• 4 Hacks to Make College Cheaper

    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

    how-to-make-college-cheaper

    We can all agree that going to college can be expensive. (This is especially true if you need to take out student loans.) But there are lots and lots of students who are inadvertently adding to their college bills.

     The point I’m trying to make is this: You’ll want to spend your money wisely. If you don’t plan ahead, what seems like a perfectly normal decision (such as transferring schools and/or switching majors) can send your college costs soaring.

    So, what are the expenses in college that add up, and how can you avoid them? I’m so very glad you asked.

    How to Make College Cheaper

    1. Avoid Switching Majors

    If you’ve ever been told, “Don’t worry about your major. You can always change later!”

    ...this can be very bad advice.

    You see, college majors each require a specific set of credits for graduation. By the time you are in your junior or senior year, you’ve probably already completed a substantial number of course credits that are major specific.

    Say in your junior year, you switch from a history degree to a business degree. Your new degree requires you to take a substantial number of business-related courses, but it has no use for the four history courses you’ve already taken. The result? You’ve amassed almost a full semester of wasted credit hours (read: wasted time and money). 

    Now, every business class you take will essentially cost you twice as much money (the price of the new course plus the price of the old course you can’t use anymore). 

    Just don’t do it.

    Instead, take your time and do your research. By making a solid college plan before enrolling, you’ll save an average of $594 for every credit hour you don’t have to replace.

    2. Carefully Plan Your Transfer Credits

    Pursuing your degree by enrolling first in a community college isn’t a bad decision on its own. But it can cause a lot of problems when you’re trying to save money on your college education.

    Usually, community colleges advise you to earn an associate’s degree before transferring to a new school to finish your bachelor’s. The idea is to earn your first 60 credits at a small, inexpensive school before finishing at your more expensive institution. Seems like a good deal, right?

    Wrong.

    Associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees have very different requirements for graduation.

    Unless you’re attending a community college with a very good matriculation agreement, you may be wasting time and money earning credits that won’t transfer.

    Just like in the last point, every credit that is not transferable is a credit that needs to be replaced—costing you hundreds (even thousands) of dollars per course.

    Again, transferring credit isn’t the culprit here. Not understanding college course transfer policies is. Transfer credit only increases college expenses when it’s lost. As long as you have already verified that the school you want to graduate from accepts the community college credit you’re taking, you can breathe easy.

    3. Explore Alternate Credit Options

    The internet has changed the way we engage with information. You don’t have to necessarily sit in specific classrooms for all your educational needs. You can build a college degree the way you’d build a playlist, using a variety of course styles from a variety of schools. 

    And the exciting thing is, most of these alternative credit options are far cheaper than the traditional classroom experience.

    You could pay $594 per class for the luxury of being taught in-person by a professor. Or, you could take a $150 competency-based exam. If you don’t like those options, you could perhaps try an online professional studies or self-paced online courses.

    Generally, there are at least six ways to earn a college course credit. And most of them are less expensive and more flexible than taking a traditional classroom-style course. (Increased flexibility provides the ability to fit school around your job or life, so you can maintain your four-year college plan without sacrificing what’s important to you.)

    Depending on how many transfer credits your college accepts, this method can help reduce the cost of your bachelor’s degree by thousands of dollars.

    4. Explore Online Options 

    Another way to save money on your college degree is to explore online options. If you’re skeptical about that, give me a second to explain. 

    Let’s start from the top. Campus housing and meal plans are expensive. How costly are they? Data from the National Center for Education Statistics notes that for the 2018-19 school year, the average cost for room and board at public in-state institutions was more than $11,300 for the academic year. The average cost for students who attended in-state private institutions during the 2018-29 school year was more than $12,700.

    That’s insane, right?

    But the savings of online educational options don’t stop there. Taking classes online will also save you money on gas, campus parking fees, and lost wages. If you opt for on-campus learning and need to attend a class at 4:00 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, that’s going to take a valuable amount of time out of your work week. In contrast, when you take your coursework online, you can study around your work schedule.

    Final Thoughts

    Making small changes to your college plan can save you substantial money over time. By thinking outside the box and making a few adjustments to the way you approach college, you can dramatically reduce your college costs. For more information about how to save money on your college expenses, be sure to check out Accelerated Pathways.

    Like this post? You might also enjoy How to Transfer Community College Credits

     

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    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

  • 6 Ways to Pay for College Without Student Loans

    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

    how-to-pay-for-college-without-loans

    Do you know how you’re going to pay for college? It’s something you should be thinking about. Why? Because going to college is expensive.

    A recent U.S. News & World Report article found that for the 2020–2021 academic year, the average cost for tuition and fees at private institutions was more than $35,000 per year. Tuition and fees at public institutions may be less, but the cost for out-of-state students was still a whopping $21,000, whereas the average tuition and fees for in-state students was $9,700. That puts the average cost for a four-year college education at somewhere between $38,800 and $140,000.

    Like we said, going to college is expensive, so you’ll want to have a plan for how you’re going to pay for it.

    If you’re like most college students, you’re probably relying on financial aid to cover a large portion of that absurdly high cost.

    However, as it turns out, most of your “financial aid” options are actually student loans. Also worth noting is that taking out a loan is not “paying for” college. It’s just putting off a payment you can’t currently afford.

    Fortunately, there are six simple and effective ways to pay for college that don’t involve grasping for student loans and hoping against hope that the debt doesn’t bury you alive

    How to Pay for College Without Loans

    The idea that you can pay for college without student loans can be hard to wrap your head around, but it’s possible. From finding an affordable degree to applying for scholarships and financial aid to getting a job with an employer that offers tuition assistance, there are many ways to get from point A to point B.

    1. Find an Affordable Degree

    Before asking how you’ll pay for college, consider how much you should pay for college. Not everyone needs to shell out five figures a year for a top-tier college experience.

    Do some research. By using tools at your disposal like transfer credit, alternative options, and affordable degrees, you can significantly reduce the cost of your degree, removing the need to borrow money in the first place.

    2. Apply for Scholarships

    Applying for scholarships doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. Just give yourself enough time to apply (our counselors recommend applying before your senior year of high school), and set clear expectations for how much effort you’ll put into the scholarship search. Eliminating both crunch time and vague expectations will help get you through the application process more quickly and will produce better results.

    If you want to learn more about applying for scholarships, read our post on the subject.

    3. Apply for Financial Aid

    Once you’ve exhausted steps one and two, complete a FAFSA, short for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to find out if you qualify for any grants. If you do, don’t hesitate to accept them. These grants are free gifts of money, set aside to help students like you pay for your education. They won’t negatively impact your future.

    A variety of specific grants are available for college students. Some are based on merit; some are based on need. (For a full breakdown of the various types of grants that are available, check out the Sallie Mae website.)

    4. Find a Job That Offers Tuition Benefits

    Just don’t forget, the FAFSA isn’t the only place you can go for financial support. Consider getting a job with an employer that offers tuition benefits. If you already have a job, find out if your employer has a tuition assistance program. Your employer wants you to get your college education, so you may be surprised at the willingness to help you with the process.

    5. Practice Money-Saving Habits

    If you followed these steps in order, your final out-of-pocket costs should be significantly less daunting than they were when you started. At this point, you have one final goal: avoid debt. However, you can take other steps to save money. For example, live at home instead of on campus. Buy used books. You could also take online courses one at a time instead of paying for a whole semester in advance—we call this technique “cash-flowing college.” 

    Find creative ways to cut the fluff and maybe even reallocate your own resources. Debt-free degrees are unapologetically minimal.

    6. Get a Part-Time Job

    Many part-time jobs can help you pay for college, and, as we stated above, some of them might offer tuition assistance programs. Also worth noting is that in some cases, your student aid package might include work-study funds, which you can use to pay for college. Work-study programs pay students at least $7.25 per hour.

    Paid internships, babysitting jobs, nanny jobs, and part-time gig economy jobs (such as driving for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Postmates) are also options worth exploring

    Smart Choices Can Save You Money

    By exploring the options above, debt-free college isn’t just possible—it’s definite, and most students can successfully cut their overall costs in half by simply talking to an adviser.

    If you’re interested in learning more about cutting your own college costs, sign up for a free personalized college cost comparison—including a total cost breakdown for your dream school and creative ways to make it more affordable.

    Your degree shouldn’t cost $40,000 to $100,000, and it certainly shouldn’t be a debt sentence.

    Sources

    Federal Student Aid, Complete the FAFSA Form

    NerdWallet, “What Is Work-Study?”

    Sallie Mae, Grants for College

    The Balance Careers, “Companies That Offer Tuition Reimbursement Programs”

    U.S. News & World Report, “See the Average College Tuition in 2020-2021”

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    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

  • Course Codes 101: A Beginner's Guide to Course Codes and Transfer Credit

    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

    course-code-101

    I’m sure you’ve already heard the oft-repeated advice, “community college is cheaper than university.” And while it isn't flashy, you have to admit earning two years of inexpensive credit before transferring into a university is the best choice for your wallet.

    But a couple of Google searches in, you’re accosted by horror stories of community college graduates losing nearly all their credit upon transfer.

    Is taking a risk with transfer credit really going to be worth it in the long run?

    Actually, yes. If you know what you’re doing, earning transfer credit can be a safe way to save money on your degree.

    The key is to start with the end in mind and develop a foolproof plan before enrolling in any courses.

    To do this, you must know which degree you want, which college you want to transfer to, and what their transfer policy is. Then you can spend your precious time and money on just the courses you know will transfer. (Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started.)

    But how do you know which courses will transfer before taking them?

    The answer: college course codes.

    Are you looking to earn college credit that is guaranteed to transfer? Or, do you have existing credit you'd like to transfer into a future degree? At Accelerated Pathways, our academic advisors can help! Get a complimentary advising session and find out about earning college credit that is guaranteed to transfer through our programs.

    How College Course Codes Work

    Colleges use course codes to describe and organize their courses in a way that can be easily understood by both colleges and students (if said students have translation guides, that is).

    They consist of four important blocks of information.

    1. Course Prefix

    The first part of a college course code is simple: a series of letters indicating the course's general subject. This is the course prefix, and it’s fairly intuitive.

    Tip: if you get stuck wondering what a particular set of letters means, compare several courses sharing the same prefix. Or Google it.

    How to use it

    Course prefixes will help you understand if the two courses you're trying to compare are part of the same academic department.

    For instance, if your bachelor's degree requires 3 business math (BUS) or finance (FIN) credits, a general MAT math course won’t fit that requirement.

    2. Course Numbers

    The second part of a college course code is a series of numbers. These are often three digits long, but many colleges use four digits (or even five).

    These numbers are the main way colleges organize their course catalog. No two courses at a college will share the exact same course number.

    The most useful thing for students to understand about these numbers is how to distinguish between upper-level credit and lower-level credit.

    Remedial courses do not count for college credit. Students only take them if they aren't able to start 100-level work yet. 100-200 courses are “lower-division” courses—often covering a wide range of foundational topics. 300-400 courses are “upper-division” courses. These courses provide more in-depth study, frequently in the student’s major.

    (If your college uses a four- or five-digit numbering scheme, this rule will still hold true. 0000 is remedial, 1000-2000 is lower division, and 3000-4000 is upper division.)

    The second and third digits in a course number are used in a variety of ways by different schools. While there isn’t a universal rule for what each number means in relation to each other, the main idea is just to distinguish different courses that are from the same department at the same level.

    How to use it

    Apart from that first digit, course numbers honestly aren’t very helpful for transferring credit. They vary widely between colleges and would take immense study just to learn how one specific college uses them. Even once you do understand your college’s system, these numbers won’t provide much assistance in understanding if your courses will transfer.

    The one thing to remember about course numbers is that the first digit indicates what level of study your course is. That is likely the only uniform (and truly helpful) piece of information these numbers will provide for you.

    3. Course Name

    The third element of a course code is obvious: the name of the course. A course's name tells you what that course is about, and is actually the most useful way to compare courses.

    Unlike course numbers, which are specific to each college, course names can be fairly standard between institutions—especially among lower-division subjects. (It’s likely the material taught in British Literature I at the University of Texas will match NYU’s British Literature I class.)

    How to use it

    Compare the name of the course you want to take to the name of a course your chosen college offers. The more exactly the names match, the better chance your credit will transfer.

    Don't forget to check your degree’s program requirements, too. Does your college of choice require this specific course for your degree?

    4. Course Description

    The last thing you'll read about a course is its description. A course description is a general explanation of its topics and teaching methodology. This will give you added information about the course and the way it’s taught.

    How to use it

    When evaluating a transfer course from another school, colleges typically want to see at least 80% content overlap when compared to their own course. So even if a course you are considering has the same title as a course at your target school, be sure to examine the descriptions of each for similar terms and topics to get a feel for how well-aligned the content really is.

    Where to Go From Here

    So you’ve picked a college and degree. You also know more about college course codes than you ever wanted to. How do you start actually taking affordable transfer credit?

    We can help.

    For the past 15 years, our Central Registrar’s Office has helped thousands of students graduate debt free via affordable online courses selected specifically for their degree at their school.

    We’ve already done the research you need, and can take the stress and confusion out of your college transfer.

    Click here to learn more about degree planning through Accelerated Pathways, and how it can save you thousands of dollars on your bachelor’s degree.

    However, if you think you're ready to go it alone, here are some other resources that may help you along the way:

     

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    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

  • How to Transfer College Credit in 5 Steps

    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

    transfer-college-credit

    Bad news for transfer students: according to the National Center for Education Statistics, you have a 70% chance of losing some or all of your previously earned credit during your college transfer (costing you thousands of dollars in lost credit). This is largely due to broken transfer policies that you have no control over.

    While you unfortunately can’t control what transfer credit colleges accept, you can control which college you transfer credit into. By making the right choices early on, it’s absolutely possible to transfer from one college to another without losing a single credit. 

    How to Transfer Credit

    Students change schools for a variety of reasons, such as needing to relocate, pursuing a different career path, or choosing to graduate from a more prestigious institution. In other cases, students may have dropped out of school before completing their degrees and now want to pick up where they left off. 

    If you’re a first-year student and already know where you plan to transfer to, be sure to research that school’s general education program. This can help you choose gen-ed courses that will satisfy the requirements for the school you plan to transfer to. 

    On the other hand, if you hadn’t planned on finishing your degree at a new school, the below tips can help you get started. 

    1. Investigate transfer policies before enrolling.

    Every college has published policies indicating what transfer credit it will accept. Take these policies into account when choosing where you want to graduate from.

    How to check if a college will accept your credit:

    1. Request an unofficial transcript from your previous college (for details of your credit).

    2. On your future college’s website, locate the most recent academic catalog.

    3. Compare the credit you have (as listed on your transcript) with the school’s catalog. Take note of which of your transfer courses match courses the school offers by comparing course codes, titles, prerequisites, and descriptions. This is the credit your future college will accept.

    4. Accepted credit isn’t always the same as applicable credit. Next, locate your desired degree’s requirements (posted online as well). Does the degree you want have room for your accepted transfer credit? You may think, “If my college accepts the credit, why do I need to check the specific degree?” The fact that your desired college accepts your transfer credit in general doesn’t necessarily mean that those credits all apply to your particular degree program’s specific requirements. So be sure not to skip this step!

    5. Now do a search on the website for the school’s transfer policy to discover:

    • How much transfer credit it accepts

    • What kind of transfer credit it accepts

    If you have questions, direct them to the school’s registrar. (The registrar is usually the one to transcribe credit for transfer students, so they will be able to help.)

    2. Choose a transfer-friendly school.

    Colleges commonly accept between 15 and 90 transfer credits, so it’s worth shopping around to find a college that will accept all your transfer credit.

    This may mean choosing something “less impressive” than the college you had in mind. If that’s the case, examine your priorities. Do you really want to spend time and money re-earning credit from an “impressive” school when you can use credit you’ve already earned somewhere else? As long as the college you choose is regionally accredited, you can rest easy knowing it’s a fine choice.

    3. Know where you’re graduating from.

    Colleges evaluate transfer credit based on their requirements, not those of your previous school.

    For example, unless your community college has an articulation agreement with a specific school, a 60-credit associate degree probably won’t count as 60 credits toward your bachelor’s at another school. They simply have different requirements.

    Use community college or online course providers as a way to find and take courses for your future degree. Don’t bother with a community college’s "graduation requirements.”

    (Use the method in tip #1 to compare the courses your future college offers with the courses you want to take. This strategy allows for a much more successful credit transfer.)

    4. Stick to general education and elective courses.

    Most colleges require that students take major-specific courses from their schools and nowhere else. If you’re planning to transfer colleges, hold off on these courses. 

    Stick to earning general education courses and free electives for now. (These courses have a higher chance of transferring into your future college.)

    5. Enlist professional help.

    How much of your precious time do you want to dedicate to this process? Save time and hassle by letting us help.

    Accelerated Pathways has worked with over 1,800 colleges across the United States. We’ve already done the transfer credit research you need, and we can guide you through this process.

    Pearson Accelerated Pathways will help you choose the best school for your goals. And since we aren’t affiliated with any college, we’re free to give you unbiased college advice. Then, we’ll help you build a college plan which takes into account the transfer credit you have. This plan will be tailored to the school you want to graduate from.

    If you’d like to earn more transfer credit, you can do so with our own affordable online course options. These courses can help you save thousands of dollars on your degree.

    Other Credit Transfer FAQs

    If you’re trying to navigate the credit transfer process, you probably have a million questions. Although we can’t answer all of them in one blog article, we can provide answers to the three we hear most often:

    Do I have to transfer all college credits?

    If you’re concerned you’ll need to transfer all of your credits to a new school (including that one C- you’re still trying to erase from your memory), you can relax. Most colleges won’t accept transfer credits unless you earned at least a B. Others will give you credit as long as you earned a passing grade. Since these policies vary from school to school, the best answer to this question will come from the registrar’s office of the school you’re transferring to.

    Can I choose which credits to transfer?

    Yes and no. Although you can choose not to transfer certain course credits (especially ones you didn’t do well in), you also don’t get to decide what your new school will accept. For example, if you’re majoring in American history and you took several core courses required to graduate from school A, school B still might not accept them. Each school has its own major requirements. 

    Do I have to transfer credits when switching schools?

    You’re by no means required to transfer credits, but it is a good idea as transferring gen-ed credits could save you a lot of money. If you have a specific concern about transferring credits, contact the registrar’s office at the school you plan to transfer to. It should be able to answer your questions and address your concerns. 

    Whether You Already Have Transfer Credit or Want To…

    Accelerated Pathways help you make the most of your transfer credit. Learn more about our college planning process and sign up for a free College Options Report. This report will help you understand your best college options when it comes to credit transfer and saving money on your bachelor’s degree. 

    Want to get started on your free College Options Report immediately? Take the first step to find out if you’re a candidate for Accelerated Pathways.

    Best of luck in your transfer journey!

    Want to read more? Try these!

    Sources:

    U.S.News and World Report, “How to Transfer a High Number of College Credits” U.S News and World Report, “Transferring Colleges: 10 Frequently Asked Questions”

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    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

  • Should I Go to College?

    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

    should-i-go-to-college

    Going to college may have been an easy choice for your parents. Twenty years ago, career paths were more straightforward, and a bachelor’s degree was almost guaranteed to mark you as the cream of the crop. Not only that, but when a year of college cost barely more than a new iMac, it was much easier to pay for if you simply had some savings or even a part-time job. In a world like that, why wouldn’t you go to college?

    But the world has changed.

    Bachelor’s degrees are still respected, but they’re also flooding the marketplace. This means they’re not the guaranteed “in” they once were. At the same time, costs have risen so much that a year of school today costs almost five iMacs. And that’s not even counting books and housing fees.

    Going to college is no longer a no-brainer.

    So before you take out a $30,000 loan for something you may not even need, ask yourself the hard question: is a college degree necessary for the career you want?

    type: entry-hyperlink id: IKKV7YIpvxntqHdLd2tXfIf you want to go into law, engineering, the medical field, or similarly specialized fields, there’s no question. You 100% need a degree. Stop questioning your decision, and instead, focus on figuring out the best (and most affordable) way to earn it.

    But what if you’re considering work as a missionary, welder, graphic designer, or any of the various vocations that may not require a college education? It’s possible you could benefit more from earning a specialized certification tailored directly to your chosen career, letting you start working sooner and with a much smaller financial investment.

    Obviously, choosing whether or not to go school won’t necessarily be as simple as this graphic describes, and there’s often not a clear-cut “right” or “wrong” choice. But we made this graphic simple for a reason. When it comes to deciding whether college is for you, you really just need to answer three important questions which we’ll discuss later in this post. Everything else will fall into place based on your answers to them.

    The Benefits of College

    The benefits of getting a college degree are still numerous. For example, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that the average college graduate earns $78,000 per year, against an average of $45,000 per year for individuals with only a high school diploma. Other benefits include the following:

    College graduates have greater access to employer-offered benefits, paid time off, and employer-sponsored retirement savings plans, such as 401(k) contribution matching. The Association of Public Land-Grant Universities reports that bachelor’s degree holders are 47% more likely to have health insurance through their jobs than individuals who hold only a high school diploma.

    • College graduates have more career options. For example, someone who majors in psychology can go on to become a clinical psychologist. Or, if they don’t want to practice psychology, they can pursue jobs in sales, marketing, education, and countless other fields. Although most employers require that candidates have a college degree, unless the job is degree-specific (e.g., mechanical engineer), their majors are often irrelevant.

    The Challenges of College

    Although going to college has numerous pros, you should also weigh the cons. For example, tuition fees have increased by more than 25% in the past 10 years. Other cons include:

    • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that as of June 2020, 39% of recent graduates and 32.7% of college graduates were underemployed and working in jobs that did not require a college degree.

    • The increased rate at which students are earning college degrees has diluted their value.

    The 3 Questions to Ask When Making a College Decision

    Making the decision to go to college requires thought and reflection. Here are some important questions to ask yourself before you go.

    1. Do I know what career I want?

    Going to college means making a significant investment in your future. No matter how you slice it, you’ll be spending no small amount of time, money, effort, and focus to gain an education.

    So you better be sure you actually need the schooling before making the investment.

    Are you interested in being a masseuse, airline pilot, entrepreneur, electrician, or athlete? None of these jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Some require an associate degree. Some require non-college education. Some, simply on-the-job training.

    Every career requires a unique form of preparation. So determine what career you’re aiming for first and don’t bother wasting time and money on training that won’t benefit it. Choose the training that’s right for you.

    2. Can I afford college?

    I realize that student loans are the norm these days, but they’re also ruining people’s lives.

    The average national student debt is almost $30,000. Among student loan borrowers, 20% said their loans delayed their ability to get married, 30% said their loans prevented them from starting a family, and 50% said they couldn’t buy a home because of their student loans.

    Life is so much bigger than college or even your career. And if you hastily choose to go to college on borrowed money, you may find yourself regretting that decision in 20 years when you realize those loans are preventing you from living the life you went to college to build in the first place.

    Fortunately, debt isn’t your only option.

    It’s a rare day indeed when a student pays the exact sticker price for their education. Often, if you’re not savvy, you’ll end up spending a whole lot more. But if you are savvy, you can spend a whole lot less. We should know—that’s what we do all the time! Using a variety of methods, such as affordable transfer credit and in-depth degree planning, Pearson Accelerated Pathways’ admissions advisors help students cut their degree costs in half and graduate debt free.

    Making college affordable is possible—it just takes some effort.

    So, before giving in to a loan or giving up on college altogether, take time to really explore your options and do what you can to reduce your costs. (And maybe find out if you’re a candidate for Accelerated Pathways.)

    3. Do I enjoy formal education?

    Think about it: you’re signing up to spend the next four years (at least) in the classroom. If that sounds like hell, don’t do it.

    Not only would you be torturing yourself, but it’s likely your sheer dislike for what you’re doing would cause your performance to struggle. Your personal life would suffer, and you’d likely end up dropping out anyway—which means throwing away a ton of time and money.

    If you hate school, but you’re willing to make the sacrifice to get the job you want, then more power to you! But in most cases, if formal education isn’t for you, the jobs that follow aren’t either. If you dislike formal education, we recommend you reconsider your career choice—maybe do some job shadowing, volunteer, or talk to professionals in the field—to ensure that choice is really for you before jumping into college.

    How to Figure Out a Career Path

    Whether or not you should go to college depends entirely on what you want to do and how you can best prepare for that future. But what if you still don’t know what you want to do? If you’re still trying to decide on a career path, consider the following steps:

    Get a job.

    Start earning basic work experience in a job that doesn’t require a degree. You’ll get both a head start on your resume and a good perspective of the real world (outside of school).

    Get an internship.

    Find an internship or volunteer in a field you’re interested in. You’ll be able to learn about that field firsthand and get some hands-on experience for your resume too!

    Take affordable courses.

    If you’re leaning toward college, there’s no harm in getting started now—as long as you’re not isolating yourself from the world or going into debt to pay for it. Try taking affordable courses you know will transfer into your chosen degree to learn what subject areas you may want to pursue further.

    Ask a professional.

    Find someone working a job you think you may want and strike up a conversation! Ask what they like and don’t like about their job, and hear their own opinions on what it takes to “make it.”

    Seek counsel or mentorship.

    Sometimes it’s worth talking to someone who has seen a lot more of the world, even if they’re not working in your field of choice. They might have the perspective you need to develop a wise plan for moving forward. (Your parents are a great choice for this; however, they may be too emotionally invested in your decisions to provide the clarity you need. In addition, consider talking to a close adult friend, academic counselor, or church leader.)

    Or consider working with a career counselor. Career counselors are an invaluable resource for individuals who are still trying to map out their employment and career goals. You can also take a free career test. Career tests consist of a variety of questions designed to home in on your interests and personality traits, which are used to match you with possible career choices.

    Start learning on your own.

    You don’t need to be enrolled in college to learn. Find online resources like Khan Academy, Lynda, Codecademy, Udemy, or another, and just start! Use this time to assess what career and lifestyle you want, as well as the best way to achieve it.

    Try choosing at least two ideas from this list and pursuing them in tandem. For example, if you’re thinking of becoming a veterinarian, volunteer at a local vet’s office while pursuing a flexible, affordable education.

    I know that one quick blog post isn’t enough to help you finalize a decision this big. No amount of reading other people’s opinions for and against college will truly help you make this decision. But hopefully this has at least helped you get started.

    Fortunately, as long as you take time to think through your options and begin broadening your life experiences, you’re headed in the right direction. Just consider carefully and make the wisest choice you can with the information you have.

    If you want some more help figuring out your college path, be sure to check out some of our other posts!

    Additional Sources:

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    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

  • College ROI Calculator: How to Determine Your Degree’s Return on Investment

    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

    college-return-on-investment-calculator

    Return on investment (ROI) is a fancy term for “getting what you pay for.” While this concept is well known in the business world, it’s useful to apply the concept to any large investment, including college.

    Calculating the ROI for your degree means asking yourself: “Is a BA in Elementary Education from a well-known private school worth the $150,000 I’m spending on it?”

    Alice didn’t ask herself that question. That expensive private school was her dream, so she enrolled fresh out of high school (borrowing more than she knew she should in loans to do so). Upon graduating, she was hired as a 4th-grade teacher at a public school, making just over $37,400 a year.

    This number would have seemed like a fortune to Alice, as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school. Now that she’s been living on her own for a few years, and does all her own grocery shopping, let’s just say she understands why teachers are often unhappy with their salaries.

    After taxes and the regular costs of living, Alice is lucky to have $600 of discretionary income left over each month. She would love to tuck part of that away in a savings account and use the other for going out, Christmas gifts, car repairs, and so on. But how big are those monthly student loan payments again?

    Alice failed to calculate the ROI on her teaching degree before it was too late. Had she done so, she may have realized that spending $150,000 to pursue a profession that pays a $30,000 annual salary wasn’t the best use of her hard-earned dollars.

    If you want to actually afford things once you graduate college, rather than throwing money into what feels like a never-ending black hole of debt, start by calculating your degree’s real-life value.

    What’s ROI?

    Simply stated, ROI means “return on investment,” and understanding your college degree’s return on investment is important. Why? Because it can help you understand whether enrolling in X major at Y school makes sound financial sense.

    Calculating return on investment is as simple as researching how much money your desired career is likely to bring in, and deciding for yourself how much you’re willing to spend preparing for it. But, since lists are such nice, helpful things, let’s walk through the process step by step.

    1. Evaluate whether a degree is even needed.

    I know this will sound shocking, so take a deep breath. Not everyone needs a degree.

    I know this goes against every brochure you’ve received in the mail, but it’s true. For some reason, modern society thinks “educated” and “credentialed” mean the same thing. They don’t. There are millions of jobs in the United States that don’t require any kind of higher education. Many of them pay really well, and any one of them can provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction if it’s a good vocational fit for you.

    Alternatively, there are some professional degrees (for example, in cinematography) that may be better pursued outside of a classroom. If you want to learn how to make a movie, don’t spend your time consuming outdated material and using outdated technology. Buy a camera and start filming. Intern or volunteer on movie sets and at film festivals. Connect with people who are making movies and learn from them.

    If you think a career like this (one that doesn’t require a college education) may be your path, skip the degree for now. Save thousands of dollars and invest your time and money by launching your career instead!

    Skipping the classroom is a relatively low-risk way for you to explore whatever opportunity you think is most satisfying, especially if you’re young and single. And if you find out that career option isn’t actually a good fit, college will still be there.

    2. Research the starting salaries of careers.

    If the career path you’re interested in would benefit from a college degree, start digging into the numbers. What kind of money will this career actually earn?

    Payscale.com and Salary.com are both great places to research this.

    These websites give you an estimation of how much money various jobs earn. And they don’t just give you median estimates, but beginning and advanced earnings estimates too. There are plenty of resources like these on the internet, so log on and learn what you can.

    Thinking of going into a profession that doesn’t churn out a lot of money? Don’t let that hold you back. That’s why you’re doing this exercise in the first place. Just use that data to inform your college spending (i.e., keep your college costs as low as possible). It’s a lot easier to get into a low-income profession that you’re passionate about if you’re not weighed down by student loan payments.

    3. Compare your starting salary to your college costs.

    Once you know what career you want to pursue and its approximate starting salary, it’s time to find an affordable way to get there.

    Start by deciding how much money you’re willing to spend on your education. Considering how much she brought home upon graduation, Alice probably should have spent closer to $40,000 for her degree, not $150,000. Not only will a $40,000 degree require far smaller student loan payments upon graduation—good if she’s only making $30k—but she’s also much more likely to be able to afford $40,000 (paid over four years) without incurring debt in the first place.

    I know you were probably hoping for an exact formula or a “magic number,” but the harsh truth is: There isn’t one. No one can tell you what your education is worth to you. And no one besides you knows what you can really afford.

    The purpose of this exercise is to open your eyes to the big picture so you don’t end up like Alice, taking on mile-high student loans you will have no hope of ever paying off through your salary.

    4. Find the most affordable way to earn your degree.

    Fortunately, comparing the return on investment of college isn’t simply an exercise in reading labels. You have a lot more control over your college costs than you may realize.

    The United States is home to over 5,000 colleges, offering very similar degrees at a wide variety of price points. It’s likely with a little research, you can find exactly the degree you want at exactly the price you’re willing to pay.

    Granted, sorting through 5,000 schools by hand can be a pain (especially when many offer over 100 degree choices), so here are some basic tips.

    • Public schools are almost always cheaper than private schools

    • In-state tuition is almost always cheaper than out-of-state

    • General degrees (such as English, communication, general management) are almost always cheaper (and more useful) than highly specialized choices

    • Transfer credit is almost always cheaper than earning credit on campus

    Take time to compare school prices, especially those of the smaller schools you may have overlooked. Don’t just blindly enroll in your parent’s alma mater.

    Is a Degree Worth It?

    Going to college is expensive. How expensive depends on a variety of factors, such as whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student, or if you attend a public or private university. Things like switching majors, losing credits due to transferring schools, and taking extra time to complete your education can all impact how much you’ll spend on your degree. On average, most college graduates amass more than $30,000 in student loan debt.

    At this point, you may be wondering if the time and money you’ll spend attending college is even worth it—because, as we mentioned earlier, there are some career paths that don’t require a degree (i.e., electrician, steelworker, executive assistant, etc.)  But the answer as to whether college degrees have a measurable ROI, is a resounding “yes.”

    For example, May 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that as workers’ education level rises, their earnings increase and their unemployment rates decrease. It’s also worth noting that a 2019 survey by higher education website Ellucian, which polled 500 recruiting/hiring managers, found that 100% of respondents believe candidates with a college degree have more skills than non-degreed candidates.

    The bottom line is this: If you plan on pursuing a career where a degree is needed, then yes, going to college is absolutely worth the expense. 

    College and Planning for Debt

    Sooner or later, all this pre-college financial planning begs the question: “How much debt is worth it?”

    College should be an exciting opportunity that propels you into your future in a reasonable timeframe! It shouldn’t be a debt sentence. That’s why we here at Accelerated Pathways work so hard to help our students lower the cost of college and graduate 100% debt free.

    So, as you’re performing this research, looking for a way to get the best ROI on your college degree, don’t be fooled into asking “How much debt is worth it?” Instead ask, “How can I graduate debt free?”

    Keep your eyes open for every way to save money on your degree. Live at home. Work during college. Take transfer credit so you can pay for one class at a time. There are nearly endless ways to make college more affordable. You may need to put in a little extra effort to find them, but isn’t a debt-free future worth it?

    If you want to save on college, talk to us! We make it our mission to help you graduate from the college of your choice entirely debt free.

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    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

  • “Teaching is Impossible,” According to Revolutionary Psychotherapist

    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

    “Teaching is Impossible,” According to Revolutionary Psychotherapist

    “It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential and has little or no significant influence on behavior.”

    Carl’s voice rang out from the Harvard stage in 1952. Before him stretched an audience filled with teachers and educators of every sort. He’d been asked to share his thoughts on “student-centered learning.”

    Carl was a revolutionary psychotherapist who valued a client-centered approach to personal development. Since he practiced these client-centered techniques not just in the office, but in the classroom too, the event organizers thought Carl’s unique viewpoint would prove a valuable asset to the hundreds of teachers attending their conference.

    The participants disagreed. Tempers rose as Carl continued his short speech.

    “I have come to feel that the only learning which significantly influences behavior is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning.”

    In 1952, this idea threatened the very foundation of the educational and work systems which held society together. At that time, school was a place of facts and figures. Jobs were a place those facts and figures were put to use. Such was the way of the world.

    As long as a child did well in school, as long as a young adult pursued a solid education, as long as a person did not stray from the “proper path,” things would work out well. They would be happy, wealthy, and generally live the American Dream.

    However, the sudden popularity and sharp rise of psychotherapy in the late twentieth century seemed to argue against this long-held, industrialized perspective.

    The Value of Thinking

    When Carl spoke at Harvard about student-centered learning, he wasn’t concerned with facts and figures. He wasn’t concerned with the specifics of what a student learned or the various study methods which could help or hinder retention.

    “When I try to teach, as I do sometimes, I am appalled by the results, which seem a little more than inconsequential, because sometimes the teaching appears to succeed. When this happens I find that the results are damaging. It seems to cause the individual to distrust his own experience, and to stifle significant learning. Hence I have come to feel that the outcomes of teaching are either unimportant or hurtful.”

