for a big exam or complete a final project for a course. 

Safeguard Your Study Time 

Putting study time in your schedule is easy to do, but making sure you use that time to study can be difficult. You may have to miss out on things, such as your favorite television show, time out with friends, or family events. 

Remember, this is a short-term sacrifice for long-term goals. Set clear expectations with your friends and family in advance to make sure they help you stay on track. Often, the people closest to you are your biggest supporters and will be happy to do what they can to help you succeed. 

Remember Self-Care 

Balancing the demands of school and work can be stressful and may put you at risk of burnout. Make sure to take time for self-care to preserve your mental health. Something as simple as taking a few hours – or a whole day – to enjoy hobbies or spend time with friends and family can give you the mental reset you need to continue performing at peak levels. 

You shouldn’t leave your self-care to just a few days a semester, however. We all need those days off, but you should devote some time to yourself every day. Choose activities that don’t take a lot of time or commitment, such as reading a book, playing a video game, or doing a puzzle, to give your brain a break and have some fun for an hour or so. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help 

You’re making the decision to go to school and work full-time, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a hero. Ask for help if you need it, whether that’s asking your partner or children to help with some of the household responsibilities or study with you. A strong support system is your greatest asset with your career and educational goals. 

Keep Your Eye on the Prize 

Even with the best planning, things will get hard sometimes. You’ll feel stressed or overwhelmed sometimes. You may even wonder why you’re putting yourself through this. That’s when you have to remind yourself of your end goals and how far you’ve come. 

It may help to make a list of your career and educational goals in advance and keep it near your study area. Then, when you’re feeling defeated or run down, you can reference it to stay motivated toward reaching those goals. 

Is It Possible to Excel at Work and School? 

Traditional students go to college straight out of high school, spend two to four years earning a degree as a full-time student, and enter the workforce. But as a non-traditional student, you may not need to follow that same time-constrained linear path. 

It’s okay if it takes a little longer to get your degree as a half-time student with a full-time job. It’s okay if you need to take a term off to recuperate and reset to keep your momentum. There’s no “right” way to go back to school as a working adult – only your way. 

There are more options now than in the past to help adult learners reach their educational goals. Some schools and programs are specifically designed for working adult students with flexible schedules and self-paced formatting. 

You can also pursue options to shorten your degree path, such as transfer courses from Sophia Learning or work-experience credits that help you earn credit for the time you’ve already put in. 

It's Never Too Late to Get Your Degree 

Working full time and attending college won’t be easy, but that shouldn’t be a reason to put off or give up on earning your degree. With good time management, a strong support system, plenty of self-discipline, and flexible learning options, you can make your dream a reality. 

Interested in taking transfer courses with self-paced online learning with Sophia Learning? Start a free trial or explore our courses

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5 Reasons to Take College Readiness Courses

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to college, including your major, future career path, tuition, possible schools, and more. But one thing you may not have been thinking about is if you’re ready for the rigors of higher education. 

Even if you feel ready on a personal level, college readiness courses evaluate whether you might have any gaps in the skills and knowledge needed to successfully integrate into college, such as study skills, critical thinking skills, and organizational skills. Find out more about college readiness and why it’s a valuable addition to your college planning. 

What Are College Readiness Courses? 

College readiness refers to the skills, behaviors, and knowledge a high school student should have to start college and integrate into the experience. A college readiness course covers a lot of these necessary skills, including: 

Education 

Generally, colleges and universities expect education in common core subjects like math, English, history, and one foreign language. These skills are then developed and expanded in college. 

Skill Sets 

Aside from academic skills, colleges expect certain life skills to successfully integrate into the college learning experience. These include completing a scientific experiment, writing an essay, or public speaking, as well as time management and critical thinking. 

Mindset 

College can be demanding and requires a lot of self-discipline, motivation, and positivity. Students are expected to have these skills to face and conquer the challenges they may encounter in college. 

Skills for College Readiness 

Honing skills before entering a college degree program is important for setting yourself up to excel. Here are some skills you should work on for college readiness: 

Self-Management 

Unlike high school, which involves a lot of scheduling and oversight, college has a lot of freedom and flexibility. This is especially true of online colleges, because most of these courses are self-paced and allow students to keep their own schedule. Flexibility is important for balancing the responsibilities of life, but it requires self-management. 

Communication 

Communication in college is both written and verbal. Students are expected to communicate with their professors, mentors, and peers, so strong, clear communication is an important skill to develop for not only academia but professional life. 

Problem-Solving 

One of the critical skills learned in college is problem-solving. Courses often challenge preconceived ideas, push boundaries, and test limits to support critical thinking and intellectual independence. 

Collaboration 

Most jobs require collaborative work. College helps to prepare students for this by putting them with other students to complete work. For some, it’s challenging to work as part of a team instead of on their own, which is why this skill needs to be developed. 

Organization 

Balancing the demands of multiple courses – especially with responsibilities outside of school – can be challenging for a student straight out of high school. Organizational skills are crucial to staying on top of course work and deadlines. 

Academic Skills and Study Techniques 

College requires skills and study techniques to stay focused, keep up with assignments, and prepare for exams. College readiness offers structure and support to teach these vital academic skills, such as understanding the format of college exams, efficient and thorough note taking, and study techniques. 

Reasons to Take College Readiness 

College readiness offers an advantage over high school learning to prepare for the challenges of higher education and more advanced courses. Here are some benefits of college readiness courses: 

1. Developing Critical Thinking Skills 

Colleges consider more than just the GPA and SATs. They also look at how difficult a student’s courses were and whether they challenged themselves in learning. Learning at college goes beyond memorization and rote learning – it tests the grasp of underlying course concepts with discussions, essays, and more in-depth assignments. 

A college readiness course prepares for critical thinking by challenging students to develop these skills and shows colleges and universities that students are taking a proactive approach to their educational experience. 

2. Opening Scholarship Opportunities 

Some colleges and universities offer scholarships to students who have taken college readiness courses. This isn’t always an option, but having a college readiness course on your application may give the institution confidence in your ability to manage college-level work and the rigors of higher education. 

3. Building Competitive College Applications 

Applying to college is getting more competitive, especially for prestigious universities or programs. Taking a college readiness course may bolster your college applications to show that you’re committed to your education and ready to tackle the challenges of college academia. 

4. Boosting Academic Confidence 

Taking a college-level course in high school isn’t easy. Students have to push themselves further than their peers, giving them confidence that they can take on the challenges of college curricula. This skill could carry into other areas of life, including a future career path. 

5. Saving Time and Money 

College readiness courses give students an opportunity to earn college credit while they’re still in high school, which could help to save time and money. With the skills gained from college readiness, you can also take some additional college-level courses to get general education credits completed before you begin your official college degree program. 

Get Prepared for College with College Readiness 

College readiness can offer insights into how prepared you are for college before you start. From the key skills you need for college academia to life skills like communication and time management, college readiness could give you an advantage in your college career. 

Interested in college-level readiness courses? Start a free trial at Sophia or explore our designed to transfer courses

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How to Design Your Online College Plan

Attending college isn’t as simple as filling out an application and taking courses. You have to prepare application materials, take standardized tests, gather recommendation letters, and most importantly, choose your major and career path for the future. 

The earlier you start – and the better organized you are – the better prepared you’ll be to select, apply, and get accepted to the college or university of your choice. Here’s everything you need to know to design your own online college plan. 

Choosing a Major 

If you already know what you want to major in and what career you want to pursue, you’re ahead of the game. But if you don’t, that’s a good place to start. 

Consider your professional goals and interests, as well as the career you want to pursue. For example, if you want to be a lawyer, you can major in just about anything, but majors like criminal justice, political science, or history are recommended. You will also need to go to law school, which means preparing for testing and law school admission midway through your undergraduate experience. 

Conversely, some career paths are more limited in their majors, such as nursing, accounting, engineering, and anthropology. You’ll put yourself in a stronger position after you graduate if you make smart decisions about your major. 

Once you have decided on a major, it’s time to consider your options for higher education institutions. Some majors require a four-year program, but others you may be able to complete at a trade school or a community college with an associate degree. For example, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can attend trade school instead of getting a bachelor’s degree. 

Research Institutions 

While many institutions offer similar programs, the quality and cost of those programs can vary. Depending on the career path you’ve chosen, you may put yourself in a stronger position for your future career if you attend a school that’s esteemed for that field. 

Some schools are known for having robust science programs, for example, which is important if you’re pursuing STEM fields. If you want to pursue business, colleges and universities with specialty business schools have prestigious undergraduate programs. 

In addition, you have to choose the type of institution that works best for your needs: 

Four-year Public College or University 

All states have public colleges and universities that are funded by the state to help residents attain a quality education – often at a lower cost than a private school. Out-of-state students are permitted, but public schools often cap the number of non-resident learners each year and the tuition costs are higher. 

If your tuition costs are a concern, consider the state and city colleges and universities that you can attend at a lower cost with in-state tuition. 

Four-Year Private College or University 

Private colleges and universities are often more expensive than public schools, but they come with added benefits. Some private schools offer more undergraduate research opportunities, valuable networking and connections, and prestigious professors. 

There is also an array of different types of private schools, including smaller liberal arts schools with niche areas of study or massive research universities. In some cases, the generous donations that fund top private schools can mean more institutional financial aid opportunities. 

Two-Year Community College 

Most community colleges offer certificates and associate degrees that you can earn in a year or two with full-time attendance. These are a great option if you don’t need a bachelor’s or advanced degree for your field or you want to complete some general education courses before transferring to a four-year school. 

If you’re not sure of your major – or even the field you want to enter – a community college can be a good choice to get some credits before making a decision about your major. You also have an opportunity to learn about different subjects and figure out what you want to do. 

Hybrid or Online College or University 

For some students, an online degree offers a lot of advantages. Many online programs are asynchronous, allowing you to complete your coursework on your own time without the constraints of scheduled lectures and exams. This is important for students who need to balance school and work or family responsibilities. 

Online learning may be more cost-effective as well. Some colleges and universities offer lower tuition for online courses, and you won’t have to pay fees for on-campus services like meals or housing. With online programs like Sophia Learning, you can take your general education courses online, at your own pace, and transfer them to a four-year university – either online or on-campus. 

Trade School 

Trade schools, also known as vocational schools, and technical colleges offer trade education if a four-year degree isn’t the right path for you. You can learn a range of marketable trades in just a few weeks or two years, depending on the program. 

Many trades are in high demand, including web development, electrical and plumbing work, mortuary science, nursing, dental hygiene, and radiation therapy. Keep in mind that not all programs are available in an online format, however, especially if they involve a lot of hands-on experiences. 

Special Focus Institutions 

Special focus institutions are specialty schools that offer degree programs in limited academic areas. Usually, these schools are affiliated with larger institutions, such as the Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University or the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. 

While many of these schools are focused on master’s or doctoral degrees, they may offer undergraduate degrees in fields like the arts, engineering, or business. Students with a clear major and career path in mind often choose specialty schools. 

Consider Expenses 

Tuition is the biggest college expense you’ll have by far, but other costs can significantly add to your investment in your education. For example, textbooks, supportive educational materials, lab fees, or technology fees can add up. If you want to participate in clubs or extracurricular activities, you may need to pay out of pocket. 

It’s important to research and apply for financial aid like scholarships, federal aid, and private loans. The school you attend makes a big difference in your expenses. As mentioned, public schools are often less expensive than private schools, but they may have fewer options for institutional aid. 

If you have your heart set on a specific four-year college or university, however, you can save by taking your general education courses online with Sophia, then transferring them. These courses are similar to the same courses at your preferred school, so you can pay less for your core courses while still earning a degree that reflects your chosen institution. 

Early College Planning in High School 

Applying to colleges is a lot of work. You have to track dates and deadlines to make sure you don’t miss out on an important aspect of your application, such as your SAT, college application submission, or FAFSA. Make sure to set notifications in a calendar app to stay on top of these dates. 

If you want to set yourself up for success in college, your high school guidance counselor can be a valuable resource. They can help with the deadlines for applications and offer advice on how to improve your applications or prepare for college with college prep or advanced placement (AP) courses and testing for credit. 

College Application Checklist 

Start college planning early with this checklist: 

Ninth Grade 

  • Create a study plan with your required courses. 
  • Research potential career paths. 
  • Make a list of your chosen areas of study. 

Tenth Grade 

  • Take the PSAT, PSAT 10, or PreACT practice tests. 
  • Select some extracurricular activities to bolster your applications. 
  • Attend college fairs and other college-related activities. 

Eleventh Grade 

  • Take the PSAT. 
  • Enroll in AP courses to earn college credits. 
  • Take the SAT/ACT. 
  • Take AP tests. 

Twelfth Grade 

  • Take available AP courses. 
  • Tour college campuses 
  • Take the SAT/ACT, if you haven’t already. 
  • Fill out and submit the FAFSA (opens October 1). 
  • Apply for scholarships throughout the year. 
  • Prepare college application materials, which include:
    • Application form 
    • High school transcript 
    • SAT or ACT scores 
    • Letters of recommendation 
    • Personal statement 
    • Portfolio (if applicable) 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Why Is College Planning Important? 

College requires four or more years of your life to earn a degree, not to mention the thousands of dollars – if not tens of thousands – that you’ll spend on tuition and related expenses. This is a big investment, so it requires thorough planning in advance to make the most of the experience. 

When Should I Start Planning for College? 

You should start planning for college as early as possible. Freshman year (ninth grade) is ideal, but you can begin the planning process at any point in the remaining three years. If you can get a head start with application materials, testing, AP courses, and letters of recommendation, you’ll be in a better position to apply for colleges in your junior or senior year. 

What Should I Consider When Choosing Colleges? 

The college experience is different for everyone. You have different interests, limitations, and goals than another student, so you should consider your major, career path, and ideal schools to weigh your options early on. 

Prepare for Your College Experience 

Planning for college takes a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort to ensure you can create a customized plan that helps you reach your educational and career goals. If you’re interested in getting a head start on college with gen ed courses from Sophia, start a free trial or explore our courses

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Highlighting Sophia Graduation Stories

At Sophia Learning, we believe that personal and professional advancement should be affordable and accessible to every student at every stage of their journey – whether they’re a high school graduate or a mature adult returning to school after a long break. 

These values are reflected in our ambassador program, which includes a diverse group of learners with different educational backgrounds and career goals. 

Today, we’d like to highlight some of the recent graduates who are members of the Sophia Learning Ambassador Program. Learn more about their experiences and let it inspire your own journey. 

Introducing Our Star Graduates 

Eric Fishon – University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) 

For Eric Fishon, graduation is more than a milestone – it’s the culmination of an educational journey that began over 20 years ago. 

At 48 years old, Eric thought his education was “just another dream” that wouldn’t come to fruition – until he found Sophia Learning. He began taking courses for certificates, but before long, Sophia became a vital stepping stone to his educational future. 

Now, Eric is graduating cum laude from University of Maine at Presque Isle with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies Management and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership. Over 40 college credits and about 50% of the coursework for the bachelor’s degree came from Sophia, leading Eric to become a valued ambassador. 

Eric is currently enrolled in an MBA program at Hellenic American College and has been accepted to a doctoral program at the University of Virginia. 

He also created his own mission statement for his educational experience: 

"Sophia isn’t just an educational platform or a place to get some college credit. It’s what you make it and want it to be. For me, Sophia is my partner in strategically achieving the dreams of education I have laid out for myself while saving time and money. Isn’t it time you SOPHIA’d today? #collegegrad23 #tkstosophia" 

Favorite Course: Writing courses 

Eric’s Best Tips for Success: 

  • Take the courses that you’ll enjoy and embrace the learning experience. 
  • Always check that courses will transfer toward your degree. 
  • Ask questions and use the resources available to you, including tutoring and writing review organizations. 
  • Remember it’s a journey – nothing happens just by wishing. 
  • Never let go of a dream! And once you get there, help someone else get to where you are today. 

Carleigh Young – Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) 

After taking Sophia courses from April 2022 through February 2023 and completing 17 courses, Carleigh is about ready to graduate with a degree in data analytics from Southern New Hampshire University. 

Taking courses at Sophia helped Carleigh fast-track her undergraduate degree and complete it in just one year, giving her just enough time to join the Master of Science in Educational Psychology Learning Analytics program in June of this year. Without Sophia, she may have had to wait until 2024, setting her education and career path back a year. 

For Carleigh, Sophia’s self-paced courses, user-friendly format, and concepts helped her understand leadership, learn and process knowledge and prepare for real-world scenarios. She has big plans ahead, including a new job as an admissions tech specialist at Fairmont State University. After her master’s is complete, she plans to pursue a PhD in Higher Education. 

Favorite Course: Project Management   

Carleigh’s Best Tips for Success: 

  • Use the syllabus to schedule out the concepts in the course. 
  • Create a roadmap to stay at the pace you need to complete the course – then stick to it! 
  • Leverage the resources available to you, including student advisors, tutoring services and office hours with professors. 

Sophia’s Tips for Graduating Seniors! 

Ready to finish school and get started with your career? Here are some tips for success from our team: 

Get Your Application Materials Ready 

If you want to hit the ground running, put together your job application documents. This may include your resume or CV, cover letter and recommendations. You should also update your LinkedIn profile to make a great first impression. 

Certain fields may require a portfolio or work samples. Whether you have spec work, assets from a part-time job or internship or samples from your courses, organize them into a sleek, streamlined portfolio that’s ready for future employers. 

Take Advantage of On-Campus Job Recruiting 

Many schools offer career fairs, networking events and other career experiences to help you prepare for life after graduation. See what events are available at your school, print some resumes and prepare to put your best self in the spotlight. 

Tap Into Your Mentors and Advisors 

Your professors, academic advisors and other professionals are excellent resources to help you prepare for your career and post-grad life. As you get closer to graduation, your professors and advisor will likely be within your degree field, so they can offer valuable networking opportunities and job seeking or career advice to help you succeed. 

You won’t always have these resources at your disposal, so take advantage of them before the year ends. 

About Sophia Learning 

Sophia is an online learning platform that allows students to start or continue their education with affordable and flexible college-level general education courses, with plans starting at just $99 a month! 

Inspired to start your unique educational success story? Start your free trial today!

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Importance of Career Readiness in Today’s World

When you embark on a higher education journey, you’re looking to get more than “just a job” out of your investment. You want a rewarding, challenging career that offers opportunities and progress.

But preparing for a lifelong career journey is more than learning job-related skills in your degree program – it’s about having the competencies to enter the workforce and thrive. Unfortunately, many degree programs focus on the theoretical aspects of the area of study, not how it translates in the real world.

That’s where career readiness comes in. With career readiness, you can learn transferable skills that are essential in the modern workplace, no matter what career path you choose to take.

What Is Career Readiness?

Career readiness is a broad term that refers to the foundational career skill sets students need to transition into the workforce. Encompassing more than just basic skills, career readiness is designed to support a seamless transition from an educational environment to the “real world.”

Though career readiness can include different focus areas, it generally focuses on financial security, personal health, and continuous professional growth that continues throughout the student’s lifetime.

Career Readiness Skills

Job skills are divided into two areas: hard skills and soft skills.

Hard skills are the job-related knowledge and competencies that employees need to perform their work duties effectively. For example, a software engineer needs competencies in programming, coding, and software development, while an accountant needs hard skills in financial reporting, financial modeling, and payroll. 

Soft skills, on the other hand, are skills that help employees thrive in the workplace. These are generally transferable skills that are useful in virtually every role, such as emotional intelligence, strong verbal and written communication, time management, and critical thinking.

Career readiness focuses on a range of different hard and soft skills. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the career readiness competencies include:

Career Development

Students should demonstrate self-awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses and understand how to pursue professional growth through continuing education, mentorships, or other skill-building opportunities. They should also be intellectually curious and driven to continuous self-improvement – both professionally and personally.

Communication

Communication is essential to every workplace. Students should have clear, concise, and culturally aware communication skills in verbal, non-verbal, and written formats.

Critical Thinking

Students should have strong critical thinking skills and the ability to solve problems by gathering information, asking questions, and translating research into a proactive plan.

Equity and Inclusion

Students should have the ability to recognize and consider different cultural viewpoints and advocate for equitable workplace practices and inclusivity.

Leadership

Students should set an example for others through coaching, planning and executing projects, and sharing the broad organizational goals and vision. This is especially important for students looking to transition into leadership roles.

Professionalism

Professionalism is a broad competency that includes being on time, focused on the task, and always behaving with integrity and ethics.

Teamwork

Workplaces often involve team projects that require students to collaborate with others, sometimes leading and sometimes following. Teamwork skill building includes fostering individual and group accountability and demonstrating conflict management.

Technology

Technology is vital to many workplaces and helps with productivity. Students should be comfortable with different technology solutions and have a desire to learn and embrace emerging technologies.

Additional Career Readiness Skills

Time and Stress Management

Both time and stress management are important for busy modern workplaces. Time management is a strategy to find the time to complete tasks according to priority and urgency. This is intimately connected to stress management, which refers to controlling stress and staying resilient in the face of stressful situations. This is especially important in careers that are known for being fast paced and high stress, such as medicine or law. 

Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship is the responsible use of technology for anyone who uses computers, the internet, or digital devices. With technology’s current role in both workplaces and society at large, digital citizenship is a key component of career readiness.

Financial Literacy

Other than students in a finance degree program, most high schools and colleges fail to prepare students for financial literacy in the real world. This refers to the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources and achieve financial wellbeing, including topics like interest rates, credit scores, and budgeting.

Practical Knowledge

Practical knowledge is at the core of career readiness. Theoretical knowledge isn’t enough to prepare students for a career path after school. Having practical skills that translate into the workplace helps students impress potential employers and achieve long-term success with their career goals.

Bridging the Gap

The days of starting out in an entry-level position and working your way up are all but over. Students are expected to graduate and jump into the career world with all the skills they need and virtually no learning curve – which is one area that college programs may not cover. 

Sophia Learning’s Career Readiness courses can help students focus their education into career-ready skills that can prepare them to take their learning beyond the theoretical into the practical. The courses cover topics like communication, selecting and applying for jobs, professionalism, and employability to help bridge the gap between academics and employment. Some careers may even require additional testing to enter into the field, which is where tools like Career Employer can assist in your preparation!

Get Career-Ready at Sophia

Career readiness includes all the hard and soft skills and competencies that students should have as a foundation for their career and to make a smooth transition from education to employment. If you want to set yourself up for success after graduation, start your free trial at Sophia and explore our career readiness courses!

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Should I Take Summer Classes in College? Yes! Here's Why:

From kindergarten through senior year, we’re trained to look forward to the summer season for a much-needed break from learning.

For many college students, that last stretch in the spring and finishing finals means a long, relaxing summer break with plenty of sunny days, sleeping in late, and enjoying time with friends and family.

But for intrepid students, summer may be the ideal time to continue with the learning experience to gain new skills, knock out gen ed courses, and fast track graduation.

Wondering if you should take summer classes in college? Here’s why it may be the perfect option for you.

Complete Gen Ed Courses

Summer can be a time to decompress after a grueling year and prepare for the fall, but taking this time to knock out gen ed courses can put you further ahead in attaining your degree – saving you money in the process.

Virtually all degree programs include core courses that are designed for general knowledge. For many students, these courses are not the most interesting part of the learning experience. After all, you chose a major to focus on your specific interests.

Prerequisites are also part of earning a degree and act as a stepping stone to the more targeted courses you have to take for your program. Sometimes, prerequisites can affect your schedule and limit what courses you can take – and when.

Summer offers an opportunity to get these courses out of the way so that your schedule is focused more on the courses you’re excited to take. And if you take these courses with Sophia, it can also fast track your path to graduation. You can take courses in a convenient and cost-effective subscription format and transfer them to your preferred institution, helping you save money.

Graduate Early

If you want to graduate early and get your career underway, taking college courses for credit over the summer can help you achieve that goal. Instead of wasting those few months with a traditional school format, you can knuckle down and work outside of the school year to get your core courses completed for college credit.

Your institution may not offer summer classes, but you have the option to take classes at a different institution and transfer the credits. Just be sure to check that your school will accept the transfer credits for the courses you plan to take before you spend the time and money.

