• Is College Right for Me?

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

    Is College Right for Me?

    When he graduated high school, Joshua started taking college classes at his local community college. After all, isn’t that what students are supposed to do after graduation? He did well on some of his introductory classes, but after a while, he started to get nervous. He was signed up for the most generic degree that he could find, and this bothered him. What was he going to do with his degree? What career did he want to pursue? Since he didn’t know the answer to these questions, he started to doubt the wisdom of spending all that money on something he might not use. Soon, he dropped out of college and got a job instead.

    Now, a dozen years later, Joshua is in his thirties and considering whether a degree would help his career now. He has worked hard and made his own way, but advancement options are limited. What’s more, he recently got married and has a wife and future kids to think about. Should he get a degree now? Does he even have time to study with all the other commitments in his life?

    Here at Pearson Accelerated Pathways, we talk to people like Joshua all the time. If you have a few college credits to your name, but you never finished your degree, you’re not alone. In fact, 37 million Americans have had the same experience. These days, 40% of college students drop out before college graduation!

    If you dropped out of college and are starting to wonder if you should go back, we can help. We spoke with two of our Admissions Counselors (who talk with returning students all the time!) to compile this list of four questions you should ask yourself when considering your next move.

    1. "Why did I drop out of college?"

    Why do so many people decide not to finish college? Many college dropouts report common themes, with financial concerns making the top of the list. Other reasons include being unprepared for the academic challenges of higher education, being derailed by unexpected life events, worrying that they chose the wrong career or degree, not knowing what to study, or thinking that college isn’t worth it. 

    In response to these roadblocks, many students end up entering the work force and carrying on with their lives, trying their best to compete in a society that still, for the most part, considers a college degree to be essential. Some of them succeed, using their skills and ingenuity to work their way up the career ladder rather than relying on a degree. Thriving without a college degree is certainly possible—and the right decision for some people.  

    However, for many others, making a living without a degree is extremely difficult. According to Education Data, college dropouts typically make around $21,000 less each year than their peers who graduated. College often remains a far-off goal on the horizon for years. How do you decide if you should take the plunge and go back to finish your degree? 

    2. "What are the benefits of going back to school?"

    To decide if college is right for you, consider how going back to school might help you, your career, and your family. Here are just a few common reasons that adults choose to finish college: 

    • They can't move forward in their career without a degree.

    • They need to make more money to increase their standard of living. (According to Forbes, "Adults who complete a bachelors degree, on average, earn 57% more than those who are high school graduates.")

    • They want to change careers, either for more profitability or more job satisfaction.

    • They want a degree for added credibility.

    • They want to set a good educational example for their children.

    • They have raised their children, and now they want to focus on their own education.

    If done for the right reasons, a college degree can be extremely profitable and personally rewarding. Would finishing your degree would benefit you? If so, how can you make it happen? 

    Are you considering re-enrolling in college? Pearson Accelerated Pathways was created to provide flexible, affordable pathways towards a degree. Find out if Accelerated Pathways is the right way to get your degree today.

    3. "What's standing in my way?"

    If you’ve considered college, but you’re worried about how to fit a degree into your life, you aren’t alone. When I spoke with our Admissions Counselors, Madison Baldridge and Irene Carlson,  they mentioned that they talk to hundreds of students thinking about returning to college. They know a few things about the common fears that students have around going back to school. Prospective students often wonder: 

    • "Can I afford college? I don't want to drop out again because of lack of funds."

    • "Will I have the time to study? I already have a full schedule of responsibilities at work and home."

    • "How will I be able to study and take care of my kids."

    • "Will I have to start over?"

    Have any of these thoughts crossed your mind? College is definitely hard work, so it’s good that you’ve been seriously considering how obstacles might impact your decision. However, in my conversation with Madison and Irene, they also shared how students are overcoming these fears and making college fit into their lives. Which brings me to the final question you should ask yourself... 

    4. "How can I make college work for me?"

    If you are determined to finish your degree, you have options. Many colleges offer online coursework, night classes, or local two-year degree programs to help students like you return to school.

    But here at Accelerated Pathways, we think you deserve more. Our program offers: 

    • Ultimate flexibility with self-paced courses. There are no weekly deadlines, and you can take just one course at a time.

    • Pay as you go! No need to pay for a whole semester or year at once.

    • A streamlined digital classroom that saves you money instead of making you pay for extras you don't need. (Credits through Accelerated Pathways are 36% cheaper than traditional college credits.)

    • And best yet - you can save as many of your old college credits as possible and our team will help you find a place for them in your new degree plan. The work you put in before you dropped out doesn't have to go to waste!

    Our courses are all online, so you can study on the go, at home, or wherever you like! Our degree plans are fully-accredited, and every course you take through us is guaranteed to transfer into the school you choose.

    When talking with concerned students, Admissions Counselor Madison Baldridge asks them to be honest about how much work they can put in. Can you set aside an hour or two every night? Are your weekdays full, but you can study for hours on the weekends? Whatever your situation, Accelerated Pathways can create a flexible plan that works for you. If you’re nervous, just start with a few courses and see how it goes! Since you can pay as you go, you don’t have to make a huge financial commitment to get started, and you can pause your studies whenever you need a break.

    You can make college work for you. Going back to school takes dedication and hard work, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. If you’d like to learn more about how Accelerated Pathways can help you pursue your degree, schedule some time to talk with our team. Madison, Irene, and the whole Admissions team would love to tell you more about how we can help your college dreams come true.  

    read more

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

  • FAQ: Paying Taxes as an Online Student

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

    FAQ: Paying Taxes as an Online Student

    Have you been wondering how this income tax season might impact you as an online student (or as the parent of an online student)? We get a lot of questions about taxes from our Accelerated Pathways students, so we reached out to our resident expert, Student Services Manager Olivia Byrd, to get answers.

    (Of course, here at Accelerated Pathway, our expertise is education, not taxes, so please check with your personal tax expert for any tax advice or specific questions about your situation.)