    When it came to education, Carl wasn’t concerned with test scores. He was most concerned with a student’s ability to become a free-thinking, free-acting agent. Someone who is able to think critically and creatively, and—most importantly—who is able to trust their own conclusions. He wanted his students to become adults.

    Through his practice with patients and his experience as an educator, Rogers learned first-hand the damage that could be done when a person refused to think for himself. He saw the damage done to underdeveloped students who were taught to put away their brains and listen blindly to their teachers.

    He wasn’t arguing that education was wrong. He wasn’t arguing that there is no place for a teacher. He was proposing what, at the time, was a radical idea: teaching—to impart knowledge and change onto another person—is impossible.

    In Carl’s opinion, learning was the goal of education. And this is a process a teacher has little control over.

    Only One Person Can Control your Education

    Believe it or not, Carl’s intention wasn’t to up-end the education system. He wasn’t interested in firing teachers, and—despite what those teachers thought as they fumed in their seats—he wasn’t trying to make their jobs obsolete.

    His message was simple.

    “Such self-discovered learning, truth that has been personally appropriated and assimilated in experience, cannot be communicated to another. As soon as an individual tries to communicate such experience directly, often with a quite natural enthusiasm, it becomes teaching, and its results are inconsequential. ”

    In other words, the only person truly in control of a student’s education is the student.

    Of course, learning facts is important. Exposing oneself to new ideas, history, literature, science, and all manner of education is an amazing opportunity. And we need educated, passionate individuals to dedicate their lives to learning, gathering, and bringing this information to light. We need knowledgeable facilitators to offer what they have learned to the next generation. We need teachers.

    However, the learning process itself—assimilating information, testing your limits, growing as a person, thinking and reasoning, trusting oneself and one’s conclusions, being unafraid in unknown situations—all of this can only be gained by the efforts of one person. You.

    So if you think your future is in the hands of your teacher, if you think the quality of your education depends on the school you’re attending, the textbook you pick up, or the people feeding you information, you are wrong.

    The only person who can ensure you become truly, usefully, meaningfully educated is yourself.

    Are you up for the challenge?

    If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy High School Valedictorian Gives Shocking Speech.

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    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

  • DSST for Dummies

    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

    DSST for Dummies

    Accelerated Pathways has a history of attracting dedicated students. And when I say dedicated, I mean graduate-in-2-years-or-less dedicated. That may sound a little intimidating (not to mention a lot impossible), but it’s true. Our students have the unique ability to graduate on their time schedule—and sometimes that means really darn fast.

    But let me be clear. These exceptional, get ‘er done students aren’t attending classes 24/7. They’re not sleeping at their desks or neglecting their families in order to study.

    They’ve simply taken advantage of alternative forms of earning college credit. They’ve traded in classrooms and lecture halls for lots of reading and a single final exam.

    Enter the DSST.

    DSST: A History

    The DSST originated in 1974 as the U.S. Department of Defence’s way to help military personnel earn college credit. As you can imagine, serving in the military makes attending class a tad difficult, so the Department of Defence created a way for those in service to learn college material outside of the classroom, then prove their knowledge of a subject with a single test.

    DSSTs (also known as Dantes exams) are competency-based exams, meaning they award college credit not based on the hours a student spent in a classroom, but by the cumulative knowledge demonstrated.

    In 2004, however, these tests were made available to the general public and now serve as yet another way for self-motivated, goal-oriented college students to pick up speed as they race toward the finish line. And at approximately $130 a pop—that’s $43 per credit hour—they also reign as some of the cheapest alternative credit sources available.

    Still interested in taking a DSST? Here’s everything you need to know:

    Studying

    Study methods for DSST vary, but not by much, and the materials aren’t hard to come by. Our Unbound coaches recommend:

    While these resources are probably enough to suffice, taking a competency-based exam is always something of a gamble. There’s no way to know exactly which questions will be asked on a test, or which specifics they’ll choose to cover. So if you’re going to make DSSTs a part of your self-paced college experiment, be thorough. Study hard, and be sure you can pass a couple of DSST practice tests before scheduling your exam.

    Once you think you’re ready, just head to DSST’s website to purchase and schedule your exam at a testing center near you.

    Testing Day

    DSSTs are multiple choice, pass/fail exams—pretty much the most considerate college exams you could ask for.

    Once you begin your exam, you have 2 hours to answer 80-120 questions. Unlike the SAT, DSST exams don’t punish you for an incorrect answer. Instead, your final score is tallied by counting the number of correct answers you choose and simply ignoring the incorrect answers. The pro tip for testers here is: if you draw a blank on a question, it’s better to guess than not answer. As I said, these are the most considerate college tests you could ask for.

    But just because they’re nice doesn’t mean they’re easy. For example, DSST’s “Civil War and Reconstruction” test boasts a pass rate of only 46%. Testing out of a whole semesters worth of advanced content isn’t a walk in the park.

    The passing score for a DSST is 400 with the highest attainable score being 500. Unless your test requires a written essay (some do), your score will by auto-calculated and you’ll get your results as soon as you complete the exam.

    Transfering Your DSST Credit

    So far, so good. DSSTs are a wonderfully cheap and convenient way to earn credit—especially if you already have experience with the subject.

    Where DSSTs most often fail is transferability. Credit-by-exam, in general, is not as widely accepted by colleges as a student might hope.

    The American Council on Education (ACE), a well-respected educational advisor, has recommended that each DSST is worth 3 college credits in a certain study area—upper or lower level, depending on the depth of the given material. That gives these tests some serious heft!

    However, it’s still up to the college to decide whether or not they will honor this recommendation and award you with said credit.

    This means taking a DSST is not a guarantee of earning credit at every college. So, what do you do? Just skip this amazing opportunity altogether because it’s a little risky?

    No. Instead, you take the risk out of the equation. You have two options for doing this:

    Option 1: Do the Research

    Most colleges post their transfer credit policies online. With a little digging, you can use this to understand whether or not your college will honor the DSST you’re interested in taking. Just make sure it also aligns with your particular degree requirements. (You can learn more about transferring credit by reading “How to Transfer Colleges Without Losing Credit.”)

    Or, if you don’t want to go through the painstaking research of aligning a DSST with a particular course code only to find out you made some mistake along the way…

    Option 2: Let Us Do the Research

    Negotiating transfer policies and building fool-proof, debt-free degree plans is what we do every day.

    So if you’re interested in taking DSSTs (or any other form of alternative credit) as part of your self-directed college education, we can ensure you’re doing it right. We’ll help you take inexpensive credit that helps you reach your goals and is guaranteed to be honored by the college you want to graduate from.

    And best of all, this process is free. So it’s worth chatting with one of our Admissions Advisors about what kind of help we can give you.

    Conclusion: who should take a DSST?

    If this blog post has scared or made you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of taking on so much responsibility when it comes to your education, DSST might not be for you.

    That’s okay! Not everyone is cut out for this kind of learning—in fact, most of us aren’t. Perhaps a more structured approach to independent learning, like self-paced online courses, will be more your style.

    However, if you’re a self-directed learner who doesn’t need a classroom to thrive, are eager to take on the brunt of the educational process, and are willing to go above and beyond to research colleges and transfer policies (or enlist the help of someone like Accelerated Pathways), DSSTs might be your golden ticket.

    Pick a test, study hard, and in no time you’ll be on your way to graduating college in 2 years or less.

    If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy reading Why is College So Expensive? College’s Sneakiest Expenses and How to Avoid Them.

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    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

  • 3 Questions to Ask Before Graduating High School Early

    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY

    3 Questions to Ask Before Graduating High School Early

    By sophomore year, I was done. High school was putting me to sleep. I was tired of studying subjects I didn’t care about and slaving over courses I knew I’d just retake in college. I had always been something of an early bloomer, so even at 16, I was excited to leave high school behind and start college. And fortunately for me, the flexibility of homeschooling made graduating high school early a real possibility.

    So I did it.

    I condensed subjects into semesters instead of years, and I got pretty good grades (even if I don’t remember a thing from Latin 2). Part of my “early graduation” plan involved exchanging as many high school courses as I could for transferrable dual credit—jumping that much further ahead.

    I graduated high school at 17 years old with 12 college credits to my name.

    If this is something you’ve been longing to do, dear high schooler, take heart. Graduating early is hard. But it’s a completely realistic goal, especially if you’re homeschooled. But before you kick yourself into high gear, take a beat. This isn’t the end of the story.

    The day after my “graduation” (an informal family celebration featuring the best egg rolls in town), I realized I had a problem. I finished high school… but now what?

    I didn’t have the money for college yet. And while I had my sights on an English degree, was I sure that was the right major for me? What exactly did I want to do after college? I had been so laser-focused on graduating early that only upon succeeding did I realize my path forward wasn’t so clear….

    To avoid ending up where I did when your early graduation rolls around, ask yourself these questions:

    1. Do I know what I want?

    Graduating high school means more than just receiving a diploma. It means leaving your childhood behind. You know what comes after childhood? Adulthood. You know what comes with adulthood? Responsibility. And consequences.

    I’m not saying this to scare you. Trust me, I think being an adult is awesome. But if you’re not careful, jumping in before you’re ready could leave you with some serious baggage to work through later in life.

    Let’s take the example of college.

    If you’re planning to jump into college right after high school, you’ll need to know at least 2 things first:

    1. What school you want to attend

    2. What you want to study

    Jumping into college without knowing your major is a serious no-no for a simple reason: changing majors is a recipe for massive post-college debt. The national average of student loan debt in the U.S. is $29,800. Average. Meaning you’re not special. This could be your debt.

    Do you realize the roadblocks that kind of debt could cause not just after graduation, but for the rest of your life? If not, click here to get a quick reality check.

    Even if you’re not destined for college, you should still have a post-graduation plan. Maybe you’ve been working somewhere part-time and want to move to full-time hours. Maybe you’ve got a trade school in mind, or an apprenticeship you want to pursue, or a mission you’d like to embark on. You should at least have more of a plan than staying home and playing League of Legends. Unless you’re a professional League player. In which case, # respect.

    If you don’t have any idea what you want to do after high school (which is totally normal and okay, by the way), consider graduating in the usual 4 years so you can use your free time for self-discovery.

    Get an after-school job, join teams, take a college class that excites you, shadow someone with a job you’re interested in, pursue that creative project you’ve been putting off—do whatever it is you feel drawn to do.

    That way, even if you don’t graduate early, you’ll be graduating with a purpose, which is always better than the alternative.

    2. Will graduating early affect my scholarship eligibility?

    Many on-campus programs offer generous scholarships for freshmen that aren’t available to transfer students. If you plan to enroll in a university immediately after graduation, then you probably have nothing to worry about here.

    However, if you were planning to make a pit stop at your local community college after high school, you run the risk of losing your freshman status. In this case, it might be better to stay enrolled in high school and pursue dual credit instead. This will still allow you to get ahead in school, but without losing that all-important freshman status. (Bonus: some states even offer free dual credit to high school students. Win-win!)

    Keep in mind, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Eligibility requirements vary from scholarship to scholarship. And any time transfer credit enters the picture—dual credit or otherwise—it’s wise to make a credit-transfer plan. That way you can be aware of your college’s transfer policies and your future degree’s requirements before getting started, which will give that hard-earned credit the best shot at transferring well.

    3. Have I talked to a counselor?

    Everyone needs a little help when making big life decisions. And graduating high school early definitely qualifies as a big life decision.

    Talk to your parents, teachers, mentors—any adult who you respect and who knows you well. Talk to them about your ideas, your plans, and the motivation behind those ideas and plans. Ask if they have any advice for you.

    And of course, consider reaching out to the team at Accelerated Pathways. We’ve been helping students like you achieve success for over a decade. With our experience working with hundreds of colleges around the country, we can answer any college question you have to throw at us. Let one of our awesome advisors help you create a fully-customized college plan that will set you up for success, whether that means graduating early or not.

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    ABIGAIL ENDSLEY