Wyatt Dalton

  • Is Your Homeschool Transcript Missing These Critical Items?


    Is Your Homeschool Transcript Missing These Critical Items?

    In many ways, your child’s future depends on what their high school transcript shows. Universities expect an error-free, professionally formatted transcript before they can even consider a student's applicattion, so putting together a "perfect" homeschool transcript can be stressful for homeschool parents.

    The reality of preparing transcripts is actually much less dramatic.

    Sure, you’ll spend hours combing the internet for how-to guides worrying that you might be missing something. You’ll dig through your long-forgotten records from years ago to find evidence that your student actually did do math at some point in high school.

    But in the end, you’ll bring everything together in a neat little package with just the right formatting and all of the needed information in its proper place. Great job! If you’ve followed along with the online how-to’s, you’ve just created a very professional document. But don’t celebrate just yet.

    If your goal is to give your child their best chance possible of getting into their dream college, there’s one more thing for you to worry about.

    Will a cookie cutter transcript make it easier for your child to get into their dream college?

    Probably not. Every year, colleges are flooded with millions of transcripts. It’s a safe bet all of them are formatted correctly. Most of them even have all of the information transcripts are supposed to have.

    If all that you’ve focused on has been including the right information and using the right format, your transcript is now exactly like the millions that admissions counselors see every year.

    Want to help set your child apart from the crowd that is already clamoring at the gates of higher education? You'll have to do something a little different from everyone else...

    Here’s how to prepare a transcript that helps your child stand out. (It’s easier than you think.)

    Making your homeschool transcript stand out is a fairly simple two-step process.

    First, prepare early by keeping accurate and complete records. Make complete lesson plans and keep any major assignments your child has completed. And on top of that, you should create a course of study for every class. Even if you forget or can’t do this at the beginning of each school year, do your best to gather all of this information before writing out your student’s transcript.

    This may sound like a lot of work, but in the end, it makes your life simple. With good records, the total time it takes to put a transcript together is actually quite minimal, and you can definitively prove any claims you make on your child’s transcript. (Most of the horror stories that involve homeschool transcripts happen because someone waited until the last minute to start putting their records together.)

    Next, simply show how your child’s studies, as a whole, have been different.

    Homeschool students tend to have more opportunities than students in public or even private schools. We can thank the flexibility of a homeschooler’s schedule for that. Homeschoolers are better able to invest time in internships, specialized study, or traveling. These extra opportunities are what make your child stand out on paper.

    So if your child has done or earned something that shows exceptional growth, maturity, responsibility, merit, talent, or recognition (especially from a governmental body), put it on their transcript.

    Not exactly sure what extra items your target college would like to see? While every college is different (and you should do your research to figure out what your target college wants to see) there are a few things you could list on your child’s transcript that will impress just about all of them.

    Here’s what admissions departments like to see on high school transcripts.

    Volunteer work

    Volunteering is more important to some colleges than others. However, nearly every college likes to see some form of voluntary community service. To admissions departments, volunteer work is a signifier of leadership, initiative, personal development, and experience.


    Internships have similar benefits to volunteer work. The major difference is internships tend to be more focused on developing critical skills and experience in a specific industry. Internships show that your child has a plan for their life after college and has started proactively working toward that life. They’re also valuable as an endorsement from a respected member of your community.

    Specialized training

    Colleges like to see students who choose to invest in their area of interest. For example, let’s say your child intends to study computer science. In this situation, if your student has gone outside of the typical high school curricula to learn specific programming languages, that reflects well on your child and should be placed their transcript.

    Extracurricular activities

    Colleges like to see extracurricular activities on transcripts because it gives them an idea of who the applicant is. If a student is driven, competitive, disciplined, passionate, or just plain motivated, it shows in the activities they do outside of school. But don’t go overboard with these! Keep this section short and relevant. You want your child to look good on their transcript, so if an extracurricular activity doesn’t suggest a desirable character trait, don’t list it.

    Prestigious awards

    Has your child earned recognition for their service, studies, or accomplishments? Prestigious awards look great on transcripts. Governmental awards (such as The Congressional Award) and earned ranks (like Eagle Scout) are particularly desirable.

    A word of caution.

    As I said before, the benefit of being homeschooled through high school is you typically have more opportunities than students in public schools.

    Homeschoolers have more flexibility to develop specialized skills, serve their community, or focus their studies on something that interests them. So, it’s possible you have an abundance of extra items you’re tempted to include on your child’s transcript. But if you want to make your child look as good as possible, only include information that is relevant to both your student’s studies and the college that they’re applying to.

    Remember that colleges receive millions of transcripts every year. So you want your transcript to be effective but short. This makes the extras you choose to list more likely to be read and remembered. A technical school with no sports program won’t care if your child plays pickup basketball on the weekends, or if a painting they created when they were 4 won a blue ribbon at the county fair. Leave those things for the scrapbooks.

    If you keep your student’s transcript focused, start preparing early, and show how your child’s studies have been different, you will sleep well knowing you’ve prepared an awesome transcript that makes your student stand out from the crowd.

    One excellent way to ensure your student stands out is by pursuing dual credit in high school. Not only will your student prove their readiness for college-level work, they can also shave some time (and money) off their future degree! Click to learn more about earning dual credit in high school with Accelerated Pathways.

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  • What Should I Major In? The Ultimate Guide for Choosing Your College Degree


    What Should I Major In? The Ultimate Guide for Choosing Your College Degree

    If you’re stressing about choosing a major, you’re not alone.

    Choosing a major is something nearly half of all college students struggle with, often changing majors at least once throughout their college careers. What’s worse: of the students who finally make a decision on their major, 1 in 3 reports that they chose the wrong one. They aren’t satisfied with their major after they graduate and would change it if they could.

    You shouldn’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars and four or more years of dedication on a degree you don’t actually want.

    That’s why we’re breaking down key factors for deciding what you should major in—so you can get a head start on this process and find the best major for you.

    Choose a Major by Salary

    You might want to select a major that could potentially yield a high salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these are some of the highest-paying occupations and their median annual wages by college major.

    Criminal Justice

    Criminal justice degrees prepare students with the knowledge and skills to serve their communities by upholding justice, safety, and security.

    Top-paying criminal justice jobs include:

    • Judge, magistrate judge, and magistrate, $136,910

    • Lawyer, $122,960

    • Detective and criminal investigator, $86,030

    You can use the following resources to learn more about these career options:

    Health and Life Sciences

    Health and life sciences degrees are designed to help students become healthcare professionals who can deliver high-quality care to patients in need and make a difference in people’s lives.

    Top-paying health/life sciences jobs include:

    • Obstetrician and gynecologist, $208,000

    • Surgeon, $208,000

    • Prosthodontist, $208,000

    You can use the following resources to learn more about these career options:

    Social Sciences

    Social sciences degrees appeal to students with an interest in human behavior and psychology, arming them with the skills to work in fields such as mental health, psychology, and anthropology.

    Top-paying social sciences jobs include:

    • Psychiatrist, $208,000

    • Political scientist, $122,220

    • Economist, $105,020

    You can use the following resources to learn more about these career options:

    Information Technology and Information Systems

    Information technology and information systems degrees provide students with technical skills in computer science, web development, cybersecurity, and data management so they can build careers in fast-growing and in-demand fields.

    Top-paying information technology/information systems jobs include:

    • Computer and information systems manager, $146,360

    • Computer and information research scientist, $122,840

    • Computer hardware engineer, $117,220

    You can use the following resources to learn more about these career options:


    Business degrees are designed to provide future business leaders with the strategic, financial, and project management skills they need for success.

    Top-paying business jobs include:

    • Chief executive, $175,310

    • Advertising, promotions, and marketing manager, $135,900

    • Financial manager, $129,890

    You can use the following resources to learn more about these career options:

    Choose a Major by Job Outlook

    You might also want to select a major in a field with high projected job growth and an increasing demand for talent. According to the BLS, here’s how much jobs in each major are expected to increase between 2019 and 2029.

    Criminal Justice

    Criminal justice jobs are projected to grow steadily:

    • Forensic science technician, 14%

    • Police detective and investigator, 8%

    • Lawyer, 4%

    Health and Life Sciences

    Health and life sciences jobs are projected to grow substantially:

    • Nurse practitioner, 52.4%

    • Home health and personal care aide, 33.7%

    • Medical and health services manager, 31.5%

    Social Sciences

    Social sciences jobs are projected to grow steadily:

    • Economist, 14%

    • Environmental science and protection technician, 8%

    • Political scientist, 6%

    Information Technology and Information Systems

    Information technology and information systems jobs are projected to grow substantially:

    • Information security analyst, 31.2%

    • Data scientist, 30.9%

    • Software developer and software quality assurance analyst and tester, 21.5


    Business jobs are projected to grow considerably, with more variation among specific occupations:

    • Operations research analyst, 34.6%

    • Financial manager, 15%

    • Management analyst, 11%

    Choose the Right Major for You

    Now it’s time to get personal, taking your passions and career dreams into account. That may seem pretty daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

    Lucky for you, choosing the right major is exactly what this free e-book can help you with.

    While I can’t guarantee reading this book will magically make your decision easy, you’ll at least be able to make it with confidence, knowing that you’ve made a strong, future-oriented decision that will be an asset, not an expensive regret.

    Here’s how we’re going to do this. In order to make the best decision possible, you’ll need to figure out what you want from life after college and then work backward by asking some important questions:

    • What lifestyle do you want?

    • What career path do you find interesting and meaningful? 

    • What tools, knowledge, or experience do you need to support your life after graduation? 

    • How can you use your college experience to prepare for this future as well as you possibly can?

    Each question you answer about your future reveals another piece of the puzzle—from the type of degree you need to the particular courses you should take to the type of college that would be the best fit for you. Answer enough questions, and you won’t need to stress about your choice. Your perfect major will reveal itself.

    And don’t worry if all of this is a little overwhelming. I’ll walk you through every step.

    Ready to get started? Get the e-book for free!


    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer Hardware Engineers

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Research Scientists

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Detectives and Criminal Investigators

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economists

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections, Fastest Growing Occupations

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections—2019-2029

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Environmental Science and Labor Technicians

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Managers

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Forensic Science Technicians

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Highest Paying Occupations

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lawyers

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Analysts

    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Political Scientists

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  • 9 Business Ideas for College Students



    If you want to start a business in college, you’re either blissfully ignorant or crazy.

    Do you have any idea how much time it takes to run a business? Imagine tripling your workload as a full-time student and you might be in the ballpark. Do you think you can handle that?

    Most people can’t.

    Our culture has romanticized the idea of the college startup. Businesses like Facebook, Google, and Snapchat are pointed to as shining examples of what is possible for college entrepreneurs. These are the ultra-successful moonshots—the businesses every young entrepreneur knows they’re destined to start. But the reality is, for every ultra-successful Facebook, there are thousands* of failed businesses that never make it off campus.

    You can’t ignore the realities of being a student. Your classes, homework, physical and psychological well being are all going to (rightfully) demand your attention. Have you ever met a college student who had the extra time, energy, and money lying around to start a business? I bet you haven’t. How do you plan to start your business without these crucial pieces in place?

    You can try, but you’re probably going to fail spectacularly. These things are not easy to accomplish.

    Despite all of this, if you’re persistent and crazy enough to try, it is possible to be a college entrepreneur. You just need to be smart about it.

    I know, because I did it.

    Here are 9 businesses you can realistically start in college

    If you’re a student at a traditional university, there are only a few types of businesses you can realistically start. With the limitations on your time and attention, founding a large-scale coffee roasting company, for example, might be beyond your reach. However, there are certain businesses that are much better at working with or around your limitations as a student.

    Knowledge-based businesses

    Because so much of your mental bandwidth is already taken up by classes, it’s important to leverage knowledge you already have. Starting a business that requires you to learn completely new skills or gain specialized knowledge would put much more stress than you want. So be careful! This type of business can quickly lead to burnout.

    Here are a couple business opportunities that naturally grow from knowledge you’re already gaining.

    1. Tutoring

    College is hard. However, there’s always at least one subject you naturally excel at. Why not make a little money on the side by tutoring on a subject that you’ve already mastered?

    Tips for starting a tutoring business:

    • Let the professors who teach your chosen subject know that you’re available to tutor any of their students who need help.

    • You likely won’t earn enough to retire with this business. Aim to earn a little more freedom, not your first million.

    • Be disciplined and clear with your schedule. Work by appointment primarily; keep strict “office hours” only for your best clients.

    2. Consulting

    Consulting can be a gold mine for business administration students who want to work for themselves while building real-world experience. For example, most businesses today use social media to market their services, and all businesses need to monitor their cash flow. However, most small business owners are too busy to develop specialized skills in either of these areas. That’s where you come in.

    Tips for starting a consulting business:

    • Pick an area to specialize in and take as many classes as you can on that subject.

    • Intern with a respected organization in your chosen field to get practical, first-hand experience.

    • Always provide more value than is expected.

    3. Coaching/training

    If, like me, you’ve been an athlete for as long as you can remember, you’re in luck! There are thousands of parents across the country willing to spend hundreds of dollars for someone to give their child focused, one-on-one training.

    Tips for starting a training business:

    • What’s the average hourly rate of training in your area? Doing a little homework to understand what’s currently being offered for your sport, and at what price, is the best way to know how you should price your services.

    • Never try to offer the cheapest service. Make your service more attractive by offering something unique or extra at the same price.

    • Get your name out everywhere that your potential clients go. Your church, local athletic clubs, and high schools are also great places to find clients.

    Expertise-based businesses

    Expertise-based businesses take a lot of time and attention. These are services. More than that, these are expert services provided at a premium price.

    In order to start a successful expertise-based business in college, you’ll need to limit how many clients you take on. If you’re not careful, your business could easily dominate your time, and you’ll find yourself flunking out of English 101 because you forgot about that 10-page essay that counts for half your grade.

    4. Editing and professor proofing

    If you happen to be one of those lucky souls gifted with the written word, your skills are in high demand on every single college campus. Simply posting “I will edit your paper for the price of my next meal” on the community bulletin board will bring in so many clients that this type of business almost runs itself!

    Tips for starting an editing business:

    • Become familiar with the quirks of the professor who will be grading the paper.

    • Limit the scope of your services. You will be asked to write papers for your clients. Don’t. That’s how you get in trouble. Be clear about what you are (and aren’t) willing to do for your client before starting.

    • Just like with the tutoring business above, you won’t earn a ton of money with this business, but you might earn a little freedom.

    5. Photography

    Kristen Faulkner started her photography business as a senior in college. While taking pictures of interesting things and people started out as just a hobby for her, it has since grown, naturally, into a small business.

    Tips for starting a photography business:

    • Take great pictures, post them on social media, and consistently let your followers know that your available for hire.

    • Focus on producing lots of content and growing your community. The more eyes you have on your pictures, the more business opportunities come your way.

    • Never be satisfied with your current skill level or experience.

    6. Web Design and development

    Web design and development is always in demand, but rarely done well. Very few business owners have the time or desire to learn the basics of web development. Because of this, most are willing to pay a premium price for a well-designed website that makes their business look great.

    Tips for starting a web development business:

    • Do some research on potential clients before contacting them. Understand their business goals, history, brand, and audience.

    • Don’t just provide a service, solve a problem the business is currently facing.

    • Specialize in a particular element of digital marketing and implement it in your own designs. Use this as a unique selling point for your business.

    7. Product-based businesses

    Of all the types of businesses you can start in college, developing and selling a product is likely to be the most difficult. However, That doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful with this type of business. If you can see a need and recognize opportunities, you can build a product-based business.

    Take Letric Longboards for example. This company was started by an engineering student and a marketing student. They saw a need—broke college students need an easy means of transportation—and provided their solution by taking advantage of their opportunities.

    Tips for starting a product-based business:

    • Don’t go it alone! Having a partner in business significantly increases your likelihood of success.

    • Get a mentor. Having a go-to person to ask questions, or run ideas by also increases your likelihood of success.

    • Take advantage of any resources your school has for entrepreneurs, like workspaces and incubator programs—or even fellow students.

    Passive business

    I saved this for last because this type of business is, by far, the most effective business type for a college student to pursue. Why? Because it works with the opportunities readily available to you at this stage in life while working around the limitations of being a student.

    The beautiful thing about a passive business? You set it up once, and it continues to make money for you whether you work on it or not. It breaks the typical business model of trading time for money.

    8. Drop shipping

    This is a simple and nearly risk free business. Essentially, a drop shipping business is a product-based business without the product. You’re the middle man—selling product online, directly from the manufacturer to the consumer. Trust me, it’s easier than it sounds.

    Tips for starting a drop shipping business:

    • Automate as much as you can. This leaves less room for human error and frees up more of your time.

    • Don’t just list items on amazon, build your own brand.

    • At least 80% of the time you spend on the business should be some form of marketing. The more traffic you drive to your products, the more growth you get when you’re not working on the business.

    9. Create and sell virtual products

    There is a type of passive business that requires no inventory, and no supplier at all. While this business type is dominated mostly by writers and coders, it’s very similar to drop shipping. Create a product like an app or an ebook, put it up on a large marketplace for people to find, then sit back and watch the money roll in.

    Tips for starting a virtual product business:

    • Update the product regularly with new, up-to-date information.

    • Create your product for a specific niche. Narrowly targeted products sell better than products meant to appeal to everyone.

    • Someone who buys a virtual product is looking for immediate gratification or a quick solution to their problem. Do your best to provide that solution as quickly as possible.

    Just because it’s realistic, doesn’t make it easy. But…

    College is hard. Business is harder. You really would have to be crazy to do them both together.

    As a college entrepreneur, you’ll face a lot of long nights and early mornings. You’ll face stress and fear bigger than you can imagine. Self doubt will try to cripple you. Even with all of the opportunities available to you, you’ll have to make very real sacrifices and agonizingly difficult decisions. You’ll have no choice but to grow and struggle through the pains that come with it.

    And despite all of this, you’ll love every second of it.

    Because if you persevere through the pain, if you’re smart about your approach, if you take care of yourself and maybe even give yourself the best possible chance to succeed, you’ll find that nothing you have ever done before is quite as satisfying or as freeing as being a college entrepreneur.

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  • 14 Reasons Not to Take Out Student Loans for College


    14 Reasons Not to Take Out Student Loans for College

    Student loans are a touchy subject. Some people call the amount of debt our students accumulate a crisis. But how else are you going to pay for college if not with a student loan? It can seem like these loans are necessary, even if they leave a bad taste in your mouth. After all, college is an investment, and it’s okay to take on a little debt in order to receive greater returns down the road… right?

    It might not be that simple.

    You might not have the full picture of what a student loan means for your future. So before you decide to pull the trigger and go into debt for your degree, here are 14 things you should know about taking out a student loan.

    1. The average bachelor’s degree is… expensive.

    There’s a reason student loans are such a big problem. The average cost of tuition for a year at a private university is $34,740, while the average out-of-state tuition for a public university is around $25,600. However, in-state students do get a significant break on tuition at public universities; they only have to pay an average of around $10,000 a year. Of course, none of these numbers take any additional costs for things like room and board into account. According to the College Board, public universities charge an additional $10,800 on average for both in-state and out-of-state students to stay on campus. Private universities charge a little over $12,000. So yeah, college is expensive.

    Naturally, most of us don’t have the funds to pay for even a basic 4-year degree out of pocket, so the go-to solution for getting a college education is to take on debt. On average, students who take out student loans just for the bachelor’s degree, graduate with around $29,800 in debt.

    2. Student loan interest compounds daily.

    Let’s say you graduate with the average amount of debt ($29,800) and the average annual interest rate of 5.8%. Since interest on student loans compounds daily, that means the day after graduation, you would owe an additional $4.74 for a new balance of $29,804.74. The day after that, interest would be re-calculated based on your new balance and charged again. After a month, the total interest added to your loan payment would be about $150. And like a snowball rolling downhill, your debt grows daily until you eventually pay it off.

    If you’re able to pay off your loan in the expected 10 years, you’ll pay at least an additional $9,600 in interest. However...

    3. It usually takes 21 years on average to pay off student loans.

    Even though most repayment plans are supposed to only take 10 years, almost nobody is able to repay their loans in that time. Most recent graduates are only able to make minimum payments, which—by the way—always pay off interest first. And since interest piles on so aggressively, unless you’re able to pay more than the minimum required amount, you likely won’t touch the principal balance of the loan until a few years after you graduate. This ultimately means you won’t be able to pay off your student loans until you’re getting ready to send your kids off to college.

    4. The longer you stay in school, the more debt you take on.

    It’s extremely common for students to change majors. And that’s okay. After all, most students don’t really have a solid plan for their future when starting college. The only thing is, switching majors often leads to losing credits because some of the classes you’ve already taken are no longer applicable to your new major. This can easily force you to spend an extra year or two at college before you can graduate.

    Think about it. Since colleges charge tuition annually, the longer you stay at college, the more expensive it becomes, and the deeper you fall into debt.

    5. Student loans are nearly impossible to get discharged.

    So what happens if you can’t pay back your debt? You can probably get out of it by declaring bankruptcy, right? Actually, no. With the exception of a few specific cases, even if you declare bankruptcy and lose everything you own, you’ll still have to pay back your loans eventually.

    6. Student loan debt gives you a slow start, not a head start.

    College is supposed to help you get ahead in life. But graduating with debt can easily hold you back for decades. How? Well, students who graduate with debt are set to retire at 75 (not the typical 65), 1 in 5 get married later than their peers, and 1 in 4 are hesitant to have children, all because of the extra burden that paying off their student debt puts on them.

    7. There’s an insidious hidden cost to student loans.

    Up to 67% of people with student loans suffer the mental and physical symptoms that come with the intense and seemingly unending stress caused by debt. These symptoms can range from losing sleep at night to chronic headaches, physical exhaustion, loss of appetite, and a perpetually elevated heart rate. Imagine an ever-present sense of impending doom hanging over your head for 21 years, and you start to understand what it’s like to live with student debt.

    8. Collateral for student loans is your future income.

    If you default on a mortgage or a car loan, the lender can simply repossess the item you took the loan out for. But student loans work differently. After all, it’s not like the bank can repossess your degree if you fall behind on payments. Instead, the collateral for student loans are your future earnings. This means that the lender is fully within their rights to take money directly from your paycheck, Social Security, and even your tax refund if you default on a student loan.

    9. Student loans are a blind risk.

    That being said, any time you take out a student loan, you’re taking a blind risk on something that has potentially serious repercussions for your future. Even though the average amount of debt owed by college students is just shy of $30,000, it’s not unusual for debt to be much higher. Most students going to a traditional university don’t know exactly how expensive their education will be in the end, and college is just getting more expensive every year. Taking into account that the average yearly income for recent grads is only around $47,000, the amount of debt you owe can easily eclipse your ability to pay it back, which can cripple progress in life for years to come.

    10. Loans can damage your credit score.

    If you want to buy a house or finance a car at some point, you’ll need good credit. Strapping yourself to long-term, unavoidable payments on debt (that often grows larger over time instead of becoming more manageable) is probably not a good way to increase your credit score. This is especially true as you’re just starting out in your career, when it can be far too easy to miss payments. A missed payment on your student loan can drop your credit score by at least 90 points and hold your score down for up to seven years.

    11. Cosigners and parents are on the hook for a student’s debt.

    If you have a private or Parent PLUS loan, your parents probably had to cosign for it. That means they’re just as responsible for paying off the debt as you are. And they’ll take the same hit to their credit score and potential earnings as you if you fail to pay back the loan.

    12. Even if you don’t graduate, you still have to pay off your loans.

    Fewer than 60% of college students graduate within 6 years, which means that at least 40% of students either take longer—accumulating more debt with every passing year—or don’t earn their degree at all. Unfortunately, your lender doesn’t care if you graduate or not. You’re on the hook for every penny you borrow, no matter what.

    13. 74% of students who took out a loan regret it.

    If 3 out of every 4 people who eat at a restaurant say they got food poisoning by eating there, would you still choose to eat there? Probably not. So when 74% of people with student loans say they wish they hadn’t gone into debt for school, what makes you think student loans are a good idea?

    What other options do you have?

    College is way too expensive; and it’s only getting worse. As the cost of college continues to rise, it can seem like the only way to get an education is to take out a student loan. But what if there was a way to make college more affordable? That way, you could earn your degree without even thinking about going into debt.

    Well, there is. It’s called Accelerated Pathways.

    Accelerated Pathways is an online college program designed to help you earn a debt-free degree. It works by cutting the most significant costs of traditional college, enabling you to pay for school one class at a time (thus avoiding massive tuition payments), and pairing you with a professional academic coach who guides you through the process of earning your degree. In other words, we take college from an overly expensive drain on your bank account, badly plugged by future-killing student loans, and turn it into something that you can actually pay for out of pocket.

    Reason 14. You really don’t need to take out a loan for college.

    Seriously, don’t do student loans. 94% of Accelerated Pathways students graduate debt free. You can too.

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  • 9 of the Best Dual Credit Options for Homeschoolers


    9 of the Best Dual Credit Options for Homeschoolers

    So you know all about dual credit and why it’s probably a good idea for your student to get some. But as a busy homeschooling parent, you’re already short on time, and let’s face it—figuring out how dual credit fits into your homeschool journey is complicated.

    Should your student take online classes or go to community college? Are CLEP or AP exams a better fit? Will the college credits your student earns even be accepted by their target university? In short: what’s the best dual credit option for your student?

    It’s enough to make your head spin. We get it. So to make your life a little easier, we’ve put together this helpful list of some of the best dual credit options for homeschoolers.

    Dual Enrollment in Community College

    This is a great option for students who thrive in a classroom setting. Being a part of a dual enrollment program means your student is able to take lower-level community college classes to earn both high school and college credit. While taking classes on a college campus, they also have access to resources like counselors, libraries, academic databases, and labs that likely aren’t available at home. This is part of what makes community college so attractive to homeschoolers.

    Although, there are a few things you should know about these programs. You’ll need to ensure your student meets the minimum requirements for dual enrollment in your state. Also, transfering credit from a community college to a 4-year university can get complicated. So before your student takes any classes through a dual enrollment program, do your research to ensure they’re earning credits that will count toward their desired major at their future university.

    Dual credit with community college, at a glance:

    • Great for students who thrive in the classroom setting

    • Access to college resources

    • Great way to knock out general education or introductory courses

    • Potentially difficult to transfer credits. Do your research!

    • $0 - $400 per class, depending on your state (not including books)

    CLEP and DSST

    CLEP and DSST exams are multiple-choice, pass/fail tests that mostly cover general education topics. In high school, your student has already studied (or will study) many basic subjects that are also available for college-level testing, such as U.S. History and English Composition. This, combined with a relatively affordable price tag (CLEP tests cost $87 while DSST exams cost $85, plus an additional $50-$80 for registration and study materials), makes these tests one of the most convenient ways for strong test takers to earn dual credit.

    These tests (along with most other options in this article) are backed by ACE (American Council on Education) accreditation—which means students who pass a test don’t actually earn college credit directly. Instead, they earn an ACE recommendation for credit. You can think of this like a receipt your student shows a university to prove that they deserve credit for their work. Over 400 colleges and universities accept these recommendations and award credit for ACE-backed tests and courses. Although, it’s always up to the university how much of (if any) ACE credit they’ll allow your student to transfer in.

    In short, if your student passes a CLEP or DSST, they earn a recommendation for credit that is likely to be accepted by their future university. If they fail, they don’t earn that recommendation. (Though they will be able to retake their test after a short waiting period.)

    Dual credit with CLEP and DSST, exams at a glance:

    • Great for strong test-takers

    • Available for most general education classes

    • Pass/fail exams that students can retake if needed

    • Backed by ACE accreditation, transferable to hundreds of colleges and universities

    • Approximately $140-$170 total per test

    AP Exams

    An AP exam is usually taken following the completion of an AP course in highschool. Most homeschool students would take AP classes online (you can find a list of online AP course providers on the HSLDA website). The cost of AP classes varies dramatically—you might be able to get free AP classes through your state, or you might need to pay a tuition of $100 - $250, either per class or per month. These classes are time-intensive, requiring a minimum of 5-10 hours per week for an entire school year, and are meant to prepare students for the AP exam that the College Board offers every May.

    AP works by counting the class toward a high school transcript and the results of the exam toward potential college credit. However, students don’t technically have to complete an AP course in order to take an AP exam (though it is a good idea). These exams cost $94 and grade students’ mastery of the subject on a scale of 1 to 5. Typically, a score of 3 or higher is considered “passing” and an ACE recommendation for college credit. But be careful: universities can be especially picky when it comes to awarding credit for AP exams, regardless of what ACE recommends.

    So while it’s important to know whether or not your student will actually earn viable, transferable college credit before taking any dual credit tests and courses, it’s particularly important to do your research before making any significant time or money commitments with AP specifically.

    Dual credit with AP exams, at a glance:

    • Good for students who need a lot of test-prep

    • Students can be awarded high school credit for AP classes; college credit for AP exams

    • Students don’t have to take an AP class in order to take an AP test, but it’s recommended

    • Online AP classes available for free in some states

    • Some online AP classes available for approximately $100-$250 per course or per month

    • Credit recommendation backed by ACE and the College Board

    • Whether or not a student is awarded credit depends on their target university

    UExcel (Excelsior) Exams

    UExcel is the pass/fail, credit-by-examination program from the regionally accredited Excelsior College. Students studying for these exams have access to top-notch support and guidance from the people who created them. Most exams cost $110 (although a few can get as high as $355 or $470) plus about $50 in testing fees. Before your student registers for an exam, they’ll have access to a study guide that outlines exactly what they need to know to pass, provides recommendations for textbooks, and free (or at least affordable) online resources, as well as online practice exams (though these cost an additional $35). They can even get free tutoring if necessary.

    But what really sets UExcel apart from AP, CLEP, and DSST exams, is that students can take UExcel exams for some upper level (300 - 400) courses in addition to introductory college courses. This opens the door for your student to potentially save even more time and money by essentially testing out of these upper level courses.

    Dual credit with UExcel Exams, at a glance:

    • Great for learners who need more support

    • Excellent learner guidance and test-prep support

    • Offers exams for both lower-level and upper-level courses

    • Regionally accredited and transferable to thousands of universities nationwide

    • Typically costs $160 total to take an exam (though some upper-level exams can cost as much as $530)

    Online College at Regular 4-Year Universities

    As online college becomes more popular, more and more colleges and universities are offering dual enrollment programs online. These programs are often more flexible and affordable than physically attending on campus, while offering a deeper learning experience than testing. Many online courses are self-paced, so your student can complete courses in as little or as much time as they need. And though the cost for online college varies for each institution, it’s typically hundreds of dollars less than they would spend on a physical campus. Best of all, if your student is taking dual credit classes directly from their target university, you won’t have to worry about transferring credit.

    However, there is a potential downside to this option. If your student is enrolled in a dual credit program at their target university (i.e. they’re not planning on transferring their credits to a different institution), the grade they earn in their class would count toward their college GPA. So if they fail the class or do poorly, their overall GPA will take a hit, which could hurt their chances for graduate studies down the road.

    Dual credit with online college, at a glance:

    • Great for self-disciplined students who thrive in structured learning environments

    • Opportunity to take classes directly from 4-year institutions

    • Potential negative consequences for GPA

    • Potentially hundreds of dollars less than physically attending university classes

    • Regionally or nationally accredited and transferable to thousands of universities nationwide


    ALEKS is a high-tech online learning platform that offers a popular dual credit program exclusively for college-level mathematics. This program uses artificial intelligence to assess a student’s mastery of a subject and continuously creates the optimal learning path for them. In other words, it helps the student keep moving forward without getting stuck on something they’re not ready for and don’t understand. This, combined with ALEKS’ aversion to multiple-choice questions (preferring open-ended questions that mimic pencil and paper math tests), they help to avoid “pass it and forget it” test taking by fostering deep learning. The ALEKS dual credit courses are ACE accredited and their program costs $19.95 per month.

    Dual credit with ALEKS, at a glance:

    • Great for self-disciplined learners

    • Dual credit program only available for mathematics

    • AI-powered, personalized learning track

    • Emphasizes deep learning and subject mastery

    • $19.95 per month subscription

    • Backed by ACE accreditation, transferable to hundreds of colleges and universities


    Study.com has a massive selection of dual credit courses available. However, in order for your student to earn college credit from any of them, they’ll need to be subscribed to a $199 per month College Accelerator membership. This subscription gives you access to over 200 dual credit courses from every major academic discipline, backed by ACE or NCCRS (similar to ACE, but with a larger network of compatible institutions) recommendations for credit. Your student can take as many concurrent courses as they want, however, they are limited to only taking two final exams per month.

    Dual credit with Study.com, at a glance:

    • Great for self-directed learners

    • Large catalog of dual credit courses

    • Limited to only taking two final exams per month

    • Requires membership at $199 per month

    • Backed by ACE and NCCRS accreditation, transferable to over 1,500 colleges and universities


    Most online dual credit options require some sort of subscription, Sophia doesn’t. In order to take a dual credit course through Sophia, you pay a simple one-time fee, choose a start date, and that’s it! Your student will have 60 days from the start date to finish the course. Sophia’s ACE accredited courses range in price from $199 to $329 and, in general, cover introductory college topics like Intro to Business, English Composition, Intro to Psychology, and U.S. History. In addition, Sophia offers learner support in the form of free tutorials and guides, and on-call Learning Coaