Student Success

Student Success

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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