Get Individual Attention with Smaller Classes

As you may expect, summer classes typically have lower enrollment than the same class would during the traditional semester. In some cases, summer courses have limited enrollment to keep the classes small – and this is where you can gain the advantages.

With smaller class sizes, the discussions and learning experience are more intimate and engaging. You can get to know your instructors and classmates better and deepen your learning experience with individualized attention and support.

Focus on Difficult Subjects 

Whether you struggle with math, history bores you, or you struggle with another topic, taking a challenging subject while you’re balancing other courses can make a difficult task feel impossible.

In a summer session, however, you can focus entirely on those difficult classes without distractions or added pressure from splitting courses. You can really dive into the topic, get extra guidance from your professors, and work with your peers to not just get through the class, but excel at it.

Upskill Your Career

Whether you’re already working in your degree field, changing careers, or preparing to enter the workforce, there are plenty of skills that will be of value that you may not get in your degree program.

Do you struggle with business communication? Does public speaking scare you? Could you be a stronger writer? All of these skills are vital to virtually every field, and there’s no better time to upskill and make yourself a more valuable job candidate than during the summer sessions. You may even be able to use those credits as an elective toward your degree!

Keep Skills Sharp

Summer is a good time to relax and take a mental break from the demands of learning all year, but that could also mean losing that momentum that has kept you going. When fall comes back around, it may take a beat before you’re back into the groove of studying, doing coursework, and attending lectures – costing you part of your learning experience.

If you take summer courses, however, you can keep those learning skills sharp and fall right in step when the school year starts up again.

Are Summer Courses Right for Me?

Clearly, there are a lot of advantages to taking summer courses, whether you focus on gen ed courses, upskilling, or learning for the sake of learning.

Still, that doesn’t mean that summer courses are the right choice for everyone. While the unique aspects of summer courses may be advantages for some, they could be disadvantages for you.

For example, the more informal and relaxed nature of summer courses means you’ll need to be more organized and disciplined in your learning experience. If you have a summer job, it can be difficult to balance the demands of working with your coursework.

There are also fewer course options in the summer at many institutions, so you have to be strategic in choosing the right courses according to your goals. If you take courses at a different institution like Sophia, however, you have access to the same courses year round.

In some cases, financial aid may not cover your summer courses. Consider if you have to pay for those courses upfront and weigh the financial pros and cons to make sure it’s in your best interests to add summer courses to your schedule.

Finally, summer is the time to take a break from learning and enjoy yourself. Some students perform better when they maintain their momentum and study habits through the year, but others really need that downtime to recharge and stay motivated throughout the school year.

It can also be difficult to prioritize schoolwork if you have vacations, events with family or friends, outdoor hobbies, or other distractions. You have to be self-aware and determine whether taking summer courses is a good choice for your individual needs. 

Should I Take Summer Courses at My School or Another School?

There’s no clear answer to this question, as it depends on your circumstances. You may be able to get your preferred courses in summer programs at your own school, simplifying the transfer process. That said, you will need to consider housing, meals, and other expenses if you plan to stay on campus for the summer sessions.

If you choose to take courses at another school, such as an online school, it can give you the advantages of a new learning experience, more course options, and possibly, a more convenient schedule to balance your summer work or activities. That said, you need to check with your advisor to make sure that your credits will transfer and provide value to you in your current degree program.

Don’t Waste Your Summer Days

We get it – summer is for kicking back and relaxing. But if you want to get ahead in your courses – and one step closer to your degree – the summer can be the perfect time to complete your degree requirements, learn new skills, and gain some credits.

Thinking about making the most of your summer learning experience? Start a free trial at Sophia or explore our courses!

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How Online Courses Can Help You Achieve the Biggest College ROI

College is exciting, challenging, and fun, but it’s also a big investment – possibly one of the biggest you’ll make in your lifetime.

Though the cost may be rising, there’s good news – there’s a positive return on investment for higher education. Overall, college graduates earn more than those with high school diplomas.

Of course, you have to make smart financial decisions to get the best college ROI, and online courses are one way to help save on college and invest your money and time wisely.

Save on Campus Fees

One of the biggest added expenses students face when enrolled in a traditional on-campus program is room and board. Housing and a meal plan during four years of study can add up.

With an online program, you can live at home and prepare your own meals, leading to huge potential savings. You’re already paying for the roof over your head and your food, so you’re not adding to your expenses while attending college.

There are additional savings that come from remote learning as well. Your second greatest asset – time – is conserved with online courses.

If you would otherwise be commuting to school, you can end up spending a lot on fuel and car maintenance costs. Indirectly, the commute also adds to the time you devote to college, which may mean reduced work hours (and earning potential) while you’re finishing your degree.

The same is true of other on-campus responsibilities, such as scheduled classes at set times that may conflict with your schedule, meeting with other students or your professor outside of class or visiting the library. Online, this is all available instantaneously. Classes can be self-paced, allowing you to complete them at the time and speed that works best for you.

Finish Your Degree Faster

If you reduce the time you need to spend to earn a degree, you can reduce your overall costs and improve your college ROI. For example, motivated high school students often take Advanced Placement (AP) courses to earn college credit alongside their required curriculum.

There are similar options for college students. College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP) tests help you receive college credit for the information you already know, all at a fraction of the cost of a full course. The exams cover core courses like American government, psychology, history, American literature, biology, calculus, and economics.

In addition, some institutions offer the option to take multiple courses each term or semester to earn your degree faster. For example, Sophia Learning has a subscription option to take as many as two courses at once, completely online and at your own pace.

Earn Transfer Credits

If you have your heart set on a specific college or university, you can still reduce your overall tuition with transfer credits. Across institutions, general education or core courses are generally equivalent – meaning you can take them at a low-cost institution and transfer them to your preferred college or university.

When you graduate, your degree will still reflect the institution and your degree program – as well as any prestige that comes along with it. For example, a well-respected STEM program at a top university may matter when you’re in advanced courses, but your general education courses are similar whether you’re at an Ivy League university or not.

Within the valuable subscription, Sophia Learning offers a range of general education courses in a variety of areas, including language, math, science, communication, computer science, business, and humanities. And with over 40 partner schools and over 1,000 colleges and universities that review Sophia courses for credit, you can knock out your basic college courses at a lower cost.

Be sure to speak to your advisor or an admissions counselor about your preferred university’s transfer credit policy, however.

Gain Career Preparedness

Online courses can maximize your college ROI both directly, through time and cost savings, and indirectly, through career skills you gain. While online learning offers fewer opportunities for networking, it teaches you valuable skills to assimilate into a remote or hybrid role.

Following the pandemic, remote and hybrid workforces are the “new normal.” Employers are more comfortable with remote employees, flexible schedules, and all the benefits that come with it. Still, there are unique challenges to remote work, and some people struggle to stay on track without in-office support and supervision – a skill you will gain as you learn to work independently earning your degree.

Remote work isn’t ideal for everyone, but taking online courses will help you develop the skills to stay motivated and productive in a work-from-home role.

Get Help Paying for College

You may be excited about going to college but less excited about the potential debt. Fortunately, you can save money with grant and scholarship money. When you apply for financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), you will receive financial aid options at each school you’re applying to.

There are several grants that you may be eligible for, including the Federal Pell grant, as well as institutional scholarships – which also apply to online learning. Don’t hesitate to look for grant and scholarship opportunities outside of your institution as well. Many organizations offer scholarships for specific programs or groups.

Taking out some loans may be inevitable, but you don’t have to be crippled by debt. If you do need to take out loans, pay any interest while still in school. It can be tempting to hold off during your grace period, but some loans are accruing interest during that time. If you make partial payments on the interest while you’re still in school, you can save a lot of money over the life of the loan, owe less when you graduate, and boost your college ROI.

Boost Your College ROI with Gen Ed Courses from Sophia Learning

Pursuing a degree is a big investment with a potentially great payoff. If you’re ready to take the next step, start a free trial at Sophia Learning to knock out your gen eds!

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How to Know If Self-Paced Online College Is Right for You

If you’re considering online courses to boost your resume, finish your degree, or switch careers, there are a few different setups and options to make the most of the experience.

Some courses are structured with specific information to be covered each week on a set schedule, while others allow you to learn at your own speed – self-paced learning. Many schools offer self-paced online college-level courses for credit, so you can get ahead while working toward your degree on your own time.

Attending college at your own pace is a great way to balance the responsibilities of life with your education, but it may not be ideal for everyone. Find out what to expect from a self-paced learning environment.

What Is Self-Paced Learning?

Online courses are more flexible than traditional courses in general, but self-paced online courses give you even more control over your learning experience. There are minimal deadlines and schedules that limit your learning experience, so you can move quickly through material that comes easily.

Most courses, traditional or otherwise, are built on layered learning – you have to have a good understanding of the material to build upon it as you move through the course. If you struggle with a topic or concept, you can take the time you need to ensure you truly grasp it before moving into the next section.

Essentially, you can leverage your individual learning strengths and abilities to get the best experience possible.

If you check these boxes, you can benefit from self-paced online college.

You Have Strong Time Management Skills

Staying organized and managing your time effectively are crucial to your success with self-paced online courses for college credit. Though you won’t be held to strict deadlines on a weekly basis, if you’re prone to procrastination, you may not finish your course in a reasonable time frame.

One of the struggles of attending self-paced college is that other things will always pop up – work obligations, family events, disruptions with children – and pull your attention. It can be easy to push off your course work each day if you don’t manage your time effectively.

You’re Self-Motivated

Motivation is necessary for any educational experience, but particularly with a learn-at-your-own-pace college. It’s your responsibility to stay on track with your assignments, readings, quizzes, exams, and other aspects of attending classes. You won’t have a professor staying on you to get your work done.

You Understand Your Learning Style

Not everyone learns the same way. Self-paced college lets students harness their own individual learning strengths to learn and retain information. Instead of the instructor or professor leading the experience, you can take the time to learn independently.

While you may need to ask for help or clarification sometimes, the bulk of your learning is done on your own.

You Have a Lot to Balance

One of the greatest advantages of the best self-paced online colleges is that they offer flexibility. You can learn at your own convenience and work through the lectures and material when it’s the best for you, not a set time that you have to meet for an in-person lecture.

For example, you may be most productive in the early morning hours before your workday. Or perhaps you prefer to focus on schoolwork in the afternoon while your partner is at work and the kids are at school. For some, productivity comes late at night while everyone else is asleep (you’re not likely to find in-person lectures at midnight!).

You’re Comfortable with Technology

No matter what, self-paced college online requires a certain level of comfort with technology. Different schools offer different learning platforms to access your assignments and texts, so you’ll need to learn to navigate them. You’ll also need comfort with technology to complete your work, such as Microsoft Office, Excel, and PowerPoint or Google Docs and Sheets.

This goes without saying, but you will need a strong internet connection for online courses. If you have issues with your internet service, you may have to contact IT support to get reconnected and complete your work.

You Have a Distraction-Free Environment

When the world had to abruptly shift to remote work, many people discovered unexpected distractions in their home lives. Kids at home, dogs barking, or people knocking on your door can be a big disruption to your focus while you’re trying to work – or learn.

Attending college at your own pace can be especially challenging if you don’t have a space you can turn into an at-home classroom with no distractions. It’s best to have a quiet room with a door where you can set up a desk, computer, and school supplies. If that’s not possible, you can set up a space in a quieter area of your home and ask everyone to respect your study time.

You Enjoy Writing

With in-person lectures, your participation involves discussions in class and interacting with other students. You can have a similar experience with accredited self-paced online colleges, but it all takes place in discussions, forums, or chats. If you’re not a strong writer, interacting this way can be difficult.

In addition, most of your assignments will be written assignments. Even quizzes or exams may include short-answer questions, rather than multiple choice or true or false questions. That said, writing skills are essential for the modern workplace, especially with remote work, and it’s good to build these skills while you’re getting your education.

You Enjoy Networking

Networking is not limited to traditional schooling. You can gain valuable networking opportunities with online learning, which can help you make connections to further your career. But like anything else, you only get out of it what you put in.

Many schools encourage networking by hosting virtual events or seminars. If you’re comfortable interacting online and can communicate effectively, you can make the most of these opportunities.

Ready to Get Started?

Is self-paced learning the right choice for you? Sophia Learning offers a free trial to see if self-paced online college-level courses are right for you. Start your trial today!

 

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Top 10 Time Management Tips for College Students

With a part- or full-time work week, family obligations, and other responsibilities, it can seem challenging to find the time to complete schoolwork. Time is a precious resource that should be maximized, especially for college students.

Whether you struggle with time management or you want to maximize your time, here are our top 10 time management tips for college students.

1. Keep a Calendar of Deadlines

Most courses, online or in-person, have deadlines for assignments that you have to follow to earn a high grade. It can be overwhelming, but not if you’re following the best practices for managing time for students.

Keeping a calendar gives you a visual of all your upcoming work, so you can schedule study time and time to complete assignments with clear priorities. Otherwise, you could end up with rapidly approaching deadlines and panic when you realize assignments are due without enough time to spend on them.

2. Set Goals

One of the most important steps in managing your time is knowing what you’re spending your time on. When you set goals, you can identify your wasted time and stay on an efficient track to completing everything.

There are many apps that you can download to track your time and see where your time could be better spent. For example, taking a quick look at your Facebook or TikTok feed may not seem like a lot, but it adds up over the course of the day. Once you know this, you can be more disciplined about your free time.

3. Use the Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Method was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. Using a timer, you break up your workload into 25-minute stretches of focused, uninterrupted work with five-minute breaks in between. You can take a longer break after four consecutive work intervals.

This method is effective because staring down a long to-do list of equally important tasks can quickly become overwhelming. If you’re not sure where to start, or you feel like you’ll be drowning as soon as you start, you won’t be as productive. Working in small chunks of time will help you stay motivated and combat your apprehension.

4. Use Checklists

Checklists are a helpful tool for how to improve time management skills as a college student. When you have a lot of work to complete, it can feel like you’re spinning your wheels without accomplishing anything. Having a checklist gives you a sense of accomplishment as you check items off your list.

5. Use Your Breaks Strategically

One of the most important tips on time management for students is using your break time strategically to get more accomplished in a day. While you should take some breaks to relax your mind and recharge, the breaks that you work into your schedule can be used as extra time to complete other quick items on your to-do list.

For example, use a 15-minute break to put a load of laundry in the washing machine or run a quick errand. When you use your breaks strategically like this, you’ll find that you get more things done over the course of the week and you’ll have more leisure time.

6. Leverage Technology Tools

With millions of apps at your fingertips, your smartphone or tablet can become more of a time waster than an asset. But with the right apps and self-discipline, you can use apps to manage your time effectively.

There are apps for scheduling, calendars, time management, and productivity with digital to-do lists, timers, and notifications. If you can’t stay off your social media apps, download an app to block these notifications and restrict access to social apps until you take your scheduled break.

Don’t stop at your smartphone, however. Your computer offers different account options, so make one for your personal use, one for work, and one for school. This keeps all your important apps and documents separated, so you only have access to what you need to complete your work – no more temptation to surf social media feeds while you’re working on assignments!

7. Limit Distractions

The best time management for college students comes from self-awareness. When you can clearly and objectively identify your habits and distractions, you’re better equipped to combat them.

For example, you may find that you procrastinate by getting involved in household work when you should be studying, or you may put on the television for “background noise” and start watching. In these cases, maintaining a quiet, separate study place or blocking out time for chores or watching television can make a big difference in limiting distractions and keeping you focused.

8. Reward Yourself

Nothing feels quite as good as accomplishing everything on your to-do list. As you start working toward better time management, take time to reward yourself for small wins. Always keep your rewards in line with your goals, such as taking an hour to read or watch television after you’ve completed your tasks for the day. This also gives you something to look forward to without the stress of thinking you should be doing work.

9. Stay Healthy

Keeping yourself healthy plays a role in time management and productivity. It may not seem obvious, but one of the time management tips for students is working regular exercise into your schedule. You should also plan to eat well and get a good night’s rest, both of which contribute to your energy levels and minimize stress. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

10. Ask for Help

When you’re overwhelmed, it can be tempting to go it alone. But you have resources to help. If you are struggling to understand a concept, reach out to your professor with questions or concerns. You’ll waste more time trying to figure it out on your own – under stress – than if you get the information you need from the start.

Remember, time management tips for students only go so far is you’re burned out and physically and emotionally drained. If you’re truly overwhelmed, reach out to your advisor to discuss your options. You may need a reduced credit load for a time or student support resources like tutoring. Your advisor is there to help you succeed.

Put These Tips to Use

How to manage time as a student can be a struggle, especially if you’re balancing other responsibilities. These tips can help you make the best use of your time to stay productive and focused, but don’t hesitate to ask for help. At Sophia Learning, we have a dedicated group of learning coaches that can help you with your time management. Start a free trial today!

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How to Avoid College Debt: Our 10 Big Tips

Student loans are a great option for people who want a degree but otherwise can’t afford college. Taking out student loans means being saddled with a lot of debt upon graduation, however.

Whether you’re a new student or you’re far along in your college career, there are ways you can get ahead of college costs, or limit your borrowing, to start off in a strong position after graduation.

Find out how to avoid college debt and finish school without the burden of high student loans.

1. Embrace Hybrid or Alternative Learning

Online learning has created a unique option to avoid excessive debt and gain flexibility in your learning journey. Hybrid learning combines the affordability of an online education with in-person classes for a traditional college experience.

Though the per-credit cost may be close, the flexibility of a hybrid program can reduce the indirect costs that can rack up in college, such as paying for tolls or parking, gas for the commute, or enrolling children in childcare to attend classes. It also offers more flexibility to continue working a full-time schedule and earn income.

2. Earn Transfer Credits

Some higher education institutions are known for having exceptional programs in specific fields, such as the sciences or legal studies. If you want to benefit from these programs – and the school’s reputation – without paying the high cost, transfer credits are a go-to option.

State or community colleges often offer courses at a lower cost, so you can get some general education courses out of the way. Another option is an online college like Sophia Learning, which offers gen ed courses that you can complete at your own pace.

In most cases, you can still transfer the credits to your chosen school to finish your degree. It’s important to speak with your advisor in advance to ensure your transfer credits will be accepted, however.

3. Pay Out of Pocket

This may not be an option for everyone but paying for some – or all – of your college costs out of pocket can help you avoid student loan debt. Even if you can’t pay for all of your courses, paying for the occasional course will help you avoid high interest.

In addition, trying to pay on your own will motivate you to look for opportunities to reduce the costs, such as hybrid learning or transfer credits, rather than taking on more debt.

4. Test Out of Courses

Some colleges offer the option to “test out” of courses as one of the ways to decrease student loan debt. Depending on the school’s policy, you may be able to test out of gen ed courses and some intermediate courses, such as college-level sciences or math, and gain college credit.

Typically, this is done with the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). The test covers all the information you would learn in the course, so you can demonstrate your knowledge of the material. There is a cost for the exams, but they’re usually much lower than the cost of the course.

5. Work-Related Debt Forgiveness

If you’re wondering how to avoid debt in college, it’s worth considering options for debt forgiveness after college. Though these usually apply to federal student loans, certain professions are eligible for debt forgiveness in exchange for a certain number of years of service.

These programs are available for in-demand professions, such as nursing and medical technicians, teachers, speech pathologists, firefighters, law enforcement, social workers, librarians, and military servicemembers. There are strict requirements for forgiveness, however, so be sure to explore your options.

6. Work On-Campus

Some institutions offer on-campus work as a way to reduce your college costs. These work-study programs vary by the college or university, but some examples include taking a role as a Resident Advisor in your dorm for discounts on housing, working at the school dining to cover food costs, or taking an administrative job at one of the campus offices.

7. Work Part-Time

If your school doesn’t offer a suitable on-campus job, then you may be able to take a part-time job to help with your college costs. Working part time will help you earn extra income for tuition, or to manage your living expenses, while you’re completing your degree.

Some students avoid working while in college because they fear they’ll fall behind with less study time, but the opposite is usually true. Students who work part time are higher academic achievers than students who only focus on school. That said, you will need strong time-management skills to keep up with your obligations.

8. Consider Repayment Plans

Some colleges and universities offer options for repayment as a solution for how to avoid student debt. Instead of taking out a loan or paying upfront, your tuition is spread over time in a repayment plan that’s interest free. If you’re trying to pay on your own, this helps you continue with your education without needing to take time off to save money.

9. Scholarships

Scholarships are available in a variety of places. Your financial aid office at your school can give you information about scholarships through the school itself, but you may find scholarships through your job or local community. Sometimes, local businesses like doctor’s offices or law firms offer scholarships for local students looking to enter their fields.

You could also find scholarships specific to majors or degree programs and backgrounds, such as the military, graduate students, or women. Here are some places to look:

  • Your school’s financial aid office

  • A high school counselor

  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship search tool

  • Federal scholarship programs

  • State grant agencies

  • The library’s reference section

  • Local civic groups, community organizations, and foundations

  • Ethnicity-based organizations

  • Professional associations relevant to your field of interest

  • Your employer

Do the work! It takes time and effort, but if you can get some scholarships, you can significantly reduce your college debt.

10. Speak with Your Advisor for How to Avoid Student Debt

Your advisor is your greatest asset, not just for your college experience, but for earning a degree in a cost-effective way. Your advisor can help you find available funding sources or scholarships, as well as tips and tricks like earning transfer credits.

Reduce or Eliminate Your Student Debt

No one wants to graduate saddled with a lot of student debt and high interest rates. Sophia Learning is just $99 a month for a subscription to take as many designed to transfer courses as you want, even two at a time, towards your degree. Take a look at our website or start your free trial today!

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How to Go Back to School as an Adult Learner in 2023

While some may think of “college students” as 18 to 25-year olds, adults over the age of 25 represent about 40% of the enrollment in US higher education – nearly 8 million learners. Part of the reason is that college is more accessible than it once was, especially for adult learners balancing life’s responsibilities with school.

Whether you have some credits under your belt or you’re going to college for the first time, going to college as an adult offers plenty of opportunities, as well as some challenges. Find out how to go back to school as an adult to get the most value out of the online college journey.

Why Go Back to School as an Adult?

The decision to return to college is unique for everyone, but here are some reasons many consider going back to school as an adult:

Making a Career Change

Technology has advanced rapidly in the past few decades. For some, that means work opportunities have shifted as technology tools reduced the need for a workforce. For others, their current career has no growth opportunities – or simply doesn’t satisfy any longer.

Some adults reach maturity and realize the time is right for them to pursue a dream they’ve shelved to start a family and stick with a steady career. Whatever the reason, it’s never too late to make a change.

More Maturity

College may not be for everyone right out of high school. If you tried college the first time and chose not to stay, it could’ve been more about maturity than whether college was “right for you.” You may not have appreciated the importance of education at the time, but now that you have more life experience, you can handle – or even enjoy – your learning journey.

Filling Skills Gaps

Even the best education can become outdated after several decades out of school. The workforce is flooded with fresh college graduates who are eager to start their career – and they come with the most current information and skills for their field.

College for working adults allows you to elevate your skill set and stay current on your industry’s best practices, ensuring you’re relevant and irreplaceable as the new generation enters the workforce.

Finishing a Degree

Even with the best of intentions, life can get in the way of pursuing your degree. Children, sick family members, financial concerns, or unexpected life changes can easily derail a college career.

If you want to finish what you started, you can go back to school online and get your degree. It’ll be hard work, but you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment.

Challenges Adults Face Going Back to School

Going back to school is an exciting – but intimidating – experience. It’s very different to go back to school online vs. starting out as a traditional student. Here are some common challenges adult learners face, as well as the solutions.

Working Around a Busy Schedule

As an adult learner, you probably have to manage your classes with work, caring for family, or other responsibilities. Many adult learners attend school part time and have to work their schoolwork into their busy schedules.

Fortunately, online learning platforms for adults offer a lot of flexibility compared to on-campus programs. You can complete coursework on your own schedule, whether that’s first thing in the morning, during a quiet afternoon, or in the late hours when everyone else is sleeping. Part of this flexibility is saving time without having a commute to and from a campus.

Financial Concerns

The rising costs of college is challenging for everyone but especially adult learners. Like many, you may have a mortgage, debt, or family to support, so taking on the burden of student loans or tuition payments seems daunting.

Financial concerns don’t have to hold you back, though. You can save money with college transfer credits, choosing an affordable program, and applying for financial aid with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) When you apply, you’ll find out if you can get help through grants or loans.

But that’s not all. Scholarships and grants are available for college for working adults. It takes some time and work, but you can save a lot with these aid options.

You can also save by taking your general education courses online at an affordable institution like Sophia Learning, then transferring them to your chosen college or university. Be sure to check with your school’s advisor about the credit transfer policy, however.

Fear of Not Being Right for College

Adult learners may feel anxiety about returning to school. It could be that they fear failing their program, thinking that they’ve been out of practice for too long, worrying about keeping up with technology, or feeling out of place among young students.

These fears are understandable and relatable, but they don’t need to be an obstacle. Most adult learners feel this way, yet they persist on to earn their degree. There are numerous programs designed specifically for adult learners that cater to their unique learning needs, giving you a group of peers with similar perspectives and challenges.

If you’re still not sure, try taking a few classes on a trial basis to see if college is right for you. This is an opportunity to get back in the groove and consider your decision before committing to a full degree program.

Lack of Resources

The best advice for adults going back to college is to find – and use – your resources. Institutions that cater to adult learners offer resources to overcome common challenges to earning a degree.

For example, most schools will provide a dedicated academic advisor upon enrollment. Your advisor is your best asset to navigate your college experience and ensure success. If you run into roadblocks, your advisor can help you find academic and technical support to provide the assistance you need.

Many institutions offer additional resources to position you for success, such as career planning services, workshops, outside lectures and seminars, and group study sessions. Outside resources, such as Google searches and online texts, are more available than they once were.

How to Go Back to School as an Adult: Top Tips

Wondering how to get started? Here are some practical tips for the process:

Determine Your Degree Program and Level

Whether you’re making a career change or starting new, you should research your future career and its educational requirements. This is an important consideration for finding the right school and degree program.

For example, if you already have college credits, you can save time or money with transfer credits. If you have a bachelor’s degree and you want to make a career change to a related field, a certificate program may be a better option than a master’s degree.

Choose the Right School

It’s important to find a college that supports your needs as an adult learner. Prestige, program value, affordability, or other factors in your decision won’t matter if the school doesn’t set you up for success as a working adult.

Look for colleges that offer the programs you’re interested in, flexibility in online courses, multiple start times per year, or accelerated programs. For example, some online programs require on-campus testing or video lectures at scheduled times that don’t align with your current schedule. Consider your options and what’s most important to you.

Meet with an Admissions Counselor

Admissions counselors are a valuable resource to prepare for the application process. The counselor can help you evaluate your transfer credits and guide you through the application process, including how to submit transcripts and what documentation you will need.

Speak with an Academic Advisor

After admission, your first step is to connect with your academic advisor to determine course requirements, arrange your class schedule, and discuss any resources you may need. Your advisor has your best interests in mind, so be sure to discuss any concerns or challenges you’re facing.

Prioritize Your Schoolwork

Balancing life and school is not easy, but you can put yourself in a strong position with some preparation.

Before classes start, organize a workspace with your supplies. A calendar with important deadlines will help you organize and manage your coursework and stay ahead of schedule.

Be sure to discuss your plans with your employer and family. If possible, consider taking some days off for the adjustment to adult learning. Most employers are supportive, especially if your learning experience will benefit them.

Maintaining your home and taking care of children or family members can be challenging if you’re adding another commitment, so set a plan to divide household duties. If you’re single, find ways to reduce your responsibilities or prioritize to make time for your new endeavor.

Going Back to School with Online Learning for Adults

It’s never too late to pursue your dream. Going back to school as an adult is more accessible than it once was, giving you an opportunity to finish what your started and achieve your goals.

If you’re considering a return to school as an adult, start your free trial at Sophia Learning or explore our courses!

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How to Be a Successful Online College Student in 2023

Online learning is becoming more popular. Colleges and universities are increasing their online offerings, and 2020 saw record enrollment from online learners. 

From doctoral programs to short courses, online programs offer an array of benefits, including flexibility in where, when, and how students attain their education while balancing the responsibilities of daily life.

But there is a caveat – online learning can be challenging if you’re not prepared. Attending an online course demands focus and motivation like a traditional classroom setting, plus distractions like kids or pets can present barriers to learning.

Here are some tips for how to be a successful online college student and get the most out of your online classes this year.  

Set Up a Quiet Workspace

One of the benefits of a traditional classroom is that it’s a dedicated, distraction-free space for students to learn. You should aim to create that same learning environment at home to complete your work and establish a good routine.

Every student is different. Some may do best with peace and quiet, while others focus better with background noise like a television or music. Take time to see which environment works best for your own focus and productivity to set yourself up for success.

Get Organized

Once you have a workspace, organize all the supplies and resources you need for your course. The last thing you want is to struggle to access your learning platform before the class starts or encounter a glitch with your learning materials. 

Most importantly, make sure you have a strong and reliable internet connection for your course. If necessary, move your workspace closer to your router for a better connection. 

Before the course starts, purchase and access your course materials, including any supplementary tools, and practice navigating the learning platform. Stock your workspace with any materials you may need, such as flashcards and a physical notebook and pen or pencil.

A calendar can be helpful for tracking important deadlines for your course, whether you use a physical calendar or an app on your phone or computer. Check your calendar regularly to prepare for any upcoming deadlines.

Set Time for Coursework

One of the biggest benefits of online courses is the flexibility to learn in the way — and the time — that works best for you. Unlike traditional courses that require you to attend classes at designated times, many online courses are asynchronous so you can balance your schoolwork with other responsibilities, such as children, work, or caring for another family member. 

Consider your most productive times of day and the barriers you may have to learning, such as your work hours or getting the kids off to school. If you’re a morning person, start your day with your assigned reading or video lectures and assignments. If the afternoon is the quietest time of day, block out some time to study or start your assignments. For night owls, burning the midnight oil while everyone is in bed may be the most productive approach.

Stick to Your Schedule

Flexibility with online courses is great, but it can leave you vulnerable to time management issues. Without classes to attend or a professor checking in, it’s easy to push off the work you need to do when life gets busy. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself struggling to get caught up.

On the first day of your course, note the big assignments and mark them on your calendar. If you have any big events in your professional or personal life, such as a major work project or a vacation, note those in your calendar as well. Seeing everything laid out allows you to plan around your obligations and stay on track.

Remember the time you blocked out for learning? Stick to it, no matter what. Set reminders if you need to, but it’s important that you take your study time as seriously as you would with in-person courses.

Engage with the Course

Active participation is a key to success with your classes. In a traditional classroom setting, professors notice students who aren’t engaged and can take steps to encourage participation. That dynamic is more difficult in an online environment.

Take initiative to participate and engage with the course on your own. If a discussion requires only one or two responses, don’t stop at the bare minimum. Foster better learning for everyone by responding to your classmates with insightful observations, thought-provoking questions, and valuable resources.

If your course has optional discussions or assignments, take advantage of them. Read the additional articles or videos and check your professor’s announcements and tips. All of these resources are there to help you succeed, but they don’t work if you don’t use them.

Ask for Help When You Need It

Online programs are designed for independent and self-motivated students, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. Most online learning platforms have general discussion areas or question-and-answer forums for students to ask questions about the concepts or materials.

Professors also provide contact information for students who may need additional help with their assignments or feedback. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you’re struggling with the course material or encounter a barrier.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Your course will come with learning objectives, but it’s good to set goals for yourself and check in on your progress to stay accountable. Online learning requires a commitment to the learning experience, so you’re responsible for your own time management, reading, and assignments.

If you struggle to hold yourself accountable, pair up with a classmate or ask a friend or family member to check in on your deadlines. When you have to answer to someone else for work you didn’t complete or late assignments, it’s not as easy to push things off when life gets in the way.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

There are numerous benefits to learning online. With self-paced online learning, you don’t have to miss out on time with family or struggle to keep up with work because of an inconvenient course schedule and commute.

Your coursework is important and serious, but don’t forget to have some fun with the experience. There may be times when the work is stressful or tedious but come up with creative ways to make it more engaging. Set timed challenges for yourself, test your knowledge of the concepts by asking yourself questions, and reward yourself when you complete your assignment.

Ready to Start Your Online Learning Experience?

Online learning is certainly convenient but adjusting to the challenges and nuances may take some planning and preparation. Now that you have these online learning tips for success, it’s time to put it to action!

Sophia Learning offers self-paced courses that are available on-demand, from anywhere, so you can knock out your gen ed courses and work toward your degree. See what online learning success looks like – start a free trial today!

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Discounts that can help as you go back to school

It’s back-to-school season for many students. As you focus on your studies, schedule and the supplies you’ll need, it’s helpful to figure out what discounts might be available. From computers and subscriptions to notebooks and writing implements and other essentials, now is a great time to assess where you can save. 

In addition to saving with Sophia, here are some helpful discounts at a variety of academia-related companies: This is not a statement of endorsement of these products or offers. Offers may have seperate terms and conditions and expiration dates.

  • Apple: Save on a new Mac or iPad with Apple education pricing. Available to current and newly accepted college students and their parents, as well as faculty, staff and homeschool teachers of all grade levels. 
  • Samsung: Shop on Samsung.com and save on mobile devices, wearables, audio, home entertainment and home appliances. 
  • Staples: Take advantage of savings on select school supplies, home office furniture, printers, paper and a variety of other useful items. 
  • Best Buy: Explore discounts on select tablets, headphones, TVs, monitors, laptops, coffee makers and more. 
  • HelloFresh: Get student benefits from 15% off for 52 deliveries plus free shipping on the first box through this food delivery service. 
  • Fjallraven: Receive free shipping on all orders over $75 and save on backpacks and other useful gear.
  • ThriftBooks: Save on a wide selection of used books that can be helpful for many classes, particularly English and literature. 

Join Sophia to save on your gen ed courses.

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How Sophia Helped Me Save Time and Money: A Student Success Story

When Purdue University senior Madison Roelike* first heard of Sophia Learning in late 2019, she was intrigued by the idea of taking convenient and affordable college-level courses that could help her work toward her bachelor of science in business administration.

Madison was first drawn in by the concept and the accessible design of Sophia’s website, but she continued to take courses with Sophia long after her free trial period ended because Sophia delivered on its promise of convenient, high-quality learning. 

*Actual Sophia student who agreed to appear in Sophia promotional materials

23 Credits Transferred 

Because Purdue is a university partner with Sophia, all of the Sophia courses Madison took were accepted as transfer credit toward her business major, general education requirements, or electives. According to Madison, this straightforward partnership “has helped me tremendously.” 

During her free trial with Sophia, Madison tried the business course Developing Effective Teams and the communication course The Essentials of Managing Conflict, both of which are recommended by the American Council on Education (“ACE”) to be worth 1 credit.

Then, during quarantine and beyond, she took advantage of many of Sophia’s other courses, focusing particularly on the business courses that would help with her major. Madison completed Introduction to Business, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Project Management, and, most recently, Sophia’s new Principles of Finance course. She has also taken courses for her own personal enjoyment and learning, including Visual Communications and Introduction to Ethics. Each of these was evaluated by ACE to be worth 3 transfer credits.

Total, these nine courses have resulted in 23 credits transferred to Purdue University, which Madison says has “definitely helped save some money,” on her journey toward graduation.

Convenient Online Learning

Madison is no stranger to online learning. She takes her classes with Purdue online and also took advantage of online learning opportunities when she was in high school. But she found that Sophia offered a convenience and accessibility unlike what she has experienced elsewhere. “I wasn’t getting lost in the readings like I sometimes find myself doing [when] reading a textbook,” she says. She enjoyed the more straightforward lessons, which were easy for her to access anywhere she had her phone or laptop. 

“While I would take notes on the lesson plans, I also felt like the questions on the milestones and tests were not [convoluted],” she says, noting how these tests allow students to use critical thinking skills to apply the knowledge they have gained rather than asking them to simply memorize information. This provided an academic challenge while still developing needed skills for future success.

For this reason, Madison feels that Sohia’s courses offer a helpful entry point for students who are new to online learning or have had difficulties with it in the past. The setup, process, accessibility, and value of the courses led to one of her smoothest experiences with online learning. “Overall the knowledge I’ve received has helped a lot,” she says.

Q&A with Madison Roelike

Q: What Did You Like Best About the Courses You Took with Sophia?

A: I like how accessible it is. I feel like with some of the alternative-credit options, it can get really, really expensive, and there are a lot of limits on how much you can take and in what amount of time. But with Sophia, I’ve always loved it just because of the accessibility and [usability]. ... I love the whole experience of it with how you have the lesson plans, [low-key] homework, and then you move on to the milestones—the tests—and then you have a cumulative final-type test at the end. I found myself staying really engaged throughout the whole process, which sometimes doesn’t happen—it can be really hard to stay engaged in online school.

Q: How did Sophia’s Courses Prepare You For Your Career or Helped You in Your Course of Study?

A: The biggest [course for me] was the Project Management course. That one didn’t transfer toward my major—it was more of an elective credit. But I was really surprised by the information in those lesson plans. I have applied [things I learned in that class] to work and my schooling at Purdue. … That one had a lot of information that has helped me in even human resources classes that I’ve taken at Purdue.

Q: What Advice Would You Give to Others Interested in Taking Courses with Sophia?

A: I recommend it 100 percent. Especially if the reason they are taking classes is for alternative credit and your school partners [with Sophia] or is more likely to accept the credit—it’s a great avenue for general credits especially.

I also think that—while this didn’t really apply to me as I had already picked my major—it is a great avenue if you are unsure about what you’re wanting to major in. I love the variety of classes; you have everything from psychology to art history to business, accounting, economics … so many different options. [Sophia] provides a lot of great introductory classes ... it gives a little bit of an insight of what [you could be interested in] without paying the full price of going to college and then switching your major later on—you could be out thousands and thousands. I think the overall variety is amazing.

As Madison prepares for her expected graduation date of May 2022, she is using the critical thinking and outside-the-box strategizing skills she gained through her Sophia coursework to succeed in her part-time work as a mortgage specialist with US Bank. She’s grateful that Sophia has been a part of her journey to graduation—but she does have one regret. “I only wish I could have found it sooner!”

Learn more about Sophia and start your free trial today.

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Courses & Development

What to Expect In an A&P Online Course

Anatomy and physiology (A&P) is one of the core courses for a range of health-related fields, including nursing. It’s one of the most important foundational courses to learn the concepts that underpin medicine, human development, and the diagnosis and treatment of disease. 

Still, no matter how passionate they are about nursing, many nursing students are anxious about A&P and its difficulty. Find out what you’ll learn in A&P, what to expect from the course, and how you can maximize your success. 

What Is Anatomy and Physiology? 

Anatomy and physiology are two studies in the life sciences. Anatomy refers to the internal and external structures of the body and how they relate to each other, while physiology refers to the study of how those structures function. 

The anatomy and physiology courses for nursing cover a basic introduction to the broad study of the two disciplines, but they each have branches that cover more advanced and detailed information. 

For example, anatomy includes both gross anatomy, the study of body structures that can be seen without magnification, and microscopic anatomy or histology, which covers the study of the smallest structures of the body. Physiology has branches as well, including cell physiology, endocrinology, exercise physiology, and clinical physiology, some of which may be part of your more advanced nursing studies. 

What Do You Learn in Anatomy and Physiology? 

Anatomy and physiology approach two aspects of studying the human body. 

The anatomy portion deals with the structural organization of an organism, which includes the musculoskeletal, nervous, circulatory, immune, respiratory, digestive, and reproductive systems. It also includes the study of anatomy on a microscopic level with organ and tissue cells. 

Physiology covers the principal organ systems as well, but it focuses more on the functions of the cells and organs in biological systems instead of their structure. It may cover the broad study of physiology or a narrower focus, such as the digestive or cardiovascular system. 

For example, something you may take away from the course is an understanding of how cells develop, how muscle groups are used in different sports, or how a disease moves through the body. 

What to Expect in an A&P Online Course 

A&P online courses include all the information you would receive in cohort (in-person) learning, but you’ll experience it all virtually. These courses comprise lectures, quizzes, assignments, exams, and a lab portion to build laboratory skills. 

  • Some of the skills you’ll develop in the course include: 
  • Defining the systems that provide protection and support for the body 
  • Understanding how muscle tissue and the muscular system support movement and stability 
  • Generalizing the chemical, cellular, and tissue levels and their function in the body 
  • Summarizing how the nervous system regulates, integrates, and controls the body 

Typically, labs are a very hands-on part of science learning, but technology allows that experience to be recreated online with virtual lab tools, video conferencing, discussion boards, and proctored exams. 

The lab portion of A&P may include: 

  • Understanding science labs, the scientific method, and writing lab reports 
  • Demonstrating lab safety and processes 
  • Analyzing cell types and muscle tissue types in functional groups 
  • Demonstrating osmosis in hypotonic and hypertonic solutions 
  • Examining the functions and components of the central and peripheral nervous systems 

Is Anatomy and Physiology Hard? 

For many nursing students, anatomy and physiology is one of the toughest prerequisite classes. It encompasses a lot of information and requires strong memorization skills, because A&P will form the foundation you will build upon to learn more advanced information about the human body and its function. 

Anatomy and physiology may be hard, but it’s not impossible. With strong study skills and a commitment to learning, you can succeed in this course. 

How to Study for Anatomy and Physiology 

Does this information seem overwhelming? Anatomy and physiology can be a challenging course that you need to succeed in as a prerequisite for the nursing program, but robust study strategies can help you pass your course with flying colors. 

Here are some study tips to ensure your success: 

Break the Information Down to Manageable Sections 

Part of the challenge of anatomy and physiology is the sheer volume of information the course covers. Keep up with your reading, and instead of reading a whole chapter at once, break it up into smaller sections. Make sure you fully grasp the concept before moving forward, as this course uses scaffolding learning – it all builds on the concepts you learned previously. 

Test Yourself Along the Way 

Most texts and course modules have review tools to self-evaluate your understanding of the concepts and knowledge. Test yourself regularly and note which concepts felt shaky to you. That’s an opportunity to go back through and review the information again or ask your instructor for more guidance. 

Seek Help from Your Instructor or Peers 

Whether online or in person, your instructor and peers are an asset in your learning experience. If you feel that you’re not grasping the material, talk to your classmates and go over the concepts together. You could also reach out to your instructor and ask for clarification. 

Understand Your Learning Style 

Anatomy and physiology uses a lot of memorization, diagrams, and unfamiliar terms, such as names that have origins in Latin or Greek, all of which you will have to learn. You will need to know your learning style and how you study best to succeed. For some, flashcards are the best way to go over terms and concepts to retain them. For others, mnemonic devices to memorize the bones or muscle groups are effective. 

Don’t Get Discouraged 

If you’re struggling in a section, try not to get discouraged. You may excel at memorizing the names of bones and muscles while struggling in more conceptual sections like the function of the respiratory system. You will need to use a range of skill sets to succeed in anatomy and physiology, so try not to be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t all come easily to you. Keep studying and looking toward the finish line. 

Ready to Get Started? 

Curious about what’s in store with anatomy and physiology? You can check out our A&P course at Sophia or start a free trial to jump right in.  

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5 College-Level Math Courses You Can Take with Sophia

If you think math is hard, you’re not alone. Many people lack confidence in their math abilities. But with Sophia, you have the space and flexibility to grow your math skills on your own terms. Sophia puts you in control of your learning thanks to a self-paced online platform, an innovative teaching approach, and tutoring support in some courses.

No matter what career you pursue, you’ll use math more than you might expect. Math can also help you with situations in your own life—like understanding how a bank account earns interest or interpreting the statistics of your favorite sports team. Plus, math courses are a common bachelor’s degree requirement. That’s why Sophia offers a range of college-level math courses to build your skills and help you earn general education credits.

What Math Courses Can You Take at Sophia? 

Sophia offers self-paced college-level math courses that can help you expand your knowledge and make progress toward a degree. Choose from our growing list of course options: 

  • Introduction to College Mathematics. See how math can help you understand the world in a new way. Get hands-on with real numbers, linear equations, logarithmic functions, probability and statistics. By the end of the course, you should be able to solve basic arithmetic equations and apply math concepts to real-world situations such as financial transactions.  
  • College Algebra. Using scenario-based activities inspired by real-world situations, you’ll learn about linear, non-linear and other mathematical functions that include algebraic, graphic, and numeric properties. You’ll also apply mathematical concepts to algebraic expressions, quadratic equations and more.  
  • Calculus I. Learn the fundamental concepts of calculus by reviewing precalculus topics and diving into calculus concepts such as limits and continuity, interpretations and applications of the derivative, and techniques of integration. You’ll also apply what you’ve learned by writing equations of lines and circles, analyzing and graphing combinations of functions, and calculating higher order derivatives. 
  • Introduction to Statistics. Learn the basics of statistics including core principles, research methodologies, data analysis and hypothesis testing. Explore key concepts in statistical reasoning, see how data is represented in real-world examples, and learn to apply statistical thinking to real-life scenarios.  
  • Foundations of Statistics. Learn the fundamentals of statistics and prepare yourself for college-level statistics courses. Explore concepts like variation, correlation, probability, and statistical analysis. With your newfound stats skills, you can evaluate statistical methods, interpret statistics, and calculate probability.  

Growing your math skills is a smart move for your career, your general education requirements, and your life. Sophia gives you convenient and affordable options to build college-level math skills while crossing general education requirements off your list. Begin your free Sophia trial, which allows access throught the first assessment, and see for yourself. 

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Ten Online English and Communications Courses Designed to Transfer

Improve your writing, speaking, researching and editing skills with Sophia’s online English and communications courses. They’re designed to let you learn at your own pace – anytime, anywhere.  

On average, Sophia students take 33 days to complete an English and communications course. 

Even if you are not an English major, you may still need to take a couple English and communications courses to meet common general education requirements. Plus, you'll be honing on key writing and communications skills that can help you in your personal and professional life.  

Which Courses Are Right For You? 

Our ten current English and communication courses cover a range of topics. Try one or try them all. These courses are designed to build and improve your English and communication skills, they are not ESL courses.  

  • Communication at Work: Explore what makes for impactful written and verbal workplace communications. 
  • Conflict Resolution: Dive into the elements of conflict resolution and how to apply them to work and life. 
  • Discover the Writer in You: This course takes you through the writing process, from brainstorming, prewriting, and drafting all the way to revising, editing, and proofreading. If you have previously taken English Composition I, you do not need to enroll in this course. 
  • Sophia's English Composition I: Learn the tools to become a better writer and a more thoughtful reader. 
  • English Composition II: Designed to build upon the concepts taught in English Composition I, refine your knowledge of research techniques for academic writing. 
  • Foundations of English Composition: Hone your writing skills and learn to communicate more effectively. 
  • Public Speaking: This course takes you through all of the stages of developing a speech, from preparation to rehearsal to presentation. 
  • The Essentials of Managing Conflict: Gain foundational knowledge about managing and resolving conflict in your personal and professional life. 
  • The Power of Persuasion: Explore how persuasive writing strengthens important professional skills including communication, problem solving, and innovation skills. 
  • Visual Communications: Discover the principles of design and what makes visual communication such a powerful tool in getting a message across. 

Reach Your Goals with Online English and Communications Courses 

From their laptops, tablets or phones, Sophia students have successfully completed more than 80,000 online English and communications courses.

Learn more about your options for taking online English courses with Sophia.

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3 Reasons Students Love Sophia’s Online Business Courses

Whether you’re seeking online courses for your business degree or hoping to knock out a gen ed, Sophia’s online business courses can help save you time and money.

Here’s what you can expect when you choose to take a business course with Sophia: 

Learn the Ins and Outs of Business at Your Own Pace

Sophia’s online business courses are self-paced, which means you can complete them in the time that is most convenient for you. Some students prefer a slow and steady approach, while others appreciate the opportunity to work through lessons more quickly if they are already familiar with the concepts.

On average, Sophia students take 26 days to complete a business course. 

Not a business major? Chances are you’ll still need to take a few business courses. Many other fields of study incorporate aspects of business learning, including marketing, communications, economics, political science, human resources management, and entrepreneurship. Plus business courses may be a common general education requirement.

Complete Your Business Courses at an Affordable Rate

Sophia doesn’t charge you per course. Instead, we offer a flexible subscription fee of $99 per month that will grant you access to all of our ACE recommended online business courses. You can take up to two courses at a time and work your way through as many as your schedule allows each month. 

So, how does this compare to the cost of taking business courses through your accredited college or university? While tuition costs vary based on the state, institution type, and whether you’re billed in-state or out-of-state tuition, the Education Data Initiative has done a lot of research on the average cost per credit hour at two- and four-year institutions. Check out their latest report or review your school’s tuition fees for a cost analysis. And don’t forget to factor in cost savings on things like books and supplies, room and board, and student loan interest rates.

Take Your Business Learning Anywhere You Go

Our user-friendly business courses are completely on demand, which means you don’t need to commit to taking them at any one time or in any one location. All you need is access to a laptop, tablet, or smart phone. Want to knock out some college-level courses when you’re away from campus on a holiday break? Have a gap in your weekly course schedule? Sophia can help you maximize your time by tackling convenient, college-level business courses that may be transferred to your college or university for general education credit. 

Which Courses Are Right For You?

Our eight current business courses cover a range of fundamental topics. Here’s what you’ll learn from each of them:

  • Accounting: This fundamental course covers the basics of accounting that are necessary to run a sole proprietorship, including bookkeeping and preparing financial reports, 
  • Business Law: This course is one of Sophia’s newest and will introduce you to the key laws that govern businesses, the fundamentals of liability, the role of contracts, and property law.
  • College Readiness: This practical course is designed to help orient you to the college experience and develop strategies for success in your academic and personal life so you can reach your collegiate and professional goals.
  • Developing Effective Teams: This is Sophia’s shortest business course; ACE recommends it is worth 1.0 semester credits. But it’s packed with valuable information about the characteristics of high-performing teams and the skills and strategies needed to build them.
  • Introduction to Business: This popular course will teach you about the environment of business, the science of marketing, investing, and human resources management—and how these concepts apply to companies of all sizes, including entrepreneurial endeavors.
  • Principles of Finance: This fundamental course covers the basics of finance that are necessary to operate a business, including financial statements, capital management, and financial planning.
  • Principles of Management: This course focuses on the main functions of management: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. 
  • Project Management: This course is one of Sophia’s newest and will introduce you to the life cycle of managing a project, including the skills and planning needed to ensure each project’s success.

Sophia students have successfully completed more than 34,000 online business courses. We’re proud to have been a part of helping so many learners reach their academic goals.

Learn more about your options for taking business courses online with Sophia.

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The Sophia Experience

Sophia Honored as One of Newsweek’s “America’s Top Online Learning Providers for 2024”

Online learning, whether as a new student or a returning student, can be overwhelming. Choosing the right institution and program is a big decision and investment, but platforms like Sophia are hoping to make access to higher education less daunting. 

And now, we’ve been named one of Newsweek’sAmerica’s Top Online Colleges and America’s Top Online Learning Providers 2024.” Sophia earned a five-star rating – the highest possible ranking – demonstrating our commitment to providing quality education options to the students who need them most. 

For Dr. Shawna Thayer, CEO of Sophia, the award validates our mission and gets us closer to our goal of making a college degree within reach. 

“At Sophia, we strive to remove some of the barriers to higher education and provide accessible, affordable education options to assist students in their pursuit of a degree or professional development,” said Thayer. 

“It’s an honor to be recognized for our efforts. Our goal has been to support our students with an intuitive, high-quality, online learning platform that helps students at any stage of their education journey.  We’re very proud of the integrated experience we’ve created for our students, and earning a spot in the ‘Top Online Learning Platforms’ is a wonderful acknowledgement of our efforts.” 

What Is Newsweek’s “Top Colleges and Top Online Learning Providers” Award? 

Newsweek, a revered staple of American media and journalism for over 80 years, is a trusted source for information and rankings for universities and colleges as students navigate higher education. 

Now in its third consecutive year, Newsweek’s “America’s Top Colleges and Top Online Learning Providers” is a collaboration between the publication and Statista, the respected global data firm. Rankings are based on a survey of over 9,000 online learners and internal research for a comprehensive overview. 

In 2024, Newsweek evaluated and ranked 200 colleges and universities that offer online undergraduate and graduate programs. Each awarded institution has been given a star rating for comparison. 

For “Top Online Learning Providers,” Newsweek evaluated and selected 50 esteemed organizations that provide online courses and certificate and non-certificate programs to help aspiring students reach their personal and professional goals. These organizations are given a star rating for comparison and valuable data to assist with the decision-making process. 

How Are Schools and Learning Platforms Evaluated? 

The ratings and rankings for Newsweek are evaluated with support by Statista, which surveyed more than 9,000 online students. They were asked to identify their schools or online learning platforms, then share their experiences by rating institutions according to the following criteria: 

  • Organization 
  • Support 
  • Cost 
  • Reputation 
  • Success 
  • Practical relevance 
  • Satisfaction 
  • Likelihood to recommend the institution to others 

All colleges, universities, and platforms received star awards. Institutions needed a minimum rating to receive an award, with five stars showing an aggregate score that surpasses the median of all recognized institutions. 

About Sophia 

Sophia is an online learning platform that allows students to get started or continue their education – no matter the stage in their journey. Our affordable and flexible college-level general education courses are ACE®-recommended for college credit. 

Since our start, Sophia has helped students complete over 500,000 courses, earning more than 1.5M+ credits and saving over $500 million tuition dollars!* For more information about Sophia, visit Sophia.org.  

*Savings based on average annual tuition at in-state, 4-year institutions, as reported by IPEDS, 2020." 

Sophia Learning is a subsidiary of Strategic Education, Inc.   

Continue Your Path to Higher Education 

Ready to take the next step? See for yourself why we were named one of the top providers by signing up for a free trial today – no credit card required! 

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Introducing Degree Pathways Partnership with Houston Community College and University of Phoenix

Today’s educational landscape offers a number of opportunities for non-traditional and independent learners, including transfer credits and self-paced course options. The downside, however, is that students may not know what courses to take to help with their chosen degree path. 

To help, Houston Community College and the University of Phoenix partnered to develop new degree pathways and assist students in planning and optimizing their educational journey. 

The Value of Degree Pathways 

Sophia and institutions like Houston Community College and University of Phoenix are designed to help students access education more affordably and save time and money on their degree. Students can take equivalent gen ed courses at a lower cost – often on a schedule that works for them – and prepare to transfer to a four-year institution. 

While some gen ed courses can be applied to virtually any degree as part of core learning, planning gen eds strategically may offer an advantage to students to get their degree faster (and possibly cheaper). However, students can be on their own in determining which courses they should be taking to get the most value out of their experience. 

Houston Community College, the University of Phoenix, and Sophia worked together to develop and improve degree pathways. With a linear path, students understand exactly what courses will transfer into which programs, increase awareness about the benefits of transfer courses, and support students with their degree plans. 

Degree pathways address this issue by packaging courses to help them plan their linear academic journey and take the most important courses in the right order. This is designed to enable seamless academic progression and a streamlined transfer process that promotes higher completion rates. Students have affordable options with transfer pathways to not only save time and money but reduce the likelihood of credit loss and wasted coursework. 

For example, students can begin their education at Houston Community College, and with the help from Sophia to complete gen ed courses they can graduate with an associates degree before transferring to a four-year institution like the University of Phoenix. 

Together, these schools and Sophia are removing barriers for adult learners, enhancing educational accessibility, and helping students realize their education and career goals. 

What Degrees Are Available with Degree Pathways? 

The current degree pathways include Bachelor of Science in Management (BSM), Bachelor of Science and Information Technology (BSIT), and Bachelor of Science in Health Management (BSHM) from University of Phoenix. 

Students can now follow a clear, defined transfer credit pathway for these degrees, complete gen ed coursework at Sophia and Houston Community College, and transfer into University of Phoenix to become part of the school’s career-focused alumni.   

From collaboration with Houston Community College, Sophia offers gen ed courses as part of this degree pathway. Gen ed courses like humanities, college-level math, and foundational science courses may be part of these timely, structured, and seamless pathways to prepare for the degree programs at University of Phoenix. 

Students have the option to enroll in Houston Community College full- or part-time, supplement coursework with self-paced Sophia courses, maximize their summer learning, and approach their education with more flexibility and control. 

If you’re interested in learning more about these pathways, you can download the curricula from Houston Community College and the University of Phoenix

While these pathways have been rigorously developed to assist students, it’s important to talk to your advisor or reach out to our Sophia learning coaches to discuss your education plans. 

Explore the Degree Pathways! 

At Sophia, we’re excited to be a part of this program to enhance educational accessibility and provide more meaningful experiences to students. For more information on the degree pathways and our partnership with these institutions, check out these details from Houston Community College and University of Phoenix

*Students who complete Sophia courses and seek HCC transfer credit for such courses must (I) be enrolled at HCC as students in good standing and (II) meet course and program requirements. HCC will then award transfer credit under these conditions. 

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National Transfer Student Week: Everything You Need to Know

Students transfer colleges for several reasons, from financial challenges to changes in majors to job changes. While there are excellent opportunities as a transfer student, the process is not without its challenges in financial aid, maximizing transfer credits, and staying on track to graduate. 

With National Transfer Student Week upon us, let’s take a look at how transfer students can create a smooth transfer process and hit the ground running at a new school. 

What Is National Transfer Student Week? 

The National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS) has declared the third week of October as National Transfer Student Week. This week celebrates transfer students and their advocates who helped them navigate the transition from one institution to another and highlights the common struggles and successes. 

This year, National Transfer Student Week falls from October 16 to 20 with the theme of Full Steam Ahead. The transfer process is lengthy and includes some barriers along the way, but the goal of Full Steam Ahead is to clear the path and provide tools and support to empower students in their transfer journey. 

How Hard Is It to Transfer Colleges? 

While transferring colleges offers new opportunities, it can come with barriers and obstacles for the student, including: 

New Responsibilities 

Transfer students may struggle to balance their academic workload with personal responsibilities, such as work or family obligations. It’s important to prioritize tasks, create a schedule to balance responsibilities, and build a strong support system of academic advisors, family, and friends. 

Financial Aid and Scholarships 

Navigating financial aid and scholarships can be stressful and frustrating. Students can connect with the financial aid office to explore what options are available, apply for financial aid, understand important deadlines, and research scholarship opportunities. 

New Environments 

Transferring to a new school may mean a new living environment, whether that’s a dorm, off-campus housing, or at home, as well as new academic rigor, courses, and disciplinary policies. Schools offer resources to enable student success, including the housing office, orientation, academic advisors, and peer support. 

Transfer Credits 

A transfer student may have challenges transferring credits and fulfilling degree requirements at a new school. In some cases, it’s caused by a delay in the decision to transfer or errors in the process. When this happens, it could negatively impact the available courses. It’s important to meet with academic advisors, review transfer credit policies, and understand degree requirements to ensure you’re on track to graduate. 

Things to Consider When Transferring 

Though transferring schools comes with some unique challenges, the process isn’t too different from applying to college as a first-year student. Here’s what to consider as a transfer student: 

Meeting with Your Academic Advisor 

Your academic advisor is your greatest asset in facilitating a smooth transition from your current school to your new school. They’re invested in your success, so be sure to ask questions about the transfer process and get more insight into whether that move is right for you. 

Another benefit of speaking to your advisor is to learn how to transfer college credits. Your advisor can help you fill out the correct forms, request transcripts, and provide information about transfer agreements the school has with other institutions. 

Evaluating Learning Environments 

Transferring schools is a big change. In addition to adjusting to the new course structure and school culture, you may have a dramatic shift in the learning environment. There are generally two types of learning environments: 

On-Campus 

In-person learning is still a common choice for many students. With this option, you can attend part- or full-time and choose from the institution’s available programs, typically within certain degree tracks. Most, if not all, of those courses will be in person according to a set schedule. 

There are benefits to in-person attendance, such as interacting with peers and professors in person. For some students, on-campus courses are the best option to stay on track with a structured program and accessible campus resources. 

Online 

Online education is growing in popularity. Depending on the structure, online courses may offer more flexibility for self-starters and allow students to balance their day-to-day responsibilities without neglecting coursework. Traditional colleges often offer similar degree tracks and schedules as on-campus courses, simulating the in-person experience with class participation forums, video chats, and interactive course materials. 

For students with a tight schedule, online courses are often easier to align with your routine – but they’re no less rigorous. The online environment requires organization and focus to stay on task and keep up with coursework. 

Creating a Plan 

One of the biggest concerns for transfer students is whether their college credits will transfer to their new institution. Typically, this process is easier between schools with articulation agreements, which facilitate college credit transfers, but the ultimate decision to accept or reject transfer credits lies with the institution receiving them. 

It’s generally simpler to transfer credits from lower-level courses than specialized major-specific courses. Direct course equivalency is more common with gen ed or core courses, which may count toward to your gen eds or as a general elective. 

If some of your courses don’t transfer, it can be more difficult to satisfy the credits you need in your schedule. Classes can fill up quickly, leaving you at a disadvantage with strategically planning your college path

Your advisor is a good resource to help you determine what options you have to prepare for the transfer, such as taking gen ed courses with a platform like Sophia in advance. 

Get Support with Sophia 

If you’re running into barriers with your transfer credits or with getting the courses you need into your schedule, Sophia can help you fill gaps in your schedule. With over 60 college-level courses designed to transfer, you can complete your gen ed courses to save time and money and stay on track with your degree. 

Sophia also helps with prerequisites for your degree-specific courses to ensure you can maximize your course schedule, especially if you’re struggling to get into the courses you need when you need them. 

Ready to get ahead pre-transfer? Explore our courses and start a free trial with Sophia! 

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University of the People and Sophia Announce Partnership to Provide Low-cost Educational Alternatives

The Sophia Learning team is proud to announce a new partnership with the University of the People (UoPeople) to provide UoPeople students with an affordable option to complete online general education courses. UoPeople’s 126,000 students will have immediate access to Sophia’s catalog of courses for $99 per month, and this partnership will help ensure Sophia courses are seamlessly transferred to UoPeople to help students complete an associate or bachelor’s degree.

About the Partnership

“With a partnership focused on offering low-cost educational alternatives, Sophia students can continue with their studies at UoPeople and earn their undergraduate degree from a quality, accredited online institution tuition-free,” said UoPeople founder and President Shai Reshef. UoPeople students can take advantage of Sophia’s subscription model of on-demand learning to increase their choices of flexible and affordable learning options. “This innovative pathway to earning a college credential at an affordable cost is the future of higher education.”

 

UoPeople is the first non-profit, tuition-free, American, accredited online university. Since its founding in 2009, UoPeople has significantly expanded both its academic programs and diverse student body. Today, the university enrolls more than 126,000 students from over 200 countries and territories. UoPeople was founded on the belief that quality education must be accessible and affordable for all. In particular, the university strives to offer programs to marginalized communities and regions around the world, and more than 16,500 of its students are refugees.

 

“I am excited to welcome University of the People to Sophia’s growing list of impressive university partners,” said Dr. Shawna Thayer, CEO of Sophia. “Our mission at Sophia is to provide accessible, affordable general education options to all – especially those in need – and to partner with another organization whose mission is so aligned with ours is inspiring.”

 

Sophia will offer UoPeople students access to more than 50 high-quality, college-level courses through an affordable monthly subscription that includes learning coaches and integrated course materials. Students can move through courses at their own speed, and Sophia courses are recommended for college credit by the American Council on Education. UoPeople students can take as many Sophia courses in a month as they wish – on their own time – and can be actively enrolled in two courses at a time.

About Sophia 

Sophia is an online learning platform that allows students at any stage of their higher education journey to get started on or continue their education by taking affordable and flexible college-level general education courses that are ACE®-recommended for college credit. Sophia students have completed more than 250,000 courses, earning more than 750,000 credits and saving more than $200 million dollars. For more information about Sophia, visit Sophia.org. Sophia Learning is a subsidiary of Strategic Education, Inc.

About University of the People

University of the People (UoPeople) is the first non-profit, tuition-free, American, accredited online university. Currently there are over 126,000 students from more than 200 countries and territories. Designed to open access to higher education globally, UoPeople helps qualified high school graduates overcome financial, geographic, political, and personal constraints keeping them from collegiate studies. The university offers associate and bachelor’s degree programs in business administration, computer science, and health science, as well as MBA, M.Ed. and MSIT programs. Graduates of UoPeople can be found working at such companies as Deloitte, Amazon, Apple, Pfizer, Google, Microsoft and IBM. UoPeople collaborates with Harvard Business School Online, New York University, McGill University, and the University of Edinburgh and has been supported by foundations such as the Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation and Hewlett Foundation. Learn more at www.uopeople.edu.

Interested in learning more about our exciting new partnership? 

Head to the dedicated UofPeople partnership page to learn about which courses transfer and get started today!

 

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What Is It Like to Take Online Classes at Sophia?

Whether you’re just starting your degree, returning to school after a break, or looking to accelerate your degree program, taking online courses for college credits is a great way to knock out your general education credits.

Sophia Learning offers a range of self-paced, college-level general education courses that may transfer to other institutions. You can complete your gen ed courses online, at your leisure, to save time and money on your degree.

What’s it like to take online transferable college-level courses at Sophia? Let’s find out!

Getting Started

Starting your education journey at Sophia couldn’t be easier. Start by signing up for a free trial to become a member, which gives you access to the first challenge of your chosen course.

After the trial, you can choose the membership option that works best for you, including one-, four-, and 12-month options. Once you have a membership, you’ll get access to 50+ on-demand courses that cover a range of general education subjects. All courses are included in your membership, and you’re welcome to take as many as you like during your membership period (with a two-course limit at one time).

Sophia courses are transferable to partner colleges and universities, as well as hundreds of additional institutions that reviewed Sophia courses for credit. However, it’s important to confirm that your courses will transfer to your chosen institution. 

Sophia Courses

Sophia courses are designed to be self-paced, so you can start at any time and work through the material at the speed you’re most comfortable. There are no formal classes to attend or weekly assignments on deadlines.

Each course consists of Challenges, Milestones, and Touchstones:

Challenges

Sophia courses use a problem-based learning model with real-world scenarios to enhance critical thinking. Each Challenge has an average of 5-10 practical problems to solve.

You have multiple attempts to solve the problems, and you may stop and start as you wish to continue learning and improve your score. All Challenge questions must be attempted at least once to advance to the Milestone.

Milestones

Milestones test your understanding of the course concepts with 20-30 questions. You will have a set time limit to complete the Milestones, which is displayed on the Course Dashboard.

While there is no minimum score required for individual Milestones, they contribute to your overall course average. Milestones carry a weight three times that of Challenges for your final score. You will have an opportunity to retake each Milestone once, as well as a Practice option to check your preparedness before taking the scored version.

The Final Milestone is offered after you complete all the Challenges and Milestones. One-unit courses and some other courses may not have a Final Milestone. You may need to verify your identity with a photo ID before taking the Final Milestone.

Touchstones

In some courses, Touchstones are used to apply mastery of concepts. These are project-based assessments with a deliverable, which is submitted for manual grading and originality. All Touchstone submissions must be original and unique to the course, rather than repurposed from other courses.

You can work on Touchstones at any time, but you have to pass the Unit Milestone before you can submit the Touchstone for grading. You must earn at least 50% overall on each touchstone to pass, but that grade also contributes to your course average. If you fail a Touchstone, you can resubmit it once for a better score.

To recieve a Sophia transcript:

  • Complete Challenges by attempting the questions

  • Achieve an average score of 70% or better across all Challenges, Milestones, and Touchstones

  • Complete each Touchstone with a score of at least 50%

Online Lab Components and Courses

Sophia also has brand-new lab components to accompany lecture courses. Like on-campus learning, having lab work creates a more robust journey into the natural sciences for a firm grasp of the scientific method and real-world relevance.

Labs are available for Human Biology and Introduction to Chemistry. All labs are performed online without the need for specialized science equipment. To meet the requirement, you will need to write lab reports and answer quiz questions pertaining to the information in the course.

With a Sophia subscription, you are only permitted to be active in two courses at one time. Because labs are used in conjunction with the course lectures, taking a science course with a lab reaches the two-course limit.

Other Sophia Learning Pathway Benefits

We’re invested in your success with our courses. Our learning environment has an array of tools to support your educational experience, including:

  • Learning Coaches via a Live Chat feature

  • A Progress Bar with a recommended schedule to complete your course

  • Score indicators for real-time feedback and your current score

  • A View Report page with detailed activity and progress indicators

  • Third-party tutoring options for select courses from Pearson SmarThinking

Transferring Courses

A transfer credit represents a course you’ve successfully completed at Sophia that is applied at another school. Earning general education credits is a great way to accelerate your degree program – and save some money in the process. Sophia partners with 40 colleges and universities, and over 1,000 institutions have reviewed Sophia courses.

Once you complete a course successfully, you can request an official transcript through Parchment or Credly for ACE transcripts. Most Sophia partner institutions have automated transcription.

Always contact your advisor or registrar to be sure a Sophia course will transfer for college-level credit at your chosen institution. Our Learning Coaches can also help you determine which courses are ideal for your program or how to send your Sophia transcript.

Let’s Get Started!

Are you ready to accelerate your learning experience with Sophia Learning? Take the first step by exploring our courses, browsing partner schools, or signing up for a free trial!

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How to transfer your Sophia credits

Sophia Learning offers students an opportunity to complete college-level courses that may then be transferred for credit at their college or university. But how does a college-credit transfer work? What happens after you complete a course with Sophia, and how can you ensure your completed coursework will be accepted for credit? 

The answer primarily depends on whether or not your school is one of Sophia’s college and university partners. Here’s what this means for you. 

If Your School Is Partnered with Sophia . . . 

We’ve partnered with over 40 colleges and universities that have agreed to accept transfer credits from Sophia. If your school is on our list of partners, you may not need to complete any additional steps to ensure your completed Sophia coursework is accepted for transfer credit at your school. For most partner universities, your transcript is submitted automatically once you successfully complete a course, and you will receive an email confirming the details of your transferred credits. 

If Your School Is Not Partnered with Sophia . . . 

First and foremost, it’s important that you check with your school’s registrar or with your college advisor to determine transfer eligibility before enrolling in a course. But you certainly don’t need to be enrolled at a partner school to earn credits. In fact, more than 290 schools have reviewed transcripts from Sophia. 

Once you successfully complete a course, you will receive an email with instructions on how to access your transcript via Parchment. The process is as simple as creating a Parchment account, following the guided steps to order a transcript, and paying a small delivery fee to have the transcript sent to your school.  

If It’s Been a While Since You Took a Sophia Course . . . 

Students who transfer schools, take time off, or take Sophia courses prior to enrolling in an accredited program may wonder: Do college credits expire? And how long are college credits good for? Good news: the courses you take with Sophia do not expire and may be transferred to your college or university at any time. It is still important for students to check with their university registrar to ensure that there are no timing restrictions.  

The process for doing so is similar to the steps outlined above. Simply contact us, and we will send you links to Parchment so you can access your official Sophia transcript and request it to be transferred to your school. 

Our mission is to help make education more accessible and affordable for students, which is why we strive to make the process for transferring Sophia credits as clear-cut as possible. Students love that our transfer process, like our courses, is straightforward, and schools love that our 40+ college-level courses are ACE® recommended. That’s why Sophia courses have been accepted for credit at hundreds of colleges and universities. 

Learn more about transferring credits with Sophia. 

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3 Reasons You Should Sign Up for Sophia’s Free Trial

At Sophia Learning, we believe you should always try before you buy. That’s why we offer one free trial to any student interested in taking an online college-level course with us. All you need to do to start your free trial with Sophia is create an account by providing your first name, last name, and email address—no credit card required.