    Here are a few of your most frequently asked questions about paying taxes as an Accelerated Pathways student:

    “Are my Pearson Accelerated Pathways tuition expenses or courses/book costs eligible for deduction?”

    Some of your college expenses (such as ALEKS, CLEP, DSST, and certain other college courses) may be deductible, but Pearson Accelerated Pathways doesn’t impact your taxes the same way a college or university would. Since we're not a credit-granting institution as defined by the IRS, we aren’t eligible to issue you a 1098-T form for deductible education expenses.  Please check with your personal tax expert regarding the eligibility of any of your other education expenses.

    “Does Pearson Accelerated Pathways send out 1098-T forms?”

    No, sorry! Pearson Accelerated Pathways does not meet the IRS criteria to issue a 1098-T. This is because we work alongside colleges and universities rather than granting degrees ourselves.

    “Can Pearson Accelerated Pathways be paid with 529 savings funds?”

    Eligible expenses vary from plan to plan, so you should check with your fund's plan administrator about what educational expenses are deductible in your state. Let them know that Pearson Accelerated Pathways is not a Title IV institution. With this information, they can check Pearson Accelerated Pathways' eligibility and what plan category your expenses would fall under, if eligible.

    “What documents can you provide me for tax purposes?” 

    Please check with your personal tax expert regarding the eligibility of all your education expenses. If you need any documentation for tax purposes, we can provide invoices and a Proof of Enrollment. If you need it, our EIN (Employer Identification Number) is 22-1603684. 

    “Are tuition benefits through my employer taxed?”

    Federal income tax law allows for several tax benefits for education, including potential exclusions or deductions for tuition assistance. If you’re curious about how the current tuition benefits tax law might apply to you, you can read more on the IRS website. Please check with your personal tax expert regarding the eligibility of all your education expenses, credits, and deductions.

    “Are the tuition expenses of the school I want to graduate from eligible for deduction? What about my books?”

    Yes. In almost every instance, your college will meet the IRS criteria for tuition expense deductions. You can expect your college to issue a 1098-T by January 31st if you’ve had tuition expenses in the previous year. For specific questions about books or other non-tuition expenses at your school, we’d suggest checking with your personal tax preparer.

    If you have any more questions, please reach out to our fantastic student services team by calling (866) 989-5432. If you aren’t currently a student with Pearson Accelerated Pathways, but you’d like to learn more about how our program works, welcome! Take a few moments to find out if we’re a good fit to help you achieve your college goals.

    read more

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

  • 7 Organization Tips for Students This Tax Season

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

    7 Organization Tips for Students This Tax Season

    Tax season is upon us!

    While April 15th isn’t a party for anyone, there a few things busy students can do to make paying income tax less stressful, whether you file your own or take your documents to an accountant. Since we’re just a month away from the tax deadline (at least so far), now is also great time to set up a good system for the coming year so you can breathe a sigh of relief next time you file.

    Here are a few tips for keeping your tax documents ready to go: 

    Designate an organizational "home" for tax-related documents.

    Keep all your financial documents in a safe place, whether that be a lockbox, fireproof safe, or even a simple file folder or box in a secure area of your house. By creating a “home base” for your documents, you’ll know exactly where to put W2s, bank statements, or receipts throughout the year. When it’s time to do your taxes, all your documents will be ready for you (or your accountant). 

    Open mail as soon as you get it.

    It’s easy to ignore that growing stack of mail on the counter, but resist! When you walk in the door, go to your mail and sort it (right over the trash can if possible so you can throw away junk mail as you go). Anything that might pertain to taxes (like invoices or credit card statements) goes right into your tax document box. Not only will this system keep you organized for tax day, but it will also make your life so much easier if you ever get audited.

    Make a spreadsheet.

    If organized numbers make you as happy as they make me , try making a simple spreadsheet to keep track of your expenses. In the short term, this might help you visualize where your money is going each month and benefit your budget. In the long term, some of these expenditures may be tax deductible or have a tax credit, such as certain kinds of environmentally-friendly home improvements, school expenses, or childcare costs. If you typically itemize your deductions, taking the time to write down deductible expenses as you go will save you loads of time when tax season rolls around.

    Go digital.

    Online banking and digital credit card statements make keeping track of income and deductible expenses easy, especially if you’re recording everything in a spreadsheet (see previous point). While it’s helpful to have printed copies of certain documents like W2s or 1099s (income received from non-employers), going digital will help you seamlessly pull what you need into a digital tax service like TurboTax. Around 90% of taxpayers currently file their taxes electronically with online services or software. E-filing is convenient, increases information security, often provides faster refunds than filing by mail, and is a lot cheaper than hiring a tax professional.

    Ask a professional.

    While it's true that e-filing on your own can save you money, it's never a bad idea to get a professional opinion on your taxes if you have any questions. Credentials definitely matter when it comes to entrusting someone with your financial information. If you’re going to pay someone to do your taxes, here are a few tips from the IRS to make sure you find someone reputable.

    Take advantage of tax deductions and credits.

    There are a few legal ways to reduce the amount of taxes you pay. Tax deductions reduce your total taxable income up front, while tax credits are subtracted from the taxes you owe to create a lower overall tax liability. If you take more of a DIY tax approach, you can research your eligibility for tax deductions and credits online, with resources such as this list of common tax deductions from Nerd Wallet. If you’re hiring someone to prepare your taxes, make sure to ask them if you’re a good candidate for itemized deductions or available tax credits.

    Document everything.

    The IRS recommends that you keep tax-related documents for at least 3 years in case of an audit. It is especially important to save income information and receipts that prove tax-deductible expenses if you typically get the itemized deduction rather than the standard deduction, or if you’re self-employed.  

    An easy way to keep track of receipts is the envelope system. Label envelopes with the name of each month of the year and fill each envelope with that month’s deductible expense receipts as you go along.