But then what? What happens once you’re in? Why do we think you’ll love the opportunity to give Sophia a test run? Here are the top three benefits to signing up for a free trial:

1. Take All the Time You Need

Unlike many other trials, you don’t have to complete your free trial with Sophia in 14 days or on any kind of limited time frame. We know life gets busy, so we won’t limit your time or access to our courses. You just won’t be able to move past the first unit of any course until you sign up to pay your $99 monthly membership fee.

This allows you to try out courses whenever it’s convenient for you and may offer valuable insights about the amount of time it will take you to complete the lessons. It also allows you the opportunity to contact your school’s registrar and confirm whether Sophia’s ACE recommended courses meet their requirements for transfer credit.

2. Find a Course That’s Right for You

Just like we don’t limit your time frame to take the free trial, we also don’t limit the number of courses you can try out. That’s right: you can try all of Sophia’s 40+ on-demand college-level courses for free.

We know you’ll enjoy exploring Sophia’s unique and intuitive course room structure, trying out different content, and getting to know any of our course instructors before you pay a single cent. That way, when you’re ready to move past the free trial, you already know which courses will be the best fit for you.

Not sure where to start? Some of our most popular online courses include Introduction to Business, College Algebra, and Human Biology.

3. Simplify the Membership Process

Once you’ve signed up for the free trial, it’s easy to begin paying your $99 monthly subscription fee and complete your courses. Simply click begin membership in your account profile and provide a credit or debit card.

Plus, any work you complete during the free trial is saved, so you can pick up right where you left off once you become a member. After you finish a course, you’ll receive a transcript that allows you to submit your courses for transfer credit whenever you’re ready.

What’s the catch? There isn’t one! We want to set you up for success, and that means giving you the opportunity to try Sophia’s courses with no strings attached before you commit to a paid membership. 

Start your free trial today.

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Higher Education

Quickest Way to Get a Bachelor’s Degree in 2024

Getting into college and earning a degree is an exciting experience, but you may be in a hurry to finish school and get started in your career. Fortunately, there are many paths to speed up your college learning path and earn your degree faster! 

What is the quickest way to get a bachelor’s degree? From “testing out” with exams to transfer credits, here are some options to get your degree faster. 

Transfer Credits 

If you’ve taken any college-level courses with credits, transfer them! You’ve already earned those credits, whether you took college courses as a high school student or you’re returning to school after a long break, so put them to good use. Even one course will save you time and money. 

Remember, some credits will transfer as an equivalent that counts toward your degree requirements. For example, if your new program requires a science elective – and you’ve taken biology or chemistry – those may count. 

Make sure you have your transcripts and have your prospective schools review the credits you’ve earned. Speak to your new school’s admissions advisor about your transferable credits and compare your options. 

Take Exams 

Life experience can earn you some college credits if you can prove it in a test. This is common with adult learners, but even young students could have skills that allow them to “test out” of a college course for credit. There are many ways to learn a subject outside of a formal course. 

For example, if you’re a bilingual speaker, you may be able to take an exam to test out of Spanish I and satisfy a language requirement. Or maybe you have a hobby interest that can be applied to a course, such as computer programming. 

You have a few options for exams, including the College-Level Examination Preparation (CLEP) or DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST). Consider the courses you may be able to test out of and make sure your school will accept the test for credit. Note that you will need to meet the minimum score on the exam. 

You may have to pay a fee, but that’s a fraction of the cost of course tuition.   

Get College Credit with High School Courses 

If you’re still in high school, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses can give you a jump on your college courses. These courses are at the college level and prepare you for an exam, which you will need to pass to earn college credit for your work. 

Another option is dual enrollment, which is when you take college courses, taught by college professors, while in high school. These courses count toward your requirements for your high school diploma, just like AP courses, but they give you a head start on your bachelor’s degree. 

Enroll in Accelerated Programs 

Accelerated programs are exactly what they sound like – a fast-track through course material. This is a great option if you have the self-discipline and aptitude to learn course concepts at a faster pace than standard classes. 

Depending on what you plan to study, you could use an accelerated bachelor’s degree program to graduate in under four years. These programs have much heavier course loads, however, so consider your study style and whether that will be a good choice for you. 

Some accelerated programs are designed for people who are enrolled in both bachelor’s and master’s programs – and want to finish both quickly – so they can apply a few courses toward both degrees. This won’t necessarily help you speed up your bachelor’s specifically, but you’ll be ahead when it comes time for your master’s program. 

Become a Full-Time Student 

Naturally, being a full-time student is a faster path to a degree than part-time. Often, students go part-time to manage other responsibilities, such as a job or family, or to see how they adjust to the rigors of college by taking it slow.   

Keep in mind that for some schools, a full-time courseload is a path to finish a degree in about four years. Part-time students may take five years, or possibly longer, to finish a bachelor’s degree. 

Think about how much time you can realistically devote to your coursework. If you think a full-time schedule will be too demanding and your schoolwork or personal responsibilities will suffer, it’s best to stay part time and double up on courses when it’s feasible. It’s better to take longer and come out with good grades and a firm grasp of the material than rush through it just to finish faster. 

Get a General Studies Degree 

If you’re not sure what degree you want, and you’ve built up a lot of random college credits over the years, a general studies degree may be the ideal choice for you. Pursuing general studies will allow you to maximize your transferable credits, since these degrees have a wider variety of free electives than more focused degree programs. 

This is an ideal option for students who have explored a lot of different subject areas and interests to see what works best for them. You may find your career fit later, but in the interim, general studies develops valuable transferable career skills like critical thinking, written and verbal communication, and interpersonal skills. 

Use Online Learning Options 

Online learning platforms like Sophia offer low-cost courses that are transferable to many colleges across the country, including a long list of partner universities. Most of the courses offered at Sophia are general education courses, which are required for every bachelor’s degree program. You could even start taking courses in high school. 

There are also some prerequisites that you can take toward specific degrees, such as science courses for nursing school and foundational business courses for a degree in business administration or business management. 

Best of all, they’re self-paced, so you can work through the material at the speed that works best for you. For example, if you took a high school public speaking course, you can use that knowledge to your advantage to move quickly through the material with Sophia. 

While Sophia can’t get you a full bachelor’s degree faster, it can help you accelerate your progress toward your degree with gen ed courses. 

Ready to Take the Next Step? 

Your four-year degree may not have to take four years! Whether you use one of these methods or combine them, some strategic planning will allow you to fast-track your bachelor’s degree and get started on your career. Explore Sophia courses or start your free trial today! 

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Your Guide to Online Nursing Prerequisites

Nursing is – and always has been – an in-demand field. If you’re planning to study nursing, a lot of academic preparation goes into the process, including prerequisite classes to give you the skills to manage the challenges of the advanced nursing courses. 

While many colleges and universities offer nursing programs, you can take some prerequisites at local schools or online to save money, enjoy a more flexible schedule, or get them out of the way early. 

Learn more about nursing prerequisites, what to expect, and the benefits of taking them in more flexible formats to increase your success. 

What Are Common Nursing Prerequisites? 

Prospective nursing students must take prerequisites before enrolling in a program or taking advanced nursing courses. These courses are designed to build your foundational skills to ensure you have the knowledge you need to succeed in challenging, nursing-specific classes, such as math and science courses. Most programs require a C or better in prerequisites to transition into advanced courses. 

The prerequisites vary by program, but they often include courses like: 

Intermediate Algebra 

This course covers common algebra concepts like functions, expressions, and quadratic equations. Most of the math applications in this course emphasize the real-world applications for algebra, which are important for understanding math in science and medicine courses. 

Biology 

Naturally, sciences like biology are essential for nursing and understanding concepts like metabolism, cell structure, biochemistry, and genetics. This course also introduces the scientific method and enhances scientific literacy with both lecture and lab sessions. 

Human Anatomy and Physiology 

Anatomy and physiology is another foundational course for advanced nursing courses for obvious reasons. The course covers human anatomy and physiological function, including body systems and anatomical structure. There are typically two courses – A&P I and A&P II. 

Introduction to Developmental Psychology 

Nursing involves people of all ages. Developmental psychology covers concepts related to how people grow physically, emotionally, and cognitively, as well as how the social environment and cultures shape their experience. This course is necessary for advanced courses on human development. 

Microbiology 

Nurses assist in treating disease. Microbiology, which is the study of the biology of microscopic organisms like viruses, bacteria, algae, fungi, slime molds, and protozoa, is essential to understanding how these microorganisms infect the body and cause disease. 

Chemistry 

Chemistry is vital to nursing because it helps nurses understand the human body at a cellular level, as well as the structures and properties of ions, atoms, and molecules. It’s also important for understanding lab values, disease properties, and how medications work in the body. 

Is There an Order to Take Prerequisites? 

Because prerequisites are intended to prepare you for success in related advanced courses, they’re typically taken earlier in your academic experience. You will be expected to know a lot of the information and concepts from prerequisites in order to succeed in higher-level courses as well. 

While there’s no particular order for some prerequisites – as long as you take them before your advanced coursework – you may benefit from choosing them strategically. For example, taking algebra before your chemistry or biology courses prepares you for some of the ways math is used in the sciences. Naturally, courses with levels, such as A&P I and A&P II, are intended to be taken in order. 

Common Challenges with Nursing Prerequisites 

Balancing Coursework and Responsibilities 

One of the most common challenges that students face in demanding programs like nursing experience is maintaining the balance between their studies and personal responsibilities. These two aspects of your life influence each other – both positively and negatively – so you need to learn time-management skills to succeed. 

Getting Overwhelmed 

The practical phase of nursing school can be demanding, and many students become overwhelmed. The same can happen with the prerequisites, especially if you’re taking a full course load to accelerate your program. 

Challenging Coursework 

Though they’re prerequisites and not high-level courses, some students struggle with different nursing prerequisites based on their aptitude. For example, you may have a hard time with the math prerequisites if you aren’t great at math. That said, some nursing students struggle with anatomy and physiology and organic chemistry, which are challenging courses overall. 

Tips and Tricks to Ace Your Nursing Courses 

  • Use your prerequisite time to learn time-management and stress-management skills. The practical phase of nursing school is famously demanding and can lead many students to feel overwhelmed, so building these skills early will serve you well as you advance in your academic program. 
  • Understand your learning style. People learn differently, so it’s important to understand the reading, studying, and learning techniques that work best for you. This will not only serve you in your prerequisites, but it will set you up for success as you take on more difficult – and more relevant – courses for your nursing career. 
  • Schedule time for your coursework. Nursing school can be a bit of a marathon, so you will need to plan around your coursework to ensure that your studies don’t suffer alongside your work responsibilities, social life, and other obligations. Set time in your schedule to finish your coursework early, ensuring that you have time to get help if you need it and have some flexibility to manage your other tasks. 
  • If you find yourself struggling with the course, reach out for help. Your advisor or learning coach is there to help you succeed, so don’t be afraid to have a conversation early in the course to learn about the resources available to you. In addition, if you expect that a course may be difficult for you, try to balance it with easier courses or give yourself more time with a self-paced course format to ensure you get the concepts. 

Where Can I Take My Prerequisites for Nursing Online? 

Many colleges and universities offer online prerequisite courses, including some of the science classes that require labs. You could also take nursing prerequisites online at Sophia with self-paced courses that you can complete whenever and wherever it works best for you. 

There are many benefits to taking courses online, including better schedule flexibility and access to online resources. You also have the option to take courses before committing to a nursing degree program, so you can be sure that it’s the right choice. You may also save some time and money in the process. 

Ready to take the first step? Explore our science courses today or start your free trial! 

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How to Find Motivation When a College Subject Doesn’t Interest You

No matter how much you love to learn, it’s likely that you’ll come across subjects that you find dry or boring. Everyone has unique interests, but as a college student, you have to take a range of courses and maintain a high level of academic performance. 

So, what can you do if your course in a particular subject puts you to sleep? You could just try to push through completing it, but you gain more from your academic experience if you learn to like your courses. Here are some tips to ignite your interest in a boring subject. 

Find a Seed of Motivation 

The first step to building passion for a subject you don’t like is to find a connection between the subject and your reason for learning it. For example, this course may be a prerequisite for the course you really want to take, but it’s a hurdle you need to overcome. 

Think about where you are – possibly a new student early in your degree program – and where you want to be when you’re finished with your degree. It may seem a long way off, but you have to think of it as a journey. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated. 

Focus Intently with the Pomodoro Technique 

The Pomodoro Technique is an effective time-management tool that can help you stay focused, become more productive, and most importantly with a boring class, avoid procrastination. The concept behind the Pomodoro Technique is dividing larger, more time-consuming tasks into smaller, more manageable efforts. 

To use the Pomodoro Technique, you simply set a timer and complete focused, high-effort work for 25 minutes. Once that time is up, take a five-minute break. You repeat this process for three cycles before taking a 20-minute break. These short blocks of maximum effort with short breaks in between may decrease the friction of getting started and can help you sustain high levels of focus over long periods. 

Minimize Distractions 

Have you ever watched a show or movie and found yourself scrolling on your phone or having your mind wander? The same thing can happen when you’re studying, especially if you aren’t interested in the subject. 

It’s easy to get distracted, and you may even be subconsciously looking for something else to capture your attention as an “excuse” to stop studying. Turn off your phone’s notifications, including your email and social media notifications, and commit to uninterrupted studying for that time. Everything can wait until you take a break. 

Pair Up with Someone Passionate About the Topic 

Your course may be boring to you, but it may not be to someone else. Everyone has their own passions, some that may include the subjects that others find painfully boring or dry, and they’re the ones you want to talk to. 

Pairing up with classmates or discussing the topic with someone who’s passionate about it can not only deepen your understanding, but they may offer a new perspective that sparks your interest in the subject. And even if you don’t come out of the course with a newfound passion, you may drum up enough interest to excel come finals. 

Gamify Your Learning 

Video games, online games, and game apps are popular for a reason. The way they’re designed using challenges and rewards creates an engaging experience that motivates people to win – and that same concept can work for your classes. 

The gamification of learning applies some of these concepts to your studies, including milestones, rewards, and leaderboards that make studying more fun – no matter how bored you are with the subject. 

Here are some ways to add gamification to your studies: 

  • Create instant feedback: Use practice quizzes or flashcards to reward yourself points when you get answers right. 
  • Make it an actual game: Play your favorite board game but replace the game questions or cards with course-related questions. You have to get them right to advance in the game. 
  • Team up with peers: Get together in a group and act out scenarios to get a real-world perspective. For example, you and your peers can take on the personas of different philosophers and discuss each other’s views as your chosen persona. 
  • Wager on knowledge: Whether on your own or with peers, place bets on correct answers and turn studying into some lighthearted competition. 
  • Connect lessons to real-world problems: Games use quests and puzzles to encourage gameplay. Consider your assigned reading, practice quizzes, and written assignments a series of missions that you want to complete. If you don’t get it right the first time, you have more “lives.” 

Seek Out Supplemental Learning 

Sometimes, courses are boring because of how the information is presented, not the information itself. There are plenty of additional resources that you can use to enhance your learning on a particular subject, such as documentaries and video series on YouTube.  

Be sure to explore a few different options. You never know if someone else’s teaching style will jive better with the way you learn. For example, many students struggle with the dry, abstract nature of math, but there are numerous YouTube mathematicians that amassed a following by making math fun and easily digestible. 

Choose a Focus That Does Interest You 

Subject areas can be diverse and multifaceted. Just because you don’t like one course focus doesn’t mean you’ll be bored by the entire subject.  For example, maybe you don’t like the humanities, but Critical Thinking or Introduction to Ethics can spark your interest. 

Similarly, some students find business courses boring, but a course in Personal Finance has a lot of practical information you can use in real life and gets you closer to your required courses. The same can be true of English and communication courses, which might be more interesting if you take a course like Visual Communications to learn about design. 

Develop Your Intellectual Curiosity 

No matter how much you love to learn, it’s likely that you’ll come across courses that you find dry or boring. Everyone has unique interests, but as a college student, you have to take a range of courses and maintain a high level of academic performance. 

Get Excited About New Topics 

In school and in life, not everything can be exciting all the time. You’ll come across subjects and courses that don’t hold your interest, work with projects or clients you don’t enjoy in your job, and deal with mundane day-to-day tasks. But becoming a better learner will help you not just with boring subjects, but gaining the ability to develop new skills and passions that will serve you in your career. 

Ready to get started on your educational journey? Start your free trial at Sophia and explore our courses

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Are Gen Ed Courses Filler? No, Here’s Why

You’re just starting college, looking over your course requirements and the college course catalog to choose your first semester’s classes. You can’t wait to dive into the subjects for your major and build the foundation for your career. 

Unfortunately, your advisor informs you that you have a certain number of requirements to meet before you can earn your degree or even get into your degree-specific courses. You may be wondering why you have to take these unrelated “filler” courses, how they serve your major, and what you have to gain from them. 

Are gen ed courses filler? No, not at all. In fact, your gen ed courses are what help define your bachelor’s degree and college-level education. Let’s take a deeper look at this topic. 

What Are General Education Courses? 

General education courses are a range of classes in specific categories that meet educational criteria. Typically, these courses include history, social sciences, natural sciences, math, English, arts and humanities, and foreign languages. 

These courses are usually taken in the first two years of a four-year degree program and may encompass about a third to a half of the total degree credits. While there are exceptions, it’s recommended that you complete some or all of your gen ed credits before you start working on the core requirements for your major. 

Why Are General Education Courses Required? 

There are several reasons that colleges and universities include general education courses, and it’s not just to fill out your schedule, charge more tuition, or make a degree take longer. 

The original US college curriculum had its origins in medieval universities of England. This classical education was based on the seven liberal arts (grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music), as well as the three philosophies (natural, moral, and mental). 

The purpose of these varied studies was to learn the thought and method of scholasticism and instill respect for the authorities of the discipline. Though universities and colleges would eventually offer majors and minors to focus on a profession, a comprehensive education in the liberal arts remains. 

The purpose of maintaining the liberal arts isn’t merely because of tradition, however. While some gen ed courses will likely always be part of the curriculum, such as English composition, some of the gen ed courses may shift according to trends and values in society – such as diversity and inclusion. 

Gen ed courses also set colleges and universities apart from professional and vocational trading. With the latter, the curriculum is focused on specialized knowledge to perform a specific job. With the former, the education is a blend of comprehensive fields and broad knowledge with a specialty in one discipline. 

Benefits of General Education Courses 

Build a Knowledge Base 

Virtually all colleges and universities have a set of general education requirements in a cross-section of subjects that ensure students develop a broad base of knowledge. 

While the goal of your degree program is to prepare you for that field with an advanced education, having a learning foundation in a wide range of topics – including the arts and humanities, natural sciences, and math – can help you succeed in your career. 

Enhance Communication 

Communication is essential to any career, not just the obvious choices like journalism and marketing. In the rapidly evolving, largely digital, and often multinational business environment, written and oral communication skills are some of the most important soft skills you can bring to the table. 

Most universities and colleges include some basic communication courses, such as English composition 101, public speaking, and journalism, but you can expand your knowledge even further with courses like professional writing, technical writing, grant writing, and visual communications

Improve Critical Thinking 

Part of the college experience is gaining new skills and perspectives. Critical thinking is a key part of that, which requires you look at a situation from all sides, consider the available information, and come to a sound and rational conclusion. This is more complex than simply developing opinions. 

Many gen ed courses teach and improve critical thinking skills, such as history, social sciences, political science, and math. These courses focus on analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information and learning how to navigate problems and solve them more efficiently. 

Gain Soft Skills 

When you graduate and go out to look for a job, your prospective employers will be looking at more than just your academic accomplishments and technical skills related to your field. Soft skills, also known as people skills, are a crucial part of being successful in a job role – any job role. 

Good communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, time management, and problem solving are all considered soft skills. These skills aren’t necessarily related to a specific field. Instead, they’re applicable to nearly every job. 

Gen ed courses develop a wide range of different soft skills. For example, English and literature teach communication and presenting persuasive arguments in writing. Social sciences and natural sciences enhance critical thinking, analytical skills, and scientific literacy. 

Explore Different Majors 

Gen ed courses are a good opportunity to try out different topics and subjects to see if they interest you. Some students go into college undecided on their major or choosing between a few options. 

Taking gen ed courses gives you exposure to different subjects to see if a major is really right for you – before you spend a lot of time and money on required courses. Otherwise, you may take degree-specific courses and decide you want to change your major, leaving you with courses that may not count toward your new degree. 

Ready to Start Your Educational Journey? 

Love them or hate them, gen ed courses are an important part of getting a well-rounded education, supporting your degree path, advancing your career, and honoring centuries of academic tradition. 

With the evolving landscape of higher education, you have more options than ever to complete your gen ed courses in a way – including online options like Sophia. With a convenient subscription plan, you can knock out your gen ed courses online, at your own pace, and transfer your eligible courses to a four-year program. Start your free trial and explore our courses

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Understanding the Value of Core Subjects in College

If you’re like most students, you may be wondering why certain courses are required in college, even if they’re unrelated to your degree. Why does a communications degree need life science courses? How does English Composition 101 help an engineering major? 

Contrary to popular belief, these courses aren’t designed to slow you down, pad your tuition, or waste your time. All of the core subjects and areas of study play important roles in preparing a student for college-level learning, a future graduate program, and an increasingly competitive job market. 

General Education for Foundational Learning 

Colleges may differ in what they require for core classes and electives, but all schools have general curriculum requirements that are designed to help students gain important skills. These typically include a range of courses in the arts and humanities, foreign language, English and literature, sciences, social sciences, history, and math. 

While these courses may seem irrelevant to your degree-specific courses, they build skills that will matter in your career. With competitive applicants for a job, employers aren’t just looking for job skills that come with a specific degree (which most of the applicants possess). They’re looking for the valuable soft skills that inform how you’ll perform your job and contribute to the organization, such as: 

  • Critical thinking 
  • Creativity 
  • Analytical skills 
  • Flexibility 
  • Teamwork 
  • Empathy 
  • Cultural sensitivity 
  • Civic engagement 
  • Clear communication 
  • Intellectual problem-solving 
  • Evaluating data 

Let’s take a deeper look at how each area of study develops important skill sets. 

College-Level Areas of Study 

Arts & Humanities 

The arts and humanities are central to all human cultures throughout time. Studying these subjects is key to gaining deeper intercultural understanding and laying the groundwork for an engaged life with cultural sensitivity and connections. 

The human touch is essential to the workplace in a variety of fields. The more routine work is automated, the more we need to include human judgment, critical thought, empathy, and creativity in the process – all of which is taught through arts and humanities. 

English Language & Literature 

College-level English courses and literature courses encompass a wide range of skills that are important to not just the academic experience but the transition into the workplace. These courses typically take place in the first two years and are used as an introduction to the college environment to build skills for future courses. 

English composition courses teach you how to write in an academic style that’s appropriate for virtually all college courses. They also teach research, rhetorical devices, how to construct arguments, and how to communicate ideas in writing. These skills are built upon with literature courses that develop strong critical thinking and storytelling skills. 

Foreign Language 

Studying a foreign language may improve the brain’s cognitive functions and may develop cognitive control abilities, increase nonverbal and verbal capabilities, and increase perceptual sensitivity. In addition, studying a foreign language and its nuances can strengthen existing English skills. 

Though a foreign language may not seem relevant to your degree, its study can improve opportunities after earning your bachelor’s. You may need some of these skills for work in multinational business, government, medicine, law, technology, or marketing. 

History 

For many, history is boring or irrelevant, but it must be studied because it doesn’t stay in the past. Learning about history is essential to understanding how the events of the past shaped the way things are today, and more importantly, how to avoid similar mistakes moving forward. 

History also supports academic skill building. Asking thoughtful, complex questions about historical events may enhance critical thinking and teach robust research skills, including how to evaluate primary, secondary, and tertiary sources and apply the information to a current problem. 

Math 

Math may seem irrelevant in everyday life, especially with smartphone calculators at the ready. Studying math is important for understanding our world and informing our perspective, however. Even at a lower level, math courses can develop critical thinking and quantitative analysis skills that are not only necessary for certain courses but your future career. 