    Curious how taxes impact you as an Accelerated Pathways student? Check out our post on taxes for online students for more specific tax information related to your college expenses or talk to one of our friendly student services advisors at student at services-ap@pearson.com. Or, if you want to find out more about Accelerated Pathways and how we facilitate online students, reach out to us!

    read more

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

  • A Student's Guide to Get and Stay Organized this Year

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

    A Student's Guide to Get and Stay Organized this Year

    Whether you started college right out of high school or you’re an adult learner working to finish your degree, life is crazy busy. For many people, the realities of life have caught up to those hopeful resolutions we made on New Year’s Day a few months ago. 

    If you’re one of the thousands of people who resolved to get organized this year, you might feel like the mythological Sisyphus and his boulder that never quite made it up the hill. Don’t give up yet! It’s time to give your goals a boost and remember exactly how much organization can benefit your life. Research shows that the advantages of organization include: 

    Nearly everyone has at least one area of life that would benefit from organization, whether it be home, work, school, relationships, finances, goals, personal health, or all of the above! Here is a list of practical tips that can help you take a small step today toward a happier, more peaceful existence.

    1. Figure out what works for you

    Organization should be defined by what works for you and the people you live with, not what a magazine article or home designer says you should do. If you like alphabetized workspaces, great! If you don’t like your creativity hampered by too many neat boxes, that’s okay too. (Albert Einstein had a messy desk, after all.)

    At the end of the day, getting organized isn’t about outside opinions. It’s about what helps your life run more smoothly and happily.

    2. Create a centralized to-do list and calendar

    One of my favorite ways to stay organized is to have a Grand Central Station for all my tasks, thoughts, reminders, appointments, school deadlines, lists, and anything else I need to be able to find or remember! My mom does this with a wall calendar that she keeps filled with all the family schedules and activities, while I prefer to keep my family organized electronically with Google Keep and my cell phone’s calendar. I turn on reminders for my calendar and sync Google Keep across my devices so all my lists and reminders can go with me wherever I go.  Whether you prefer to have physical or electronic organization, choose one method and always use that method for everything you need to remember. Don’t assume you’ll remember anything. I cannot count the times I’ve come up with a shopping list in my head only to forget to write it down. That’s the brilliance of a centralized hub of organization. It’s like an external brain.

    3. Declutter for good

    If you need to get rid of stuff (and who doesn’t...), don’t just throw it away. If your extra possessions are in good condition, take a couple extra minutes to drop those bags off at a donation center. Not only will you be freeing up space in your home (and brain), but someone else will be blessed by your efforts.

    Not sure where to take your donations? Here’s a list of places who take everything from old cell phones and power tools to clothing and furniture.

    4. Start small

    One of the most important principles of accomplishing any goal is to start small. Don’t try to organize your entire life in an afternoon, or even a week. If you overwhelm yourself, you will be setting yourself up for failure.

    Instead, pick the most pressing area of your life and make only one or two small adjustments. If you don’t have any time, set a timer for just 5 minutes and do what you can in that time. Small steps will get you there faster than you think. If you only spend 5 minutes a day, that’s over 30 hours over the course of a year!

    5. It doesn't have to be Instagram-worthy

    Organization doesn’t have to look like Martha Stewart or Marie Kondo took over your life. Practicality can sometimes win over aesthetics, especially in spaces that receive a lot of traffic or clutter. Take a deep breath and ask yourself what this space needs to accomplish in your home or workplace. It doesn’t have to look like a perfect Instagram post all the time. It just has to do its job.

    6. Think of others

    If you are organizing a shared space, make sure the other people involved are comfortable with the changes you want to make. You may have to compromise to accommodate more tidy or less organized personalities.  If you are sharing an area with others, it’s okay to ask them for help keeping it clean. You could make a chart of responsibilities, divide up responsibilities by what each of you prefers to do, create a reward system, or take turns being the organizer each week. Remember, the goal isn’t perfection. Any small step you can take together toward a calmer, more streamlined space is worth it!

    7. Prioritize

    When you pick an area of your life to organize, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all that you want to accomplish. The best way to see meaningful change is to prioritize what is most important or causing the most problems. For example, if you want to organize your kitchen, think about what part of the kitchen gets most cluttered and causes you the most stress. Perhaps it’s the never-ending stream of dishes. Think about how you can streamline your dishwashing process. Maybe you can move frequently-used dishes to a cabinet closer to the sink or dishwasher, ask everyone to put their used dishes directly in the dishwasher rather than leaving them on the table or in the sink, or set a timer for 10 minutes of dishwashing before bed each night so the pile doesn’t loom so large. Whatever area of life you want to organize, pick one piece and start there.

    8. Go with the flow

    Organizing doesn’t have to painfully go against your grain. Instead of trying to create habits that you won’t enjoy or connect with, find ways to work within your preferences. Pursue who you actually want to be instead of chasing an idealistic picture of someone you think you should be.

    The best way to create a lasting habit is to find a creative way of using your personality quirks and personal drive to accomplish your goals. Enjoy music? Throw on some tunes while picking up clutter. Like to socialize? Talk on the phone while you tackle that laundry. Organize your office files while listening to that audio book you’ve been wanting to read. Combine something you enjoy with something you have to do to make the whole experience more enjoyable.

    9. Create dedicated stations

    Creating special stations for common situations or needs can save lots of time and energy. Spilled something on the floor? Having all your cleaning supplies in a dedicated closet, cabinet, or caddy means fewer steps and less stress for you. Always hunting for your wallet or keys? Create a station by the door to hold all your going-out items so you can simply gather things at the door before you go. Wherever you find yourself needing items over and over, ask yourself if you can create a station to automatically set yourself up for success.

    10. Be prepared for mishaps

    Accidents happen, but you can improve many difficult situations by having a plan.

    Your situation will be unique, but a few preparation ideas include: back up important documents, entrust spare keys to a friend or family member, talk with members of your household about what to do in case of fire or a storm emergency, post a list of numbers to call for common emergencies (such as 911, poison control, or animal control), start a rainy-day savings account, or keep a small amount of cash on hand.

    Many people like to have a portable bag of emergency essentials in their home or car (often including food, water, first aid supplies, and a change of clothes) just in case they need to grab it in during a serious emergency. Many accidents that we prepare for do not ever happen, but it is okay to thoughtfully consider a few essentials that might be handy in a range of situations.

    There are a lot of opinions about organization, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. What do you need to be happy in your spaces and habits? That’s the most important question. Your house doesn’t have to look like a museum, your car doesn't have to look like it was just driven off the showroom floor, and your exercise routine doesn’t have to mirror anyone else’s. Organization is not an end goal. It’s just a tool to help you live a better life. As you balance school with the rest of your priorities, embrace small organization steps that can free up your time and mental energy so that you can thrive.   More ideas on getting organized for schoolwork:

    Working Full Time in College

    Productivity Hacks for the Working Student

    Best Time Management Apps for Students

    read more

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

  • Maintaining Your Sanity While Studying at Home

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

    Maintaining Your Sanity While Studying at Home

    Since most people have been spending a lot of extra time at home for the past year, whether to study at home has become a non-issue. With most libraries and coffee shops shut down (at least for those seeking leisurely study hours), home is pretty much the only option. Even before the days of shutdowns and quarantines, studying from home offered quite a few perks—it's convenient, it’s free, you can squeeze in a few minutes here and there...but at some point, nearly everyone starts to go a little crazy from distractions, stress, procrastination, unhelpful habits, or just sheer boredom with the never-changing scenery, especially if going out is just not a practical option. Thankfully, there are many strategies to minimize the negative effects of staying in. Here are 13 ways to keep your sanity while studying at home:

    1. Cancel the noise

    If you’re at home with other people, noise is inevitable. Trying to study with your kids running around the house or your spouse jumping into conference calls every half-hour can feel like swimming upstream. If you’re having trouble focusing due to the constant noise level around you, invest in a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to tune out any distracting sounds.

    2. Ban the stress

    Even homebodies can start to go a little stir-crazy when staying at home is the only option. If stress is crippling your study time, take a step back and find an activity that helps you relax. Whether it’s a power nap, stepping outside for a walk around the yard, or putting on some music and dancing it out in the kitchen, time spent preparing your mind for learning will never be wasted.

    3. Turn on music

    For many people, music can be a grounding, relaxing, and focusing force. If you’re having trouble getting motivated or paying attention, try an inspiring movie or video game soundtrack, both of which are designed to capture your focus without distracting you. If you’re stressed, try nature sounds or soft instrumental music. Everyone is different, so experiment to see what kind of music helps you. I personally can listen to any music that I know well, because my brain doesn’t have to pay attention to lyrics or new sounds and is soothed by the familiarity. Some people can only tolerate instrumental tracks or white noise, while others cannot focus while listening to anything. Classical music is also a popular choice, since besides being instrumental, it is also thought to boost dopamine levels, diminish stress, and improve memory!

    4. Carve out a study space

    When studying at home, it’s tempting to settle in with your books and laptop anywhere you can find a comfortable seat, but consider setting aside a special study area to help yourself get in the learning zone. Create a study space or furniture arrangement that you only use for studying. Whenever you sit at that desk or pull up a certain chair to the kitchen counter, tell yourself “This is where I study.” By creating a connection between this spot and productivity, you can train your brain to be more focused the moment you sit down in your designated productivity area. Do not let yourself sit there for any other reason. (For the same reason, don’t go to your favorite easy chair or your bed to study! Those locations are full of tempting distractions waiting to steal your attention, such as browsing Netflix or taking a nap.) Learn more: How to Create the Perfect Study Room

    5. Enforce your boundaries

    Studying at home provides plenty of opportunities for interruption. You may need to strictly enforce your study time as “sacred time” to your family or roommates, particularly if they are prone to popping in and distracting you every few minutes. While being respectful of others’ needs to move around and take care of their own priorities, let them know that you need to set aside a certain amount of time to study each day. If appropriate, ask them when this would best work with their schedule. Once you agree on a workable schedule, set a timer and let them know that, apart from emergencies, you will not be available until the timer goes off. If you have small children who struggle with this rule, perhaps another adult in the household could watch them for a short period of time to give you an uninterrupted segment of studying. If another adult is unavailable, supervising creative play or screen time from across the room might give you a few extra minutes of focus.

    6. Cut the clutter

    Studies show that a messy space can literally mess with your mind by increasing your cortisol level (indicating stress) and deteriorating your ability to focus. Cleaning up around your study area will help keep you distraction-free and attuned to your task rather than thinking about that pile of laundry that needs to be folded.

    7. Leave your phone behind

    If you find yourself checking your phone every time you get a notification, consider leaving it in the other room. If you absolutely must have it with you for work or emergency purposes, consider turning off social media notifications, uninstalling your go-to social media apps during your study times, or installing one of these browser add-ons or apps to keep you on the right track. Learn more: Check out 11 other time-management and productivity apps for students!

    8. Mark the time

    Are your days going by in a blur? Decide which days are special to you and make them distinct from the others in some way. You could mark the passing of time in many ways, like not studying on certain days, creating a special weekly meal or activity, or declaring every Saturday a movie-marathon extravaganza! Whether you choose to emphasize the weekend or a random day or two in the middle of the week, creating contrast in your days will help you to maintain a sense of rhythm and break up lockdown boredom.

    9. Create a habit

    Your unique at-home situation probably presents some unique distractions, opportunities to procrastinate, or unhelpful habits that could easily trip you up. If you’re looking to start a new habit, you'll need a cue, routine, and reward. Basically, you turn yourself into the dog in Pavlov’s famous behavioral experiment! This article helps you understand the basic principles of habit formation, identify the habit you want to change, and navigate around common pitfalls so you can transform your habits into exactly what you want them to be.

    10. Take mandatory breaks

    Anything gets old if you do it long enough. No matter how important your studies are to you, you still need a break every now and again to keep your brain sharp and motivated. Experts disagree about the exact ratio of work to break time needed to create optimal performance, but they do agree that stepping away from your task helps you do better in the long run.

    11. Institute rewards and celebrations

    This idea goes along with habit formation and taking breaks, but it encompasses so much more. If studying from home is getting old, you might need to add more incentives to your arsenal. Instead procrastinating with your latest Netflix show before your study session, bargain with yourself that you can watch a new episode for every two or three hours you study. For every course that you pass, you could give yourself a day off to do whatever you want or celebrate with a special takeout feast if you pass a big exam. Find rewards you’d really enjoy that you can experience from home, and don’t be shy in applying them to your studies! If you are getting in adequate study time and not breaking the bank by treating yourself, the more positive associations the better! If you need more parameters, set yourself a monthly celebratory budget.

    12. Set reachable daily goals

    When you do sit down to study, write down what you want to accomplish in that time. Create between one and three goals to focus on during that study session. Don’t write down more than three. Focus on what is doable and most important that day. Having specific and quantifiable goals for each study session can help you dig into your educational priorities and acknowledge that it’s okay to not get everything done in one day. Here are a few more goal-setting hacks that you should try if traditional resolutions aren’t doing the trick.

    13. Care for yourself

    Finally, as you fight for your sanity while studying at home, don’t forget to take care of yourself! Doing your best to eat a colorful and balanced diet, moving around during the day, getting enough sleep, and reaching out to friends and family for socialization (even if it’s virtual for now) cannot be underestimated in reducing stress and helping your brain rest and recover between study times. There are so many ways to make college studies at home more engaging and less mind-numbing, like having someone to cheer you on! If you need more support and motivation in pursuing your degree, you might benefit from working with one of our success coaches here at Accelerated Pathways. If more support, efficiency, and flexibility from home sounds like something you’d enjoy, schedule a free conversation with one of our advisors today to see how we can make your home-based studies work better for you.

    read more

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

  • The Economics of a College Degree

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

    The Economics of a College Degree

    Maria Gonzalez's family immigrated to the United States several years before she was born and worked for decades to grow their florist business in Brooklyn, New York. They worked long hours and expanded to several locations around the city in the hopes of increasing their income enough to afford a good college for their daughter.

    With high school graduation approaching, Maria and her parents sat down to consider what colleges she should apply to and what federal grants and scholarships she could get to offset the expense of tuition.

    Unfortunately, when Maria applied for student aid, the U.S. Department of Education told her that her "financial need" was determined by a formula that analyzed her parents' assets and income. This formula determined that their Expected Family Contribution would be too high to qualify for any federal grants.

    When the Gonzalez family looked further into tuition costs at Maria's top three college choices, they were dismayed to find that their out-of-pocket expenses would be more than $20,000 a year to send their daughter to college! They simply could not afford to contribute the full annual tuition on top of their own mortgage and business costs, so Maria told them that she would apply for a student loan to help cover the cost of her education. It seemed like the only solution.

    Unfortunately, the Gonzalez family's situation has become the norm for Americans: too "rich" to qualify for federal grants, but too poor to pay for college outright.

    65 million families in the United States meet this definition, landing on the spectrum called "The Debt Zone."

    What exactly is the Debt Zone? It is the bracket of annual household income from $50,000 to $200,000 considered "too wealthy" for most federal grants...but typically this income is too low to pay out of pocket for the traditional college experience.

    One of three things often occur for these families:

    1. Students skip college,

    2. They drop out when it becomes too costly (especially if they are first-generation college students), or

    3. They graduated with an average of $30,062 of student loan debt (as of 2019) compounded by the additional opportunity cost of not being in the workforce for the last 4-5 years.

    While going straight into the workforce is a great option for some career paths, the fact remains that college is a near-essential for most people. This Debt Zone dilemma seems to doom students to a lifetime of paying off their college loans. More and more students and their parents are recognizing the true debt crisis unfolding in education, with the national student debt exceeding 1.6 trillion dollars.

    Is there a better way than ushering our youth into a lifetime of compounding debt as soon as they graduate high school?

    That's the problem that Pearson Accelerated Pathways was founded to solve. College education is still one of the most important factors in future employment and earning potential, but we didn't think it should be so cost-prohibitive. So, we decided to think outside the traditional four-year college experience and create a higher education option that provided everything that the traditional experience does not: flexibility and low cost, so that as many students could graduate debt-free as possible.

    Ready to see if Accelerated Pathways can help you avoid college debt following you around? Learn more about our programs and book some time to speak with our higher education experts, reach out to us today

    We saw that the two highest costs of college were overhead and opportunity.

    Overhead

    Colleges charge you general tuition that covers more than just your classes. It also includes campus upkeep, extracurricular programs, tenured professors, and more. Because they have to be able to make money in order to continue operating, they pass these hefty expenses on to students, whether or not those students take advantage of all the extras that they're paying for.

    Opportunity

    Opportunity cost is a less obvious cost of college, but consider this: how much money could you have made if you had gone straight into the workforce INSTEAD of going to college?

    Sure, the hope is that eventually your degree will pay for itself. But have you ever stopped to think about how long it could actually take to make up for the loss of work experience and pay off your student loans and surpass the income level that you would have been making anyway without a degree? You might be surprised.

    Check out this video for a complete breakdown of the opportunity cost of going to a traditional college.

    With Pearson Accelerated Pathways, you can eliminate that opportunity cost and achieve the best of both worlds, earning real-world experience in the workforce while still having the time to pursue a debt-free college degree.

    As the video explains, taking this alternate path to college graduation results in $135,000 or MORE in savings. What could you do with an extra $135,000 laying around?

    If the idea of "the college experience" is not as important to you as getting busy and entering the workforce, consider accelerating your trajectory and turning your Debt Zone into a lifetime of savings. By taking advantage of all the time and money-saving options that Pearson Accelerated Pathways offers, you can be sure of finding the most flexible and affordable path.

    However, if you want to spend part of your studies on campus, while still saving money on your degree, it's possible! Talk to a Pearson Accelerated Pathways advisor about your plans. They will help you examine your chosen college and find ways to reduce costs.

    There is no one right way to do college. Wherever your unique story leads, Accelerated Pathways will help you achieve your goals without falling into a lifetime of debt. You can learn more about how our program works here, or take our two-minute assessment to find out if Accelerated Pathways is a good fit for you.

    read more

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

  • Speed Degree: Benefits of Finishing College Fast

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

    Speed Degree: Benefits of Finishing College Fast

    Earning a degree is not a quick process.

    Over half of people pursuing a bachelor’s degree for the first time take longer than the standard four years to graduate.   Even more sobering are the statistics for students over the age of 30. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 84% take more than six years to graduate. Worst of all, half of students over 30 take more than 162 months to earn their bachelor’s degrees. Can you imagine spending 13 years of your life in college?

    Every additional year that a student delays graduation, they lose money. Often, these students are balancing their long years of study with other priorities such as full-time employment and caring for their families. A traditional college program with mandatory attendance and scheduled class times makes it difficult to finish a degree quickly.

    Is there a better way? Can college be shortened?

    The answer is yes, and it's not as complicated as you might think. Here are 6 ways to drastically shorten your college experience:

    1. Save your commute

    Traveling to (or within) a campus can be a big timewaster. Think of the hours that students roam the halls, run across campus, or drive through traffic to attend classes. Even if you only commute for 30 minutes a day, over the course of a school year you’ll spend 75 hours just to get to class! With the ever-increasing popularity of online courses (about a third of all students take at least one online course during college), most colleges and universities are rushing to join the modern age. In summary: online courses eliminate commute time.

    2. Don't take courses with fixed schedules

    In-person classes typically involve a greater time commitment than online classes, but not all online courses are equal. Some classes have mandatory testing dates, require you to virtually attend lectures at fixed times, or spread the material over an entire semester. Students looking for a faster path to graduation should avoid courses with rigid schedules. Students in our Global Digital Classroom complete self-paced online courses in 8 weeks or less (as opposed to the 15 weeks required for a typical semester-based course) because they’re allowed to complete the material as quickly as they desire and study anywhere, anytime.

    3. Don't spend two years on General Education courses

    General Education or “Gen Ed” credits make up between a third and a half of every bachelor’s degree and cover a wide variety of standard subjects. These core education courses are typically unrelated to the major and often include information that many students have already fully or partially covered in high school. Because these courses tend to cover wider, more general topics, taking them in a flexible online format is a great way to expedite college. For example, when I had to repeat Precalculus for my bachelor’s degree, it only took me a few weeks to refresh my high school knowledge and complete the class.

    4. Earn credit for what you already know

    Another way to speed up college is by earning credit for skills or knowledge you already have. Many colleges award credit for expertise gained outside of a classroom with Prior Learning Assessments (PLA). Other institutions offer credit-by-exam, which test knowledge on a subject and award college credit via a single pass/fail exam.

    Pearson Accelerated Pathways offers a quick way to enroll in courses and skilled advisors to help you graduate faster. Learn more about Accelerated Pathways and discover whether it is a good fit for you.

    5. Transfer courses from other institutions

    Most colleges or universities allow you to apply transfer credits from other institutions to your degree, as long as the transfer courses fit your degree requirements. While mastering the art of transfer credit takes a little work (or the dedicated support of our credit transfer experts) to make sure no credits go to waste, you can save time and money on your degree by outsourcing flexible college credit options.

    6. Plan ahead so you don't take unnecessary courses

    While transferring credits can be optimized to shorten a degree (as mentioned in the previous point), many students unfamiliar with the process lose college credits when changing schools or picking back up on a set-aside degree track. Colleges don’t have a one-size-fits-all degree template. In fact, every single college has different degree requirements. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree, the average student takes 12-15 extra credits that do not transfer. This amounts to wasting an entire semester on classes they had to pay for but didn’t count toward their degree at all. Students can save on both time and debt by creating a college plan in advance to minimize credit waste (or they can enroll in a program like Pearson Accelerated Pathways, which guarantees degree plans and protects the student from wasting their time, energy, and college funds.)

    The traditional college experience isn't the right move for everyone, and the cost is far outpacing the average person's ability to pay for it. Here at Pearson Accelerated Pathways, we help forward-thinking students find a better, faster way to achieve their educational goals so they can graduate quickly, move forward in fulfilling careers, and build a life after school without debt.

    College can be challenging, but it doesn't have to take up a tenth of your life. When you share your college objectives with one of our skilled advisors here at Pearson Accelerated Pathways, you'll receive a free customized degree plan designed by our credit transfer experts. Take a few moments to find out if Accelerated Pathways is a good fit for you!

    read more

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

  • What Level of Education Do I Need?

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

    What Level of Education Do I Need?

    In 1940, less than 6% of America’s adult population held a bachelor’s degree or higher. Today, college is a card-carrying member in the rites-of-passage club for the average American young adult.

    Sure, we’ve all heard the stories of high school dropouts running multi-million dollar startups or non-degreed entrepreneurs passing up the Ivy Leaguers in the climb to the top. But college degrees are the norm, and the level of educational attainment in the U.S. is only climbing.

    So, how are you to know what level of education you need? Is a high school diploma enough? Is the master’s degree really the new bachelor’s? Do you need a Ph.D. in order to be taken seriously in your field?

    Let’s figure it out.

    No Degree

    “Should I even go to college?” This is a topic we’ve discussed before on the blog, and the answer remains the same.

    It depends.

    In the typical to-degree-or-not-to-degree soliloquy, proponents of skipping college eventually bring up the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. “If it’s good enough for Bill, it’s good enough for me.” The reasoning sounds convincing. After all, who are we to argue with billions of well-earned dollars?

    But insanely-rich non-degreed entrepreneurs aside, what about all the business giants who succeeded with a college degree?

    The fact is, most people need a degree. Not because it is impossible to succeed without one, but because landing a high-end job without college is a flashy news piece, not a social norm.

    The American job market continues to rely heavily on college credentials. For the past decade and a half, those with some level of higher education have earned approximately 66% more than people with only high school diplomas.

    Said another way, landing a satisfying career without a degree is still more of the exception than the rule.

    It is possible to be wildly successful without earning a college degree, just like it is possible to give birth to triplets, become President, or qualify for the Olympics. But being possible does not make something common, statistically-likely, or the path of least resistance. If anything, by forgoing college, you have to be more clever and determined than rival job applicants because you’re rowing against the current.

    Do you have what it takes to conquer the norm?

    Associate Degree

    The associate degree is a 2-year degree composed of 60 college credits, ranking between a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree in education level. An associate is often used to satisfy a degree requirement in a healthcare, business, or education field without investing the time or money required by a 4-year degree.

    Many people choose this option as a stepping stone to a later bachelor’s degree, since the 60-credit associate roughly parallels the studies in the first 2-years of a bachelor’s degree. (But beware. With any transition between levels of education, requirements are not identical and require advance research and planning to ensure successful credit transfer. Especially if you plan to earn your associate and bachelor’s from different institutions, you may wind up with earned credits that won’t apply to your degree.)

    Associate degrees can be good options for students who:

    1. Need to enter the job market as soon as possible

    2. Have limited money to spend on higher education

    3. Are unsure whether they want to get a bachelor’s degree

    4. Are interested in field that only requires an associate level degree

    Unfortunately, the associate degree is impacted by credential inflation—when so many people have a degree that it becomes the new normal. As the job market becomes more saturated with minimally-degreed applicants, more and more students feel the pressure to earn higher levels of degrees just to stand out from the crowd.

    Bachelor’s Degree

    The bachelor’s degree is the landmark college degree for most Americans. As of 2015, approximately one-third of adults in the United States held a bachelor’s degree or higher. By comparison, less than 10% of American adults held a master’s degree and only 2% had a doctorate.

    A bachelor’s degree is an ideal launching point for either a career or further education, carrying enough street cred to be respectable on its own while leaving open the possibility of additional education down the road.

    Business, finance, K-12 education, computer science, engineering, and the humanities are all ideal careers for bachelor’s degrees. Although master’s degrees can sometimes provide higher wages and wider career opportunities, a determined employee with a bachelor’s degree can often make up for the education gap by gaining hands-on experience. As an additional perk, bachelor’s programs are often eligible for scholarships, grants, and a multitude of economical online course opportunities.

    If there is a con to the bachelor’s degree, it’s the unfortunate fact of credential inflation. Like the associate degree, the bachelor’s has to compete in a labor pool that increasingly includes graduates with even higher credentials.

    Master’s Degree

    Master’s degrees are 2-year graduate programs pursued post-bachelor’s. A master’s provides the credential leap that propels a student into the specialized knowledge required by some fields. Even in careers friendly to bachelor’s degrees, a master’s degree can help you bypass entry-level positions.

    Since the 1980s, the popularity of the master’s degree has more than doubled, making it the go-to degree for career climbers. Higher education, business management, computer science, engineering, and mathematics are all good career options for a person considering a master’s degree.

    However, a master’s degree is not always better than a bachelor’s. A master’s could be the career launch you need, or it could be an educational delay leaving you years behind your colleagues in experience and saddled by graduate-school debt. Pursuing a bachelor’s instead of a master’s program, especially with a flexible study format like Accelerated Pathways, may add 2-6 years of valuable employment experience to your portfolio.

    If you think a master’s will offer you a greater earning potential, consider taking a few years between your bachelor’s and master’s. Enter the job market and gain some hands-on skills. This way, when you return to pursue graduate education, you’ll have experience under your belt and a better understanding of what credentials your field actually requires.

    Doctorate Degree

    In the United States, doctorates are terminal-level degrees—that is, they are the highest education credential available in a particular field. The most widely-known doctorate is the Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), but other familiar doctorates include M.D. (Medical Doctor), Ed.D. (Doctor of Education), Th.D (Doctor of Theology), and J.D. (Juris Doctor).

    Ph.D.’s and other doctorates are the go-to degrees for academia: scientific and humanities researchers, medicine, and law. Doctorates are not required for many jobs, but when they are, the requirement is largely non-negotiable. While some research and academia can be entered into from a master’s degree level, a Ph.D. is by and large a prerequisite for serious work in these fields.

    Since a Ph.D. places such a demand on the student’s time and intellectual ability, the light at the end of the tunnel has to be particularly bright. Unlike master’s degrees, doctorates are often fully funded and even pay small stipends in exchange for the student researching or teaching for the university. In addition to a high earnings potential, a Ph.D. or other doctorate represents a phenomenal personal educational achievement and offers an inroad into the groundbreaking conversations happening in your field of study. A Ph.D. represents the opportunity to be on the front lines of a discipline, establishing the academic or scientific cutting edge of tomorrow.

    However, a Ph.D. isn’t all pomp and prestige. Doctoral students pay the opportunity cost of further delaying entry into the workforce. And unless they pursued a bachelor’s degree program that allowed then to graduate with their bachelor’s debt free, many Ph.D. students are also still paying off prior education, which can be a challenge on a small stipend.

    Given all that, the most daunting feature of the Ph.D. is undoubtedly its length. It can take 5 to 7 years to complete a doctoral program, on top of the typical 4-6 years needed to earn the prerequisite bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

    With so many years of commitment and demanding studies behind it, the doctorate commands respect. While this level of education is not rare, it is rigorous and thorough, and serves as a badge of honor and credibility in the world of research, academics, and elite services.

    Entrepreneur Thomas Smale got it right when he explained the most important aspect of degree planning: “But those with drive knew what they were after and didn’t delay in taking steps to achieve in their career or business, regardless of education. They found their footing by design.”

    While which education level you choose is important, what matters more is your determination in pursuing your future. Find your footing by design, by making a thoughtful choice and running after it with everything you’ve got.

    At the end of the day—past all the pros and cons, promotion options, and earnings potential—a degree is a tool, a helpful set of letters behind your name.

    What really makes those letters mean something is you.

    read more

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

  • 13 Free Electives for Your Dream Degree

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS

    19-free-electives-for-your-dream-degree

    We’re big fans of flexible degree options that let you customize your electives to fit your interests. After all, why should you have to take a bunch of college classes you can’t use later in life?

    Free electives are credits you need to graduate, but do not relate to your degree’s General Education or major requirements.

    While Bachelor of Arts degrees have more free elective credits than Bachelor of Science degrees, almost every degree has room for at least one or two free elective courses. They’re a great place to explore and develop your interests in an area completely unrelated to your degree major.

    Here are 13 free elective idea starters that just might put you on a path of discovery:

    1. EMT/First Responder Training

    Value: 3 credits

    Why It’s Cool: Want to go beyond CPR? Whether you’re a world traveler, backcountry adventurer, or just someone who loves to help others, Emergency First Responder or Emergency Medical Technician courses are an essential skill in any medical emergency. They provide an excellent overview of emergency medicine so you can treat other people’s injuries, stay calm in a crisis, be a better parent, and help friends in need. It’s the college course that might help you save someone’s life.

    Learn more: Offered at local colleges or in university courses like this one. In addition, some colleges grant credit if you already have this certification.

    2. Study Abroad Programs

    Value: 12-17 credits

    Why It’s Cool: Have an itch to see the world? You can...and earn credit too! Tour France’s cobblestone streets and ancient castles, climb in the Swiss Alps, uncover China’s history, circumnavigate the globe in a sailboat with a student crew, or explore the rainforests of South America. Come home with new friends around the world, thousands of photos, lifetime memories, and oh...college credit. Not bad.

    Learn more: CEACIS AbroadSea|mester

    3. Employer Training Programs

    Value: 3-9 credits

    Why It’s Cool: Some companies will pay for your college and some will help you get college credit for employee training programs. Find out if your employer’s on-the-job training can get you closer to college graduation!

    Learn more: McDonald's, Disney, Chili's, Georgia Power, Jiffy Lube, and others.

    4. Microsoft Certified Training for College Credit

    Value: 2-3 credits/course

    Why It’s Cool: You can earn Microsoft certifications while getting college credit at the same time. Being tech-savvy is a necessity in today’s job market, and this ACE-recommended program can help you prepare. Courses on their site include Microsoft IT Professional certifications, administering Windows Servers, and training in HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript.

    Learn more: Microsoft Learning program

    5. Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

    Value: 3 credits/course, 15/certificate

    Why It’s Cool: Love teaching? You can get certified to teach English to students while simultaneously earning college credit!

    Learn more: TESOL Certificate Program or individual courses from CALCampus

    6. Project Management

    Value: 1-3 credits/course

    Why It’s Cool: Combining people skills with organizational savvy, project management is one of the fastest-growing career fields. Not only will you get college credit, but you will also develop an in-demand skill to boost your future employment opportunities.

    Learn more: American Council on Education

    7. Vocational Certifications

    Value: Varies

    Why It’s Cool: If you have earned one of these certifications recognized by Thomas Edison State College (or are interested in getting one), you can get college credit for it! Recognized certifications cover a wide variety of skills, including: UPS Driver Training School, classes from National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) training, some US Army and Navy courses, and the New Jersey Carpenters’ Apprenticeship.

    Learn more: Thomas Edison State College Academic Program Reviews

    8. DSST Exams

    Value: 3 credits/exam

    Why It’s Cool: Research your favorite subject while getting credit -- and best of all, you can take the test as soon as you’re ready. A wide range of fascinating tests include Criminal Justice, Astronomy, Fundamentals of Counseling, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union, and even Fundamentals of Cybersecurity.

    Learn more: DSST Test Taker Bulletin

    9. Hospitality

    Value: 3 credits

    Why It’s Cool: If you’re interested in learning more about hospitality on a business-scale, you can get credit for that, too! Learn the principles that hotels and resorts apply as they care for their guests.

    Learn more: The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI), offers online courses on topics including food service, hospitality management, housekeeping operations, accounting, and technology in the hospitality industry.

    10. Foreign Language

    Value: 3-16 credits (depending on proficiency and test taken)

    Why It’s Cool: Tune up those rusty foreign language skills and get credit for them! Not only will you get closer to earning your degree, but your language skills can open employment opportunities. Our research manager says, “One should not underestimate the value of the being a credentialed multilingual professional. This is HUGE!”

    Learn more: CLEP (offers Spanish, French, and German); American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (offers credit for written tests in over 18 languages, and oral proficiency tests in over 100 languages); New York University (tests proficiency in over 50 languages)

    11. Scuba Dive Training

    Value: 1-2 credits/course

    Why It’s Cool: Whether you’re interested in search and rescue or the Great Barrier Reef, SCUBA training could come in handy. These courses allow you to tour the ocean floor and earn college credits at the same time.

    Learn more: PADI Diving Courses

    12. Interior Design

    Value: 3/course, 9/certification

    Why It’s Cool: Discover color schemes, furniture arrangement, lighting, and other elements of interior design. If you have a love for hospitality or decorating, this could boost your skills and your degree!

    Learn more: Colorado State University’s Residential Interiors Certificate

    13. Graphic Design/Digital Media Courses

    Value: 1.5-3 credits/course

    Why It’s Cool: Have a penchant for digital arts, illustration, photo/video editing, or graphic design? Get a jumpstart on your art and get credit for it!

    Learn more: Sessions College Design Courses

    These are just a few examples of the creative elective options available to students today. Don’t forget: not every elective will fit into your degree.

    Ask a school registrar or talk with your Accelerated Pathways advisor to see if your chosen electives will work with the degree you have in mind.

    What out-of-the-box electives do you plan to fit into your degree?

     

     

     

    read more

    SHELBIE WILLIAMS