Sure, not every field requires math in its day-to-day responsibilities. But even without calculations, math teaches us to think logically, identify and state a problem clearly, and develop and execute a strategy to solve it. We learn to evaluate and draw conclusions based on knowledge. 

Science 

The sciences are generally regarded as one of the most important areas of study, even for people pursuing non-science degrees. Science courses are essential for developing scientific literacy, which is the ability to identify questions and draw evidence-based conclusions. 

Science is also collaborative. Though students may not pursue the sciences and perform research that must stand up to peer reviews and scrutiny, it teaches them to work together toward a common goal and stringently – but respectfully --    vet the results from their peers. 

Social Sciences 

The social sciences encompass several disciplines, including anthropology, economics, environmental studies, psychology, and sociology. Together, these disciplines can build critical perspectives and deepen the understanding of different cultures. 

Combining elements of the study of history and sciences, social sciences also develop research skills, including analyzing sources, collecting data, and evaluating change on individual and systemic scales. In the workplace, these skills help to create more inclusive and effective organizations. 

Prepare for Core Subjects with Sophia 

Though they may not seem relevant, these courses are a key part of the college learning experience. At their core, these courses can teach you to ask questions, think about the world critically and creatively, and develop innovative skills to solve problems and become an asset to your future employer. 

Whether you have a major in mind or you’re just exploring your options, you can get a jump on your gen ed courses with Sophia. Our self-paced gen ed courses are designed to transfer and get you closer to graduation. Start a free trial and explore our courses today! 

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Take a Strategic Approach to Gen Ed Courses

General education – gen ed – courses are part of any college curriculum. They may feel like extra hoops to jump through to get to your degree but they’re designed to give you foundational knowledge and build different skills to support your academic and professional careers.

Still, it may feel like taking math, science, history, or public speaking courses are a delay and expense on your way to major-specific courses and your degree. If you're eager to complete these courses and dive into your field, there are some ways to choose your courses strategically to save time and money.

How to Choose Your Gen Ed Courses

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute 

Classes fill up early, especially for popular courses that have limited offerings. Registering early allows you to choose your courses while you have several options for time slots, so you can balance your schedule more easily.

Ideally, work with your advisor to plan your schedule a few months in advance. If you wait until the last minute, you could get stuck with a course you dread. Worse yet, you could miss out on opportunities to combine your requirements with strategic scheduling.

Balance Difficult Courses with Easier Ones

Academic burnout is a real thing, even for high achievers who are comfortable under pressure. Gen ed courses are often easier than degree-specific courses, but a packed schedule with tough major courses and gen eds or electives that take you out of your comfort zone is a setup for burnout. 

Make sure to balance your schedule with difficult courses, easier courses, and some fun courses. This will help you prioritize your study time according to workload and keep your mind fresh with varied subjects. If you want to challenge yourself with an unfamiliar course, surround it with easier courses to ensure success.

Speak to Your Advisor About Degree Requirements

Your college advisor is your asset in choosing the right gen ed courses to optimize time and tuition. Get the full list of gen ed courses you will need to take to plan things out. You will have two types of gen ed courses:

Strict requirements that you will need to take, such as English Composition 101. These are courses that are typically required at any college or university in the US. Usually, the only way you won’t need to take these courses is if you had an AP course or got a jump on your gen eds with online courses. It’s best to get these required courses out of the way early. 

Flexible gen ed courses that fit within certain subjects to complete your subject area requirements for your degree. These aren’t “free” electives with complete flexibility, but you have a choice of specific courses to satisfy your English or math requirement, for example.

Identify Your Prerequisites

Prerequisites are courses you need to take before you’re able to take other courses or higher-level courses. For example, if you need upper-level psychology courses for your major or minor, you will need to take Psychology 101.

Some prerequisites are required for your major or minor, but others may be required if you want to take a specific course for your gen ed or electives. For example, if you are set on taking a computer science course, you may need to take College Algebra. 

Pay attention to your prerequisites to get them completed early in your college career. Some of the degree-specific or upper-level courses you need to take are limited, so you don’t want to struggle with your third- or fourth-year schedule by missing a prerequisite.

Look for Opportunities to “Double Up”

With your list of gen ed courses, electives, and major and minor course requirements, you can get into the strategy. Some of these categories may overlap, giving you the option to “double up” and knock out two requirements at once.

As mentioned, prerequisites are something you want to get out of the way early, but they’re also good for doubling up. For example, if you’re pursuing a major or minor in anthropology, you will likely need courses on human origin and evolution. A prerequisite for that may be geography to understand the relationships between people and the environment, but that course could also count toward your science or social science requirement, depending on the school. 

Gen ed flexible courses and minor courses are another great opportunity to double up. These are categories that require a certain number of credit hours in a specific discipline like science, writing, or humanities, but you have freedom to choose courses within that discipline.

So, you could double up on a gen ed category that also helps your major or minor. For example, a history major may be required to complete a certain number of gen ed arts and humanities credits, so an art history course may count toward both categories.

Here’s an example of how this could work:

Say you are an English major with a business minor with a requirement for six credit hours in history, art, social science, and communication. Your major requires English Composition as a prerequisite for your degree-specific courses. 

You could set up your schedule one of two ways:

Schedule 1:

  • English Composition 
  • Art History 101
  • Sociology 101
  • Linguistics 101
  • Small Group Communication 101

Schedule 2:

  • English Composition
  • History 101
  • Introduction to Humanities 101
  • Sociology 101 
  • Public Speaking 101

With the first schedule, some of your courses may count twice, depending on the school’s requirements. For example, Art History may satisfy an art requirement and a history requirement. Linguistics could be a communication credit, but obviously benefits an English major. Small Group Communication may fulfill your public speaking requirement, but it’s also beneficial for a business minor.

Now, with Schedule 2, each gen ed requirement is covered by only one course – no more, no less. You would still need to take courses to get credits for your major, minor, and other gen ed flex categories, as well as any prerequisites. 

Naturally, not every course will perfectly align with your requirements, major, minor, and individual interests – not to mention that sometimes the schedule simply doesn’t work out. Scheduling conflicts exist, especially with courses that are popular and limited. But planning in advance helps you optimize your schedule and requirements as best as possible.

Another option is to balance your in-person courses with self-paced online gen ed courses. You won’t need to worry about classes filling up, scheduling conflicts, or balancing a lot of coursework. You can employ similar strategies to double up on requirements with online courses for transfer credits, just be sure to speak to your advisor about your transfer options and degree requirements.

Take Courses That Interest You

Choosing your gen ed courses strategically isn’t about gaming the process. While it can be helpful to double up or complete certain courses early, gen ed is also about exploring your interests and igniting intellectual curiosity. Don’t be afraid to take a course to try something new, even if another course fits better. 

Knock Out Your Gen Eds with Sophia 

Gen eds can be a great way to explore interests, learn new things, and satisfy your intellectual curiosity. But if you want to fast-track your degree program to get into the degree-specific courses you really enjoy, choosing gen eds strategically can help you double up on requirements, get prerequisites out of the way, and get your degree faster.

Ready to get started? Start your free trial at Sophia and explore our courses!

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How Affordable Online Schooling Is Changing Education (for the Better)

Higher education has had a standard format for decades – centuries even – that’s only begun to shift in the past few years. Around the same time that remote work became an option for certain careers – enabled by advanced technology for communication and collaboration – colleges and universities started to include more online learning in their curricula for distance learners. 

Now, online certificates and degree programs are available at top institutions, and just as respected as the in-person counterpart, which legitimized online learning. While there may be some skepticism remaining, schools, professors, students, and parents are seeing the practicality and advantages of online learning as a nontraditional track to a degree.   

The COVID-19 Paradigm Shift 

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, the world shut down practically overnight. Campuses had to close, disrupting millions of students’ education. Professors and students had to do their best with tools like Zoom or collaborative platforms and no real plan for how to translate their traditional learning into a remote model. 

However, some higher education institutions were able to adapt immediately and offer all of their courses virtually, thanks to already having robust online education programs. The pandemic’s challenges were a demand to innovate, which forever influenced the way education will be delivered in the post-pandemic world. 

After experiencing the benefits of online learning, more colleges and universities are making the move to offer more online learning courses, degree programs, certificate programs, and nontraditional options to suit the needs of a wide range of learners. 

For those who are looking for a path outside of the linear, conventional move from high school directly to college, the rising popularity of online education allows more students to access education to earn or finish a degree, upskill, change careers, complete a certificate, and more. Older students, working adults, students with neurodiversity, and people from different cultural or language backgrounds were no longer restricted by the common barriers. 

How Has Online Schooling Changed Education? 

Flexibility 

Though online learning can have similar formats to in-person courses, it’s generally more flexible. Courses may be asynchronous or self-paced, allowing the professor and the student to adjust the learning experience to their schedule. 

For adult learners, this opens doors to new educational opportunities. Often burdened with work, family, and financial responsibilities, going back to school used to mean giving something up. Online learning makes it possible to balance the commitment of school with other priorities. 

Accessibility 

In many ways, education has never been more accessible than it is now. Students can attend schools all over the world with online programs, relieving them of geographic boundaries and commutes. The virtual classroom is available anywhere that has a strong internet connection. 

There are also more options in terms of learning platforms, degree programs, and individual courses. Students can take general education courses for transfer credits, upskill with self-paced learning platforms, and take multiple courses at once with a subscription-based model. 

Customized Learning Experiences 

The flexibility in time and program structure with online learning allows students to adapt their learning experience to their needs and abilities – unlike traditional courses that have a set structure and pace. 

Online courses tend to be smaller than traditional classrooms, facilitating better interactions between students and peers or professors. There’s also more diverse learning materials, including images, infographics, videos, ebooks, forums, discussions, and virtual labs, for a dynamic and tailored experience. 

For students who struggle with certain topics, self-paced learning personalizes the way the information is learned and retained as well. Students can spend more time on challenging topics or courses – even repeating modules as needed – to ensure that they truly gain practical knowledge, not just a passing score. Similarly, students who have a natural aptitude for a subject or real-life experience can move through a course quickly to accelerate their degree schedule. 

Cost-Effective 

While the costs can vary, online education is often more affordable than traditional on-campus learning. There are different payment options as well, such as subscription models, installment payments, and integration with short-term loans to finance education. 

Some schools or platforms offer individual courses, so students can get a jump on their degree while they save or can explore different areas of study before committing to a full program. Then, if they need to take a break to save more before another term or semester, they can do so without losing their place in the program. 

In addition to the direct cost savings, online school can be more cost effective than attending school on a campus. School expenses aren’t just tuition, but extras like housing, meal plans, parking, on-campus amenities, and fees – all of which add up. 

Diverse Learning Formats 

Online learning is broad and encompasses diverse learning formats and types. Some universities and colleges offer synchronous online learning that mimics a classroom environment, while others embrace asynchronous online learning that lets the student set the pace. 

Some courses are taught without direct interaction with a professor, instead relying on pre-recorded videos, discussions, and interactive elements that enhance the learning experience. Courses may incorporate innovative learning features like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), lab simulations, and gamification features that make education fun and engaging. 

Students have a lot more variety in the courses themselves as well. It’s simpler for universities and colleges to set up online courses for more niche topics to expand their offerings. Some schools and learning platforms even offer courses that are just for personal development outside of a degree track, such as dog psychology, ethical hacking, music composition, and dance choreography. 

Online Learning Is the Future 

The benefits of online learning are far beyond this list, which may be why more and more students are pursuing online schools and courses over the traditional on-campus experience. While some students thrive in a classroom, online learning can be ideal for students looking for an alternative that’s affordable, convenient, and accessible. 

Interested in taking online courses for your degree? Start a free trial and explore our courses at Sophia Learning. 

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6 Benefits of Taking University Courses Online

Online learning has taken the world by storm in the past few years. People are no longer restricted by their location or schedule, opening a world of opportunities for new and returning students alike. 

Whether you’re balancing the responsibilities of your family or work, you have limited time to sit in traffic and stick to a rigid schedule, or you want a broader variety of universities to choose from all over the country (or world), here are the benefits of taking university courses online. 

1. More Flexibility 

One of the most restrictive aspects of traditional learning is sticking to a set schedule. Sometimes, courses are only available in a few time slots, making it much more challenging to fit your education into your schedule. 

For example, that core philosophy course you need to complete may only be available at 11 am on a Wednesday – right in the middle of a workweek for a typical 9-5 job. Or your required courses may only be scheduled for evenings, but that’s when you spend time with family or get the kids ready for school in the morning. 

Online courses are often asynchronous, giving you more flexibility in how you participate and complete assignments. If you’re an early riser, you can study and work on assignments before you go to work or the kids go to school. If you work second or third shift, you don’t have to disrupt your sleep schedule to attend class groggy and unfocused. The possibilities are endless. 

2. No Geographical Boundaries 

As much as college is a chance for young students to develop more independence, most stay close to home.  

Some of this is financial, as moving away to attend college can add to the overall cost. For some students, this can mean not attending at all if students live in rural areas far from any institutions. 

For adult learners returning to school, the considerations are similar. Moving away to attend school or having a long commute may not be manageable with a work schedule or family obligations – either limiting the options or preventing them from earning a degree at all. 

But without these geographic limitations, you can attend virtually any university that offers online programs for your major. Distance is no longer a consideration, so you can focus on the most cost-effective or prestigious options. Better yet, if you are pursuing an unusual major that’s only offered at a few select schools, you don’t need to uproot your whole life to achieve your goal. 

3. Often More Cost-Effective 

Total costs for school are often a consideration – if not a limitation – for students. While online courses aren’t always cheaper than in-person courses, they can be more cost-effective overall. Some colleges and universities offer online courses at a lower cost per credit hour than campus courses, saving a lot of money over the typical four to six years. 

Even if courses aren’t necessarily cheaper online than in person, there are other costs that can add to the total investment in education. On-campus learning has additional expenses for room and board, transportation, parking, campus fees, meals, and more. It all adds up, but taking courses online eliminates a lot of these added costs. 

4. Better Course Variety 

Online learning in university environments greatly expanded the options for courses that apply to your degree. It may be more difficult for universities to offer a lot of variety on a physical campus, but self-paced online courses can allow for more diverse course offerings with less administrative burden for the institution. 

This course variety gives you more options to take courses that are not only necessary for a degree but appeal to your personal interests. For example, if you don’t like science but you love animals, courses in zoology or wildlife science may be available online. Maybe you want to supplement your university experience with practical courses like career readiness or workplace communication. 

Along with more options for interesting subjects, online courses may have more variety in scheduling. Unique courses like “Feminism in Rom-Coms” or “The Golden Age of Piracy” are not only rarer than standard subjects, but they’re often waitlisted. With online courses, you may be able to sign up for a class that may have otherwise conflicted with your schedule. 

5. Increased Collaboration 

Compared to large university classrooms, online courses are more intimate and offer plenty of opportunities for students to collaborate with each other and their professor. Without in-person participation, discussions are moved to message boards, group assignments, and other collaborative forms to encourage interactions among students – though still asynchronous. 

Students may also receive more one-on-one time with their professor in online learning. They may keep office hours, but they’re also available via email or phone for more availability outside of office hours. 

6. More Personalized Education 

Traditional university courses are structured similarly, which can be a limitation – or a possible dealbreaker – for nontraditional learners. Students who are shy may find themselves shrinking in a large classroom, while more independent learners may struggle to stay on pace with the structure of a group. 

University courses with self-paced formatting offer a more personalized learning experience to adapt to each student’s needs. You can complete your coursework when you feel most productive, and in the environment you choose, whether that’s your home office or in bed during the wee hours of the morning. 

Not all university courses have self-paced online learning, but as education adapts to the demands of the public, it’s becoming more common. You can also complement traditional learning with self-paced formats for select courses, such as with gen ed courses from Sophia Learning. 

Is Taking University Courses Online Right for You? 

Have these benefits convinced you to skip the traditional classroom? Online learning isn’t for every student, but if you value flexibility, independence, and control over your educational experience, it could be the perfect fit. If you want to experience what online learning can be while completing your gen ed courses, start a free trial and explore our university partners at Sophia! 

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7 Advantages of Self-Paced Online Courses

For many, the thought of learning and education conjures images of a classroom full of students or an online program guided by a professor – cohort-based learning. This is a common learning model, but it’s not the only one available. 

Self-paced learning offers students the freedom to choose when, where, and how they want to learn. More independent than cohort-based learning, self-paced learning gives students more flexibility over their time and education experience. 

Discover 7 advantages of self-paced online courses to see if it’s right for you. 

What Is Self-Paced Online Learning? 

Self-paced learning, also known as on-demand learning, is an education style that allows students to advance through an educational program at their own pace. Though you may be part of a class with others, you progress through the course and complete the required reading and assignments at your own comfortable speed. 

Online programs are typically a self-paced model that offers on-demand course curriculum. For example, you can watch lectures, take quizzes, and complete assignments whenever you choose – whether that’s in the late evening after the kids are in bed, on the weekdays before work, or on a Sunday afternoon. 

Advantages of Self-Paced Learning 

There are many advantages to learning at your own pace, especially if you’re balancing a lot of responsibilities outside of school that make it difficult to keep to a strict schedule of lectures and exams. 

Here are some advantages of self-paced learning: 

1. Flexibility 

On-demand courses offer more flexibility than traditional learning models. If you’re struggling with a topic and need more time to review and retain the concepts, you can take your time with the course without feeling pressured by deadlines. 

Conversely, if you are already familiar with course topics – either from natural aptitude or your work experience – you don’t have to hold yourself back. You can move through the course quickly to save time. 

2. Balancing Daily Responsibilities 

Your education is a priority, but you may also have responsibilities to your family or your job (and you have to pay bills). As much as you may want to put school first, life happens and may at times push school on the backburner. 

With a traditional course format, this can cause late points or missed assignments and poor comprehension, impacting your grades and subsequent coursework. But with self-paced learning, you can manage your time more effectively to complete your assignments without neglecting other responsibilities – or vice versa. 

3. Better Retention 

Some people thrive under pressure. Others don’t. If a looming deadline makes it challenging for you to focus and organize your thoughts, despite knowing the material, self-paced learning takes the pressure off. 

When your deadlines are open-ended, you can focus better and go over material until you have a command of it. You’ll not only improve your performance, but you’ll retain the material for your future coursework and career. 

4. On-Demand Access 

Modern students have many paths to their education. Some are taking courses while still in high school, others are balancing a degree program with the responsibilities of running a home. People with thriving careers are upskilling or changing careers while balancing a busy schedule – which may include business travel or a long commute. 

With on-demand course access, you can complete lectures and assignments anywhere at any time. If you have a short work trip with a few nights in a hotel, all you need is a laptop and a strong internet connection. If you have a long commute on public transportation with Wi-Fi, you can watch course videos or assigned readings. When you’re not restricted to a classroom, the possibilities are endless. 

5. Ownership Over the Learning Experience 

With self-paced learning, you are the master of your own learning experience. You have ownership over your learning by defining what you do, when you do it, and how you study, building self-confidence and developing strong learning habits. 

Everyone learns differently, but having ownership to learning can help you identify and develop your own skills to support and enhance your learning experience, not just with mastery of one course, but throughout your degree program and in your career. 

6. Self-Assessment Tools 

Though exams and assignments may be graded by a professor or automatically, self-paced courses often have self-assessment tools that you can use to ensure you have a mastery of the concepts before those high-stakes assignments come around. 

Self-assessments can take many forms, including assignment rubrics, scripts, journal assignments, concept reviews, and practice exams. Texts also contain short ungraded quizzes or assessments to ensure you understand the foundational concepts before you build upon them. 

7. Improves Self-Reflection 

Self-paced learning can be more confident learning. As an independent learner, you are responsible for your success and are positioned to develop an internal motivation to master course concepts all on your own. You have a clear purpose of what you want to gain from your learning experience, making it more meaningful and enjoyable. 

Also, when you focus on the areas that interest you and develop your own learning skill sets, you can better identify those areas in which you struggle. With the pressure off, you can nurture your own learning without the feelings of frustration, anxiety, or boredom that often accompany courses that don’t pique your interest.  

Considering Self-Paced Learning? 

Instead of the restrictions to schedule and learning speed with a traditional format, self-paced learning puts the power in the learner’s hands to manage time, motivation, coursework, and concept mastery. If self-paced learning is the right fit for you, start a free trial at Sophia or explore our courses

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Is It Cheaper to Go to College Online? Our Expert Take:

If you’re making the decision to get a degree after high school or go back and finish your degree, you have a lot of options with traditional and online education.

While there are differences between online vs. in-person experiences, one of the biggest ones is the cost. 

Whether you’re working with your own budget or you’re worried about drowning in student debt after graduation, the cost of your education is an important factor in your decision.

Take a look at the differences in cost between online and traditional education, what you can do to save, and how to decide which is best for you. 

Traditional College

For some, the traditional college experience is part of the appeal of attending college. They share classes with fellow students, stay in a dorm, eat meals in the dining hall, and cheer for the school team – building social support as well as educational support.

There are education and career benefits as well, including opportunities to network and build relationships with people who will benefit their professional goals. These relationships are easier to cultivate in person than online.

In addition, younger college students often benefit from the structure and guidance that’s offered with in-person college. Transitioning from the strictly managed environment of high school to the more independent, self-managed college learning experience can be jarring – but these support systems are designed to cultivate independence while providing an educational safety net. 

But all of this can come with high costs. Colleges and universities factor the costs of buildings, dorms, and food into the tuition costs, often leading to extra fees for everything from meal plans to parking. There are amenities, such as access to the school fitness center or onsite lectures and events.

All traditional college doesn’t come with the same sticker price, however. It can range from small community colleges to state universities (with different in-state and out-of-state costs) to pricey private institutions like the Ivy League, all with different price points.

Many of these institutions offer financial aid to help with the costs. Often, this means lower out-of-pocket expenses for your education, especially if you combine them with federal student aid. Keep in mind, however, that student loans will need to be paid back – plus interest.

There are ways to save, though. Traditional colleges may offer summer courses – either online or in-person – that you can take to accelerate your program. You can also take core courses at a community college or online with a program like Sophia Learning, which often have much lower costs for tuition, books, and other fees. 

If you choose this option, remember to consider the costs if you’re staying in student housing and need meal plans, transportation, or parking during the summer. You must evaluate the full costs, not just what you’ll save in tuition.

If you take courses at another school. It’s important to speak to your advisor to make sure that any transfer credits from an outside institution will be accepted.

Online College

Generally, online learning is more affordable than traditional college. You still get the same quality of education, but the lower overhead costs mean that tuition is lower. In addition, you won’t have added fees for housing, meal plans, transportation, parking, or amenities, as these are all expenses you have outside of school (and expenses you’d probably have regardless). 

That said, online tuition is still a big investment that may require financial aid and out-of-pocket costs. Your biggest savings will be with all the “extras” you won’t have to pay for, all of which add to the higher tuition costs at traditional colleges and universities.

But keep in mind that your savings come at the cost of some of the support, socializing, and networking that you get from living on or near campus and attending courses in person.

Some online colleges or courses do have hidden fees, such as technology fees or lab fees, that can inflate your tuition. It’s important to be discerning when you’re evaluating your options.

One of the biggest benefits of online college – along with generally lower tuition – is that it’s more flexible overall. Many online courses are asynchronous, so you can complete your coursework at whatever time works best for you to manage other responsibilities to work or family. 

You also have flexibility in how you complete your degree that may not be available at traditional college. You can take summer courses online or challenge courses that you already know with the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). Fewer courses means fewer terms, getting you to graduation faster (and cheaper).

Another option is to take your gen ed courses online and transfer them with programs like Sophia Learning. These courses are core requirements for a degree and equivalent to the course you’d take at a college or university, but they come at a much lower price point.  

With Sophia, a wide range of gen ed courses are available in a self-paced online format. For one subscription fee, you can take up to two courses at a time to knock out your gen eds. It’s important to check with your academic advisor at your preferred institution to ensure that your courses will transfer, however.

Evaluate True Costs 

When you’re choosing between online and traditional education, be sure to contact the financial aid offices of the schools you’re considering to understand their full cost of attendance, average degree cost, financial aid packages, and eligibility for government aid.

Compare the full dollar amounts – including all applicable fees or associated costs – to understand your financial investment. Small fees, such as student activity fees, library fees (online or on-campus), and course materials can add up quickly.

If your preferred school seems out of your budget, consider options to save with scholarships, transfer courses, CLEP, or work-experience credits. The financial aid office should be able to help you with resources and opportunities to save.

The Verdict 

Generally, online degrees can be cheaper than traditional degrees, but not always. Colleges and universities vary widely in their tuition costs, fees, and more. Be sure to conduct your own research to find the most affordable and appropriate option and save where you can, including taking online transfer courses at Sophia. Start a free trial or explore our courses!

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9 Reasons to Take Advantage of Online Summer College Courses

From kindergarten through senior year, we all look forward to the summer break for fun, relaxation, vacations, and free time. While leisure time is important, current and prospective college students are missing an opportunity to accelerate their degree program with summer courses.

Enrolling in online summer college courses can improve your college experience, save some money, and expand your knowledge – all without sacrificing your summer fun. Here are the top 9 reasons to consider online summer classes for college credit.

1. Early or On-Schedule Graduation

If your goal is to graduate early, taking pre-college summer online courses is a great way to accelerate your program. Whether you start in high school to get a jump start or take some college courses online in summer alongside your degree program, graduating early lets you get started on your career path.

If you want to graduate on time, summer courses help you knock out courses to reduce your workload throughout the year. Perhaps you had to drop some courses, took time off, or struggled in courses you have to retake. Enrolling in online summer courses helps you get back on track to graduate on your anticipated date.

2. Save Time and Money

Accelerating your graduation may save you some money. Along with tuition fees like room and board, meal plans, or the cost of commuting and parking can add up. The longer you’re in school, the more you’ll pay on top of tuition.

With summer online college courses, you can save a lot on the fees by completing courses at home and at the time that works best for you. If you’re taking online courses outside of your institution, however, be sure to check on your college or university’s transfer policy.

3. Complete Core Courses

General education, or core courses, are mandatory courses in broad fields that meet the requirements of your degree program. Sometimes, these courses can be uninspiring for students focused entirely on their major.

If that’s the case, you can knock out your general education courses or prerequisites in summer programs. You’ll not only get “boring” courses out of the way, but you’ll ensure you have the necessary qualifications to register for key courses with your preferred professor or schedule.

4. Focus on a Specific Subject

No matter how much you excel in academia, you may come up against subject areas that are a little more challenging – it happens to everyone. For example, some people have weaknesses in entire fields of study, such as math, while others may get hung up on a specific course, such as geography or organic chemistry.

If you’re struggling, balancing the challenges of one course on top of your regular course load and life’s responsibilities could feel overwhelming. With a summer course, you can focus only on that one subject to dive deep and devote your full attention, rather than splitting your studies – and mental capacity – across several classes.

5. Avoid the Summer Gap

Having a break in studies is helpful, but it could be counterproductive. The summer gap in learning can disrupt your continuity and get you out of the groove of college-level study. Then, when you return in the fall, you spend valuable time getting reacquainted with the routine.

Taking just one summer course maintains your educational continuity, so you can enter your fall semester primed for learning and retention.

6. Smaller Class Sizes

While this isn’t always the case, some summer courses have lower enrollment than they do during the fall or spring semesters. Working within a small class has many advantages, including more intimate class discussions, more engagement, better contact with your professor, and more individualized attention and support.

In addition, summer courses generally have more availability in the offseason, so you’re more likely to get the courses you want without other students competing for coveted spots. Online courses, in particular, often have more availability without the scheduling restrictions of set on-campus times.

7. Prepare for Graduate School

If you’re planning to attend graduate school, taking summer courses allows you to investigate different areas of study or get a jump on some of the graduate-level classes. For example, a summer course focused on skills related to your degree – or desirable career skills like a second language – can be helpful.

Summer courses are also helpful for students considering entrance exams, such as the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), or Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). These tests include a lot of foundational learning, which you can focus on during a summer session.

8. Earn Credentials or a Second Major or Minor

No matter your major, you can bolster your resume and career prospects with additional credentials through a supplemental undergraduate or graduate certificate to complement your degree.

You could also take classes to focus on a second major or minor without extending your anticipated graduation date. This is a great opportunity to see if your new course of study is the right choice before making a big move.

9. Take Interesting Classes

Your electives are a great way to explore topics you’re interested in that aren’t required for your degree. In most cases, you can choose from a range of electives on a broad range of topics, many of which are available for summer courses and offer a lighter and more fun learning experience.

For example, you may enjoy creative writing, photography, and music production as a hobby. Perhaps you have an interest in the origins of humanity or English literature. Maybe courses that strengthen soft skills, such as psychology or communication, would be helpful in your career. Either way, an online summer course gives you the freedom to focus on learning the course material without juggling the demands of other degree-specific courses.  

Want to Get a Jump on Learning?

Taking online summer courses is a great way to accelerate your degree program, enhance your learning, and focus your attention on one or two subjects. If you’re interested in online summer courses, we’d love to help you out! Take a look at the partner schools at Sophia Learning or start a free trial to give it a try!

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5 Huge Benefits of Taking Your Gen Eds Online

If you’re working full time, have a family, or juggling other responsibilities that may get in the way of pursuing your degree, you don’t have to put your education on hold.

All institutions have general classes for college – gen ed courses – that you will need for your degree, no matter the program. If you complete your general education courses online, you can work toward your degree without committing to a college program.

Find out the benefits of getting your gen eds online to stay on track toward completing your degree.

What Are Gen Ed Classes?

General education classes for college include courses in a broad range of disciplines, such as arts and humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics, foreign language, and more.

Following in the concept of learning as a formative and transformative experience, general education curriculum is designed to provide a foundation for future learning. Though the topics may not seem relevant to a degree program, students learn vital skills in research, communication, critical thinking, academic style and formatting, collaboration, and working independently.

Different universities have different policies to complete general education requirements for college credit, but they’re usually between 42 credits and 60 credits of the typical 120 credits needed to earn a bachelor’s degree.

While students may take gen ed courses later in their college career, most are taken during the first and second years. Earning general education credits online to fulfill your gen ed requirements is a great way to get those courses out of the way and decide if pursuing a degree is the right choice for you.

Can I Take General Education Courses Online?

Yes! Several institutions offer general education courses online. You can take the courses, often without committing to a full program, and transfer the credits to your chosen institution.

You’ll still complete your program and earn a degree that reflects your institution and program, regardless of whether your core gen ed courses were taken there or elsewhere. The courses that are required for your degree program will still be provided by your institution.

Of course, it’s best to check with your advisor or preferred institution on the credit transfer policy. Though gen ed courses are generally transferable, some institutions may not accept elective credits toward a specific degree program. Invest in the courses you’re certain will transfer. If you haven’t selected a college or university yet, look for one that allows flexible credit transfer policies.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of taking general education courses online:

1. Convenience and Flexibility

In online courses, you’re in the driver’s seat. You’ll have your assigned deadlines, then you complete your reading and assignments at your own pace. This gives you an opportunity to balance your coursework with other responsibilities, such as work or family obligations.

While different courses offer different degrees of flexibility, they’re generally more flexible than on-campus learning.

2. Experience a Trial Before Committing

Whether you’re a high school student considering college or an adult looking to finish your degree, one major benefit of completing your gen ed courses online is that you can see if college is the right choice for you.

When you apply for a degree program at a university or college, you’re making a commitment to finish it. If you’re apprehensive about whether college is your path, taking gen ed courses online can help you get a feel for what it would be like to be a full-time student, online or on campus.

Also, you can see if your self-discipline and study habits are at the level necessary for college. For some students, the adjustment from high school to college is jarring, especially if they’re returning to school after a break. “Dipping your toes in” with some gen ed courses will show you if you’re motivated and ready to put the work in.

3. Financial Savings

In some cases, taking your gen ed courses and fulfilling the general education requirements for college saves you money on your tuition without compromising your degree. Though these programs can range in price, they’re usually more cost-effective than their traditional, on-campus counterparts.

Along with saving directly on tuition, you’ll also save on a lot of the costs associated with college. On-campus students have to pay for student housing and meals. Even students who commute have to pay for parking, gas, tolls, and other transportation expenses. When you take classes from home, you’re only paying for the expenses you’d have regardless.

4. Time to Choose a Major

Making a decision about what you want to do for the rest of your life can be daunting. If you’re undecided on your major, gen ed courses give you time to explore your interests and make a decision without a gap year or losing progress toward your degree.

Gen ed courses are broad but still on a college level. As you take these courses and develop critical soft skills, you may find a passion for writing or communication, psychology, mathematics, or other fields that can guide you in your decision-making process.

5. More Transferability

Gen ed courses are similar across institutions, so these transfer credits can be simpler to transfer than specialized, upper-level courses. For basic courses like these, direct course equivalency is more common.

For example, English 101 is basically English 101, whether it’s taken online, at a community college, or at a major university. As a result, colleges and universities are often more willing to accept that course in lieu of its own.

Conversely, if you were trying to transfer an advanced math course in place of Harvard’s notorious Math 55, that’s not likely to be accepted as it has no equivalent.

In some cases, you may be able to transfer upper-level courses as electives, but it depends on the institution. Always check with admissions or your advisor about the policy for transfer credits.

Fast-Track Your Degree Program

Whether you’re unsure about college, returning to school to finish your degree, or a new student looking for ways to save money and time on your education, completing gen ed credits online offers many advantages. Learn more about gen ed courses that are designed to transfer at Sophia Learning or start your free trial to get started!

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What Is an Academic Advisor and How Can They Help Me?

Academic advisors are an essential – but often underutilized – asset in your college experience. They bring holistic support to students to navigate their higher education experience for both undergraduate and graduate students.

But like anything else, they can only help if you use them. Students often wait until they have a problem with a course or they’re running behind on registration to reach out and leverage their advising resources.

Find out why meeting with your academic advisor regularly is crucial to your journey in higher education and how you can get the most out of your experience.

What Is an Academic Advisor? 

An academic advisor is a counselor who works with students in undergraduate and graduate programs. They help students choose a major and minor, register for courses, and stay on track with the requirements to graduate with their chosen degree on their chosen timeline.

What Do Academic Advisors Do?

Academic advisors fill a lot of roles in the college experience. They have to stay apprised of the requirements of the university or college’s programs, maintain records of the students in their counsel, and keep up with course registration.

Advisors may also work with students for graduate school planning or career planning and to find opportunities for scholarships or programs that will help with their career goals. Some academic advisors have connections in the industry as well, which can support your professional growth after graduation. 

How Can an Academic Advisor Help Me?

Your academic advisor is your partner in learning and your greatest asset. Here are some ways an academic advisor can help you in your college career.

Help You Stay on Track with Your Academic Timeline

Advisors help students select, add, change, or withdraw from classes on their schedule, but they also ensure that students understand the university’s policies and procedures. 

For example, advisors track the prerequisite courses to ensure you’re taking the appropriate courses each term or semester, so you can stay on track to graduate. If you encounter problems finishing on your intended timeline, your advisor can help you navigate possible solutions.

Provide Guidance and Resources to Achieve Your Goals

Universities and colleges often have resources that students may not know about. Your advisor can help you navigate the resources available to you to ensure you achieve your goals, such as a student writing center, university library, study hours, campus clubs, or technologies.

For example, you may be able to enroll in online learning courses that you can take between semesters, giving you a chance to get ahead on your academic progress. Your advisor understands the “opportunity cost” of your education – or the cost of schooling, on-campus living, and losing time in the workforce – and how you can maximize your investment with strategic scheduling. 

Provide an Experienced Sounding Board for Decisions About Your Academic Experience

Academic advisors have experience with many students from different backgrounds, with different academic goals, and facing different challenges. They can act as an insightful sounding board for decisions about your major and minor or different classes you should take to deepen your knowledge.

If you’re not sure what to pursue in college, your academic advisor can help with that, too. They’ll help you not only understand the career path you have with different programs, but they can help you proactively prepare for opportunities following graduation.

Highlight Opportunities You May Be Missing 

Both the job market and desirable graduate programs can be competitive. Whichever your goal, your academic advisor can highlight opportunities that can position you as a strong candidate, such as apprenticeships, work-study programs, scholarships, and specific courses.

Remember, academic advisors are assigned to different programs because they understand the specific fields of study. They can guide you and help you build skills and knowledge that will complement your degree.

Offer Career Advice

One of the most notable ways an academic advisor can help – and one of the least utilized – is with career advice. Academic advisors can be invaluable for your future career and taking positive steps now that will put you in a strong position when you hit the job market. 

For example, if you develop a connection with your advisor, they can write a letter of recommendation for your graduate program or a job opportunity and provide job references. Your advisor may let you know about different career opportunities for your major that you were unaware of.

Support Your Success

Your academic advisor wants to see you succeed and prosper. Whether you’re a new student or entering a graduate program, your advisor wants to ensure you have all you need to have a positive experience and guidance for your future academic and professional career.

And the more you contribute, the more of a connection you can build. It can be difficult and overwhelming to keep up with classes, personal responsibilities, and scheduling time with an advisor, but it’s vital to your success. Building deep connections helps the advisor understand your goals and challenges to be an asset during your experience. 

How Can You Find Your Academic Advisor?

Each school has their own advising office with academic advisors for students. Typically, students are connected with an advisor upon admission, though it may change depending on the major or program.

If you’re not sure who your advisor is or how to reach them, contact your institution’s advising office by phone or email. They keep detailed records of each student and can connect you with your assigned advisor.

Leverage Your Resources 

So, how do academic advisors help students? It’s so much more than scheduling classes and checking in near graduation. There is so much more value than meets the eye with an academic advisor. They are an untapped resource, but you only get out what you put in.

Want to get the most out of your educational experience? Connect with your advisor and schedule a meeting. Our Sophia learning coaches also offer a lot of insights for students. We partner with a bunch of universities – and you might even be attending one without knowing it! Find your school to get started!

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11 Big Pros and Cons of Online Classes

Whether you’re going to college for the first time or to finish your degree, you have plenty of options with campus and online learning.

For some students, the college experience includes in-person classes and interactions. For others, online learning is a more convenient and flexible option that helps them balance day-to-day life with school.

Though we’re (obviously) big fans of online learning, we want to give you an objective look at the pros and cons of online classes compared to in-person classes so you can make an informed decision.

Online Education Pros and Cons 

There are several advantages with online learning, including:

1. Flexibility

One of the biggest advantages to online learning is that it offers more flexibility than in-person classes. Though campuses often have a few time slots for each course, you still need to follow a schedule. With asynchronous or self-paced online learning, you can complete your coursework at the time that works best for you.

For adult learners trying to balance a full- or part-time job, family life, and caring for children or family members, this flexibility is a game-changer. It also helps if you’re the type who’s most productive at odd times of the day, such as in the early morning or late at night. 

2. Time Savings

Along with the flexibility of the schedule, online learning may save you a lot of time in the process. With on-campus classes, you have to spend time commuting to school. You may also end up with some “garbage time” between classes. You don’t have time to go home or get anything done, so you’re just wasting time waiting for your next class.

With online learning, your commute is to your home study space or the local library. Without a commute, you can spend your time knocking tasks off your to-do list, such as studying, completing quizzes, or doing a load of laundry.

3. Money Savings 

The total cost of college isn’t just the tuition, textbooks, and fees. There are other costs that can add to your debt, such as campus meals, dorms, and travel expenses. When you take online classes, your living expenses and meals are on your own – and it’s money you’d spend anyway. You also save money on travel, since you don’t have a commute.

4. Self-Paced Learning

Some online courses offer self-paced programs, giving you the freedom to learn at the speed that works best for you. While these courses do have some hard deadlines, you can manage your time as you see fit.

For example, you can move through quickly if the concepts are familiar to you. If you’re struggling with a course or a module, you can take your time to ensure you really grasp the information. 

5. Accessibility

One of the biggest pros of online learning is the immediate access you have to faculty, peers, and course information. You can connect with peers on your learning platform with a chat, email your professor, and view all your course documents and resources online.

With on-campus learning, you’re restricted to the available times to meet with groups or talk to your professor. Your course resources are typically given as you go, so beyond the syllabus, you can’t prepare for what’s ahead.

6. Transferability 

Many institutions offer online courses, some of which you can transfer to your degree program at your chosen institution. This gives you control over your learning experience – you can choose the course structure that works best for you.

Some online courses are less expensive than on-campus equivalents – despite the same education quality – so you can save on your tuition with general education transfer credits. It’s important to speak with your advisor about your transfer credit options, however.

Online college isn’t perfect, however. Here are some disadvantages to online learning:

7. Lack of Individualized Attention 

Online learning platforms are advanced, but they don’t provide the same in-person interaction and attention that you get with a professor at a campus class. If you need individual attention in your learning experience, online may be challenging.

That said, online learning does offer interaction through virtual class participation. Students are required to participate using discussions, forums, or other platforms – similar to engaging in discussions in class – to facilitate engagement.

8. Internet Connectivity

Though obvious, you need a strong internet connection for online classes. These courses use a variety of virtual resources to cover course material, including videos, interactive quizzes or exams, virtual labs, and learning software. If your internet is unreliable, you could face barriers to your learning experience. 

Fortunately, there are solutions. Upgrading your internet service, replacing your router, or visiting the local library are options for connection problems. You should still expect other technology issues on occasion, such as server errors or computer glitches.

9. Distractions

On-campus classes are designed to eliminate distractions. Professors often require phones be shut off during class, the door is closed, and no one interrupts. At home, you may not have that kind of learning bubble.

Children, pets, and other members of your household can be disruptive to your learning, not to mention unexpected interruptions like mid-day deliveries. The responsibility falls on you to design a space free of distractions in your home. 

10. Must Be a Self-Starter

When it comes to online school vs. in-person pros and cons, being self-motivated is important for any college experience. College students are adults (or close to it), so professors only go so far with encouragement and motivation.

Online learning requires more self-motivation, however. Your professor won’t be checking in frequently to see how you’re progressing. It’s your responsibility to reach out if you have problems or questions.

11. Fewer Networking Opportunities 

Some institutions have a reputation for not only the quality of education but the networking opportunities. When you attend class in person, you have plenty of chances to connect with peers who may be an asset to your career future.

While online learning does offer some great networking opportunities, including virtual networking events and peer connections on social media like LinkedIn, it’s not quite as rich an opportunity as a campus community.

See the Online Learning Pros and Cons for Yourself

Whether you’re set on online learning or you’re on the fence, you can evaluate the pros and cons of online education for yourself on a trial basis with Sophia Learning. We offer a free trial with self-paced gen ed courses to get a jump on your degree. Start your free trial today! 

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11 Key Questions to Ask an Academic Advisor

When you’re attending college, your academic advisor is a key asset to navigate your institution and make a plan for your future. They act as guides to help you choose a major, stay on track to graduate, and maximize your experience.

Whether you’re a first-year student, a transfer student, or a senior looking toward graduation, there are many questions to ask an academic advisor to set yourself up for success – both in your academics and your future career.

Questions to Ask If You’re a First-Year Student

1. Should I Pursue a Minor Area of Study? 

Most colleges don’t require a minor to earn a bachelor’s degree, but the right combination of a minor and major in certain industries can help you stand out as a job candidate. Your advisor will be able to help you decide if a minor is important for your career, and if so, what minors are recommended.

2. Is an Internship Required for This Major?

In some industries, employers expect candidates to have some work experience coming into the role – and that may require an internship. Typically, you’ll see this with education and human development fields, technology, sciences, medical and veterinary fields, and architecture and applied engineering.

Your academic advisor is a valuable resource for your career planning. Because most advisors have knowledge of the area of study and the job market, they can help you determine if an internship is an important part of your career path. 

3. Are There Specific Courses I Should be Prepared For?

Some courses have a reputation for being challenging. They’re called “stumble courses.” Even the most gifted of students tend to struggle with some courses, and often the same ones. If it happens at the wrong time in your academic career – like in your senior year – it could delay your graduation.

Ask your advisor about any stumble courses you should anticipate and make a plan for when to schedule them. Then, if you do run into problems, you have time to retake the course without throwing off your anticipated graduation date.

4. Are There Opportunities Other Students Have Taken Advantage Of? 

Every college has resources for student success, whether they’re writing resources, tutoring, learning archives, or short courses that focus on academic success. Your advisor can help you learn about all the resources available to you and can share real-world recommendations from other students.

Some universities offer short courses to help first-year college students, which is a valuable networking opportunity. Students in these courses can build connections that will serve them later in their academic career, whether that’s applying for internships or getting into a graduate program. Be sure to discuss your options with your advisor.

5. Do You Suggest Taking Online Courses? Why or Why Not?

While some colleges and universities have their own online courses, others may accept credits from online learning institutions like Sophia Learning. You can tackle your general education courses at your own pace, and possibly save some money in the process. 

Ask your advisor if online courses are recommended and discuss your options to take general education courses at Sophia Learning to transfer for your degree program.

Questions to Ask If You’re a Transfer Student

6. How Are Transfer Credits Handled?

Each college has its own policy for transfer credits. Your college advisor can help you understand what credits transfer to your new school, what requirements they satisfy, and what you need to do to complete the process. You should also receive a personalized plan from your advisor. 

7. Will I Graduate on Time?

If you have a plan to graduate at a specific time after transferring, your advisor can tell you how many transfer credits you have and what you need to complete to graduate and earn your degree. You can go over your course requirements and timeline together, adjusting as needed to finish on time.

8. What Can I Expect at My New School?

Your college advisor is your touchpoint for your new school. During your first conversation, ask about what you can expect from the school and its culture. For example, is the environment really competitive or more laid-back? Because an advisor speaks with so many different students, they have a good idea of what the college experience is like at their school and how you can make the most of it. 

Questions to Ask If You’re a College Senior

9. Does My Current Plan Have Me on Track to Graduate on My Desired Date?

Your senior year is the final stretch, but the work isn’t over yet. It’s important to meet with your academic advisor early in your senior year to ensure that you’ve completed the requirements for your degree and that you’re on track to graduate on time.

If you’ve had courses you need to retake or incompletes that you haven’t resolved, they can impact your timeline and credit total for graduation. Ask your advisor if your projected courseload for your senior year will be sufficient to graduate. If it isn’t, see what you can do to stay on track for your anticipated date. 

10. Are There Accelerated Programs Leading to a Master’s Degree That I Can Take?

If you’re planning on pursuing a master’s degree, getting into an accelerated program allows you to start your coursework in your senior year while you’re completing your bachelor’s. Your academic advisor will know what options are available to you, the admission requirements, and how to set yourself up for success.

11. Are There Recommended Courses to Enhance My Resume for Employers?

Part of the college experience is preparing for your career. Some colleges and universities have opportunities for undergraduate students to apply for grants, conduct research, get published, and present findings at industry conferences. Having these experiences on your resume can make you a desirable candidate. Speaking with your advisor ensures that you can take advantage of any resume builders the school offers to help you on your career path. 

Your Advisor Is Your Key to Success

Your academic advisor is one of your greatest advantages in your college career – use them. They know what resources the school offers and how to support students at every stage of their academic experience, but you can’t get help if you don’t ask!

These questions are a guide to help you in your academic journey, and our Sophia Learning coaches are here to help our students as well. Reach out today or start a free trial!

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How Do Online Colleges Work? Our Guide

There’s not always a clear path to higher education that fits everyone’s situation. For some, balancing work and family life with school is a necessity. For others, the cost and barriers to attending a traditional on-campus college are limiting.

No matter the reason, online colleges offer a convenient, flexible solution for people who want to earn a degree – particularly adult learners.

If you’re considering starting or returning to school in an online format, you may be wondering “how do online colleges work?” There are some differences, so here’s all you need to know about online colleges and what to expect from the experience.

Can You Do College Online?

Yes! Online college is similar to a traditional learning experience – it just takes place virtually. You can find traditional college campuses that offer online courses, as well as fully online colleges that have no physical campus. Instead, students attend classes online and complete all the necessary coursework from their own computer.

Types of Online Courses

Online learning is a broad term that includes a variety of different course structures and types. The one commonality they all have is that they are taken online with your computer and internet connection.

Asynchronous Online Courses 

These types of courses don’t take place in real-time. You’re given content and assignments with a predetermined time frame to complete your assignments, including quizzes, discussions, written papers, and exams.

Typically, students interact through discussion boards, forums, or blogs. There are no assigned meeting times, just deadlines for initial posts and response posts. Students respond to each other as their schedule allows, offering a lot of flexibility for time constraints.

Synchronous Online Courses

These courses are taken online, but the instructor and all the students in the class interact simultaneously at designated times. Synchronous courses may use a webinar, video chat, audio chat, or text.

This type of learning experience mimics that of an on-campus, in-person course in a virtual environment. Students who thrive in real-time classrooms, synchronous courses allow participation for distance learners.

Hybrid Courses

Hybrid courses – also known as blended courses – are online classes that allow students to interact both in person and online. Students often attend classes together a few times during a semester while the rest is online with computer-based interaction.

Naturally, hybrid courses require you to be close to the campus location or willing to travel. It’s important to pay attention not any in-person requirements for your online learning program. 

Self-Paced Courses

Self-paced courses – also known as on-demand courses – are made up of content, lecture recordings, reading materials, and presentations that students can proceed through at their own pace.

Despite the name, self-paced courses may have a predetermined time frame or a final date in which all coursework must be completed. The rest of the assignment deadlines are often flexible, so you can complete them when you feel comfortable and prepared. It can be challenging to stay disciplined, however, so some courses have recommended assignment due dates to help you stay on track.

How Do Online Classes Work?

Now that you know some of the common setups for online colleges, here’s what you can expect for the day-to-day experience.

Logging In

As mentioned, the structure of online classes varies by type and institution. But in general, students log in to a learning management system or virtual portal to access the syllabus and course materials, view grades, monitor feedback, interact with classmates, and contact professors.

The learning platform and materials are provided, either as part of the tuition or for a separate fee, but you will need computer access, a reliable internet connection, and some common software, such as a word processor like Microsoft Word. Some courses are mobile compatible as well, so you can complete your work from anywhere with an internet connection. 

Learning Resources

Any course materials you need will be available for purchase in advance or provided for you through the learning platform. Different courses use different types of resources, including video lectures, audio recordings, presentations, a textbook, and articles. You’ll also learn through the experience of discussing the course concepts with classmates on discussion boards or forums.

Assignments

A lot of online courses have assignments with set due dates that you can submit online. They may be quizzes and exams – often timed – and writing assignments. For the latter, you will likely upload your written assignment from a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs.

Student Interactions

Because students don’t spend time in the classroom for most online learning, a lot of online programs use discussion boards, forums, blogs, groups, or chats that facilitate interactions. There may be a prompt that covers the course concepts, giving you an opportunity to share your knowledge, and respond to the insights of others.

Grading

Like traditional college, the grading for online courses is either A to F or pass/fail. They may be based on a straightforward exam or quiz, such as multiple choice or true or false questions and answers. For short answers, discussions, and written assignments, there may be a rubric that you can use to guide your assignment and understand the professor’s expectations. 

What to Know About Online College

Now that you know how online college classes work, here are some things to expect:

It’s Challenging

Online college isn’t the “easy way out.” You have to put in the work, just like a traditional college, and you need strong time management skills.

It’s Flexible

Some students have a better learning experience with online classes that offer flexibility. It’s important to consider your options and choose the right online learning structure for your needs.

There’s Teamwork Involved

Just because a course is online doesn’t mean that you won’t interact with other students. Some courses have group assignments or pair assignments. You’ll also interact with other students in discussions and chats. 

Is Online College Right for You?

If you’ve ever wondered “How do online college classes work?” and whether they’re right for you, this guide has you covered. It’s always best to ask your academic advisor if online schooling is right for you. Our learning coaches at Sophia are here to help as well.

Ready to take the first step? Start a free trial at Sophia Learning or take a look at our online university partners.

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How to Earn College Credit Online in 2023

If you want to accelerate your learning experience and earn college credits, online learning is a great option. Many programs offer courses to gain college credits toward your degree, helping you finish your program faster and save money in the process.

Whether you’re in school and looking to earn college credit online, or you’re considering pursuing online schooling as an option, here are some ways to earn college credit online in 2023 and beyond – plus some tips to get started!

College Credit Online Courses and Options 

There are many ways to earn college credits at a faster pace and prepare for your future degree path.

AP Courses

Taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school and passing the AP exam is the traditional way for students to earn college credits toward a future degree program. These courses are also available online, helping you prepare for your AP exams and get a head start on your college path.

Several focus areas are available, including art history, biology, chemistry, calculus, music theory, psychology, and English language and composition. A high school coordinator or guidance counselor can help you find the appropriate courses and register for the exams through the College Board

Accelerated Online Courses

If you want to earn college credits online quickly, you can take an accelerated online class instead of spending 16 weeks in a classroom. Accelerated college classes are often available for online degrees and have a compressed schedule, so you can fit more credits into your academic year.

Registering for accelerated courses is similar to registering for traditional or online courses, but they may have differing start dates that could impact your total credits and your financial aid eligibility. Our policy and guide is to always speak to your advisor or school registrar to see if accelerated courses are appropriate for you.

CLEP 

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is a way to earn college credit for the information you already know, at a fraction of the cost of a full course. Like AP, CLEP offers credit by examination to get three or more credits at qualifying educational institutions.

The College Board offers 24 exams on topics like chemistry, psychology, marketing, human growth and development, macroeconomics, business law, American government, and sociology.

The exams cover the topics that would be included in introductory courses on a college level, and there are over 2,000 testing locations. There are also online resources to prepare for the CLEP exam and exams with remote proctoring if you don’t have a convenient location near you. Military service members are eligible to take the CLEP exams at no cost, complete with free prep books.

Before you take CLEP exams, however, make sure the college or university where you’re enrolled or planning to apply to accepts credit for CLEP exams. Your institution’s website or the registrar’s office should offer information on CLEP exam credits. 

DSST

Similar to CLEP, the Defense Subject Standardized Test (DSST) offers credits that are widely accepted across many educational institutions. There are numerous choices, including finances, public speaking, and astronomy, and testing centers across the country.

You can practice for the test using online resources, and you may take up to three full-length tests online. But as with the CLEP, be sure to check with your registrar’s office to ensure the credits transfer to your degree program.

CPL 

Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is a versatile credit that you can earn for work or life experiences and on-the-job training that’s similar to what you would gain in the classroom. For example, a stay-at-home mom may have transferable skills in management and organization that would count as credit toward a college degree.

Always check if your college or university awards credit for prior learning, how much CPL you’re eligible for, and whether you can submit your materials online. Most schools allow around 15 hours, but some offer as many as 30 credits.

Your advisor will offer guidance for your CPL portfolio, which requires you to write about your life experiences and the competencies you’ve gained from them. It’s important to demonstrate how you’ve covered the material that you’d get from a course. Earning CPL is hard work, but it’s worth it for the credits you can earn.

Individual Online College Courses 

Whether you want to earn college credits online, want to see if online courses are right for you, or you have a demanding schedule, taking individual online courses can help you earn college credits without long-term commitment – and at a lower cost.

Depending on the institution you choose, college credits can be transferred to a degree program at a college or university. For example, platforms like Sophia Learning offer self-paced gen ed courses that transfer to partner colleges. Be sure to check with your school’s registrar to ensure your course credits will transfer.

GRE Subject Tests

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) Subject Tests assess your understanding of chemistry, physics, mathematics, or psychology. These exams may be part of an admissions process for a graduate program or for fellowship applications. 

You can register for GRE Subject Tests online or through the mail. There are testing periods in September, October, and April, and you must take the test in person. Each candidate for the test receives practice content to prepare.

University Challenge Exams

If you’re familiar with a subject, you can “test out” of a course by passing a university challenge exam. Though not all universities and colleges allow challenge exams, online or otherwise, some offer them for general education studies like arts and humanities, health sciences, legal studies, math, and sciences.

These tests are pass/fail. If you fail, you can retake it after a certain period of time, but you’ll have to pay the exam fee again. Check with your college or university to see if challenge exams are available and learn how to register. 

Start Your College Degree Path with Online Credits

Online learning is a rewarding way to continue your education and get your degree. If you want to accelerate the process, you can take online courses with Sophia Learning that are built to transfer toward your degree. Start a free trial today to see if our online learning platform can help you reach your education goals in 2023!

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13 Big Benefits of Taking Online Classes for Credit

If you’re considering pursuing your degree, you have options beyond traditional classroom learning. Online learning is increasingly popular, helping busy adults pursue their degrees and upskill in their industries while balancing the responsibilities of day-to-day life. 

There are plenty of additional advantages of online courses. Find out more about what you can expect to gain from taking online classes for credit to see if this pursuit is right for you. 

What Are the Benefits of Taking Online Courses? 

1. Flexible Learning 

Online courses are often asynchronous, giving you flexibility in when, where, and how you pursue your studies. Some online learning institutions offer self-paced learning to tailor the education experience to your needs. You can move quickly through the course to complete it quickly, or take a break when life gets too busy for your studies. When you’re ready, you can pick up where you left off. 

2. Time Savings 

In addition to flexibility with how much time you spend on your studies, one of the benefits of online courses is that you can save time in the process. Because you’re learning from the comfort of your own home, you don’t have to spend time on long commutes in busy traffic, rearrange your schedule to attend classes at a certain time, or waste valuable minutes waiting for your class to start. 

3. Cost Savings 

Though it may not always be the case, online learning can come with some cost savings. You won’t have to pay extra fees for parking or for gas to get to your classes like you would at a traditional college or university. In some instances, your textbooks may be available in digital formats, which are often cheaper than physical textbooks. 

4. More Free Time 

Whether you learn in person or online, you have to devote time to your coursework. But if you’re taking classes online, you don’t have to stick to a schedule of classes at specific – and often inconvenient – times. You can also tackle multiple courses without worrying about schedule conflicts you might run into with in-person classes. 

5. More Course Variety 

There’s a wealth of courses available across different colleges and universities, but often, online courses offer more variety than traditional options. You can enroll in the courses you want to take without worrying about scheduling or convenience. There are many different degree programs and courses of study with online learning, including certificates, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees. 

6. Minimal Life Disruption

If you have to choose between working to pay your bills and attending school to further your career, it’s possible for school to be on hold indefinitely. Traditional classrooms have scheduled times, making it difficult to stick to a work schedule while working toward your degree. Virtual learning gives you the flexibility to continue working while pursuing your degree and advancing your career. 

7. Improved Time Management Skills 

When you take online classes for college credit, you have to be good at managing your time and maintaining your focus. Without a professor to check up on you and make sure you’re on track, you need to hold yourself accountable and manage your time wisely. In doing so, you could gain valuable time management skills that will help you in virtually any career you pursue. 

8. Personalized Learning Experience

If you feel that a traditional learning environment is too restrictive for you, online classes may be just the experience you need. Online students have opportunities to participate in online discussions or forums in a way that may be less intimidating than participating in a live, crowded classroom. You also have the option to work where you’re most comfortable and engage with your coursework at the times of day that are best for you. 

9. More Individual Attention

Sooner or later, every student encounters a concept or assignment that may be challenging. And some people don’t feel comfortable or secure enough to ask questions in front of the class, whether it’s because of anxiety or shyness. With online learning, you have direct access to your professor for questions, feedback, or clarity on your coursework. 

10. Diverse Student Experiences

Any college experience exposes you to people with different backgrounds and from other areas, but in a large university, you may not have an opportunity to get to know them well. Online courses facilitate interactions with other students through forums, discussion boards, and chat rooms, so you get the type of interaction with your peers that may not be practical in an on-campus environment. 

11. More Professional Skills 

Aside from the skills you gain that are directly related to your career, you could gain indispensable skills that might apply to your workplace. With more hybrid and remote work opportunities becoming available, the skills you might gain from learning online could transfer to a remote workplace, such as engaging with others remotely, collaborating with a team online, and improving written communication. 

12. More Independence 

If you’re an independent learner, the freedom of online learning could be the key to your success. While some students thrive with frequent check-ins from a professor, many thrive with the freedom to manage their time and complete their work as they please. If that fits you, online courses are a great option. 

13. Better Learning Experiences 

Online courses encourage independent learning more than traditional classrooms. While you will have guidance from a professor, you’re responsible for finding your own path to learning and staying disciplined. Your professors are there to help if you get stuck, but beyond that, you can learn a lot about your own learning style and how you can best comprehend and retain the information in your course. As you navigate the experience, you could gain useful insights that you can use to enhance your learning in the future, whether in a class, at work, or in life. 

Is Online Learning Right for You? 

If the benefits of online classes seem like the right fit for you, there’s no better time to start than right now. Sophia Learning offers a range of self-paced courses focusing on general education, so you can take online classes designed to transfer toward your degree. Start a free trial at Sophia.org, or reach out to our learning coaches to see if Sophia is right for you! 

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7 tips for going back to school as an adult

If you’re an adult returning to college, you have many factors to take into consideration. From picking a school that best meets your needs to discussing your options with colleagues, family and friends, there are several choices to make. 

It’s also worth figuring out how many semesters it will take to finish your degree. If you’re looking for ways to complete your program fast, Sophia may be able to help you knock our your gen ed requirements.

Once enrolled in your program, you’ll need to look for ways to fit coursework into your daily schedule while also focusing on your long-term goals. These tips are designed to help make this process easier. 

1. Pick a school that meets your needs 

The first step in going back to school is to figure out which one has the academic programs you’re interested in. Which ones will help support your career goals? What areas of study are you most excited to explore? Does the school accept transfer credits from previous courses you’ve taken? 

Because there are so many schools to choose from, it’s also helpful to take into account financial aid and how much enrolling will actually cost you. Finally, look into whether coursework is offered online in a flexible format that lets you learn when you have the time. Schools like Sophia offer content on your phone, tablet or laptop – on demand so you can learn when it’s easiest. 

2. Discuss your options with colleagues, family and friends 

Check with your social circles to see if those closest to you have any insights. It’s possible some of them have been considering their own educational goals and have even started to take steps toward enrolling in a program. Comparing notes with them can be a huge help. 

Some of your peers may have even completed degrees of their own. If so, they’ll be able to help you understand how day-to-day coursework has gone for them. In understanding their experiences, you might learn that pursuing a degree can be easier than you initially thought. 

3. Talk to your supervisor

If you’re currently employed, it’s helpful to talk to your supervisor or manager about your plans. There may be financial support available. Many organizations have partnerships with colleges and universities that offer ways to save, including tuition discounts and scholarships. Your supervisor can explain what you’re eligible for or help you get in touch with HR specialists who can provide that information. 

Your supervisor may also be able to offer advice on how you can fit school into your current schedule. By working together, you can come up with a plan for how you’ll go back to school in a way that won’t interfere with your job responsibilities. 

4. Reach out to an academic advisor/learning coach 

When weighing your options, it can help to talk to someone who works for the school you’re interested in. These advisors can help walk you through the process of enrolling and answer any questions you have.

If you’re concerned about how going back to school will work with your current schedule and responsibilities, advisors can help. They can show you how it’s possible to work, study and also have a life outside of your job and academic program. 

At Sophia, for example, there’s a dedicated team of learning coaches who you can contact via phone, email or chat. They’re always on hand to provide information and help. 

5. Look for ways to fit coursework into your daily schedule 

After you’ve chosen your school and enrolled, it’s time to focus on your coursework. This can be a challenge, depending on the other things going on in your life. If you’re employed, you have the daily demands of your job. If you have dependents living with you, they may require attention throughout the week. 

It can be helpful to figure out when you have blocks of time to dedicate to your program. Are you able to get up a bit earlier than usual in order to study? Can you learn during your lunch break? Is there time on the weekends to fit in some reading and assignments? It’s possible there are places in your schedule that can accommodate some of this work. 

6. Take time to recharge 

As with any undertaking, you’ll need to step back from your studies from time to time. Mental health breaks can help clear away stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. To unwind, take a walk, listen to your favorite music or podcast, get coffee with friends or watch a movie or TV show. Anything that shifts your attention from your studies to something that’s more relaxing can help you maintain energy and focus. 

As you relax, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Your degree program is a process and you’re undertaking it to get closer to achieving your career goals. Keeping this in mind can help you stay motivated. 

7. Look ahead to additional courses/next steps 

As you complete a few courses, it’s important to look ahead to what your next steps will be. What are the next courses you’ll take? Which ones do you need to complete your degree? By approaching your education with a mindset that asks, “what’s next?” you can stay on task throughout your program. 

As you get close to completing your degree, it’s helpful to reassess your career goals. Look for positions that you’ll be qualified for and apply when possible. Consider if you want to continue with your education: going from a bachelor’s degree program to a master’s, for example. 

One of the best things about getting an education is that it can open up more possibilities for professional and personal growth. Exploring these possibilities is part of the process of going back to school, continuing with your program and even finishing it. 

Ready to go back to school? Join Sophia to save on gen ed courses today.

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Online vs. In-Person Education: A Q&A

At Sophia Learning, we believe online education can help students learn in a more flexible and affordable way. And thanks to advancements in technology, online learning has become more accessible than ever before. But there are many benefits to an in-person education too. What are some of the key differences, and which mode of learning may be right for you?

We connected with our chief learning officer, Nick White, for more insights. Here’s what he had to share: 

 

Q: First off, what is a “chief learning officer”—and what does your role with Sophia look like? 

A: The role of Chief Learning Officer varies across organizations but the connecting thread is the understanding of how important learning is to all of us to be successful in our roles and realize our potential. In practice that means optimizing the learning function by making sure that the right learning is offered in the most effective and efficient way.  

My career has been focused on creating and improving high quality online and competency-based courses and programs. That involves research on what works for    students, integrating the best design practices and software, creating great learning content using various media, and designing the operations to deliver all of that for students.  

So at Sophia, I support our very talented academic team to continue to improve what we provide to students. That includes new approaches to the learning experience, enhancements to our quality assurance processes, and examining data to generate new insights on how to keep improving. 

And one of the most rewarding things I have the privilege of doing is conducting research on the outcomes of our students and sharing those results and stories with the world. We see great outcomes for Sophia students that we’ll be able to publish soon.  

 

Q: Aside from modality, what do you think are the most important differences between online and in-person education? 

A: Well the biggest difference is obviously that the students and professor are not in the same place. That can but doesn’t always lead to other differences. In online courses, people start to question the value of the in-person synchronous lecture. Why spend the time that way when it can be recorded? And that can lead to questioning the lecture. Why is that a better way to learn than text or other media? Ultimately, this tends to lead to a move away from passive lectures and toward more active learning in which the student is at the center instead of the professor.  

 

Q: What are the top three pros to online learning? 

A: The biggest benefits to online learning for most students are time, flexibility, and transparency. Students benefit from the lack of need for travel to and from a campus including time, transportation, parking, and so forth. With asynchronous online courses, students benefit from greater flexibility, they can work on the course at the times that are most convenient for them rather than a scheduled time. And because online courses need to contain all the necessary information, you can’t rely on discussion in the classroom, online courses tend to be more transparent about all of the expectations around what is needed to succeed and how the student will be evaluated.  

 

Q: What does it take to be a successful online learner? 

A: A successful online learner understands they are in charge of their own success. Because they have greater convenience, flexibility, and transparency, the students need to manage themselves to reach their goals. They do that by engaging at the beginning of the course to understand what they will need to do to succeed, creating a schedule for when they will do their coursework, and keeping to the commitments they have made to themselves. It also requires being proactive and seeking help if they run into any obstacles. Just like so many other endeavors in life, succeeding in an online course both requires confidence to get started and it builds confidence as the student moves through the course successfully.   

 

Q: What are the challenges of online learning? 

A: The challenges of online learning are essentially the flipside of the benefits. The flexibility and convenience can be a challenge for students that lack confidence or are reliant on weekly face-to-face classes to keep them on track. For some students, the social environment of a face-to-face classroom is important to their success. However, with our experience during the pandemic, nearly all students have experience with some type of online education so now most students are familiar with online and remote.  

 

Q: Why might someone prefer taking courses with Sophia rather than in-person courses at a college or university? 

A: For many students, the prospect of completing an undergraduate degree can be overwhelming in terms of both cost and time. Sophia provides an alternative that allows most motivated students the ability to save both time and money and to start their education with much greater momentum. In 2020 CAEL and WICHE published The PLA Boost, which is great research that shows that students that start college with significant credits from prior learning assessment, succeed in college at much higher rates.  

 

Q: What questions should people ask themselves to determine if online learning is right for them? 

A: There are some obvious questions about whether you have a reliable computer and internet connection and are comfortable using computers. But beyond that here are a    few: 

  • Do you need face-to-face classes with a professor and other students to stay motivated to do the work?  
  • Are you committed to getting your degree? If you can make that commitment, you can create the structures and habits that will make you successful. 
  • Do you know how you will create the structures you need to be successful? How will you schedule your time? How will you stay motivated? How will you reward yourself when you achieve goals along the way? 
  • Will you seek help when you need it? You can’t let yourself get stuck because you’re not in a classroom, there are people whose job it is to help you be successful, it just requires you to reach out to resolve whatever confusion or challenge has arisen.  

 

Q: How does Sophia support students remotely? 

A: The most important thing Sophia does to support students is to make the courses and platform easy to use and navigate. Students generally don’t need support because of the great design. For cases where students do need support, we have a dedicated learning coach team that supports students through chat, email and phone to solve whatever issue they may be having.  

 

Q: What is your favorite part about working for Sophia learning? 

A: The most fun part is definitely the research on student outcomes, it’s wonderful to see how Sophia helps students be more successful and save time and money in the process.  

In the world of education research, it’s surprisingly hard to find solutions that increase student success. But sometimes the solution is simple, if you create beautiful courses, remove barriers, and put control in the hands of the students, they can leap forward.  

Learn more about Sophia.

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ACE Recommendation vs. Accreditation: What You Need to Know

Sophia’s courses have been accepted for credit at hundreds of colleges and universities, thanks to our ACE recommendation. Yet Sophia’s courses are not accredited.

So what is the difference between an ACE recommendation and accreditation, and how does this affect your ability to transfer credits from Sophia to your college or university? 

The Importance of ACE Recommended Courses

The American Council on Education (“ACE”) is the major coordinating body for two- and four-year degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States. Courses and programs that receive an ACE recommendation have been evaluated by a team of subject matter experts and determined to provide a learning outcome at the collegiate level. After this review, ACE makes recommendations about the course subject, level of learning, and number of credit hours to help guide colleges and universities in their acceptance of transfer credits.

ACE may recommend any number of courses and experiences for credit. This could include workforce training, military training, missionary work, and—of course—nontraditional learning online with groups like Sophia. 

Why Accreditation Matters

We recommend students consider the accreditation status when seeking a college or university. Institutional accreditation means the school is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Individual programs at institutions may also be programmatically accredited.

Employers, other institutions (such as graduate schools), certification programs, financial lenders, and any other organization with an interest in your undergraduate degree may expect you to have attended an accredited school because this means you have received an education that meets certain quality standards.

You can check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website for more information on your school’s accreditation status. 

So, Will Your College Accept Transfer Credits from Sophia?

Because Sophia does not offer degree programs, we are not accredited. Instead, our focus is on offering convenient, affordable, online courses that accredited colleges and universities may accept as transfer credits to help you earn your degree. 

In addition to receiving ACE recommendation, our courses are all also recommended by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), an organization that evaluates distance-learning programs.

We have made every effort to ensure that your college or university may accept your Sophia courses for general education credit. However, before taking a Sophia course, it is important to check with your school registrar or advisor to confirm whether your successfully completed Sophia coursework will transfer to your school. 

If your school is one of Sophia’s 40 college and university partners, your Sophia courses will transfer automatically to your school once you’ve completed a course. You can also check to see whether your school has previously reviewed Sophia coursework for transfer on our website, though it doesn’t guarantee that they will accept credit in the future.

Learn more about Sophia and our mission to provide affordable online courses for college-level credit. 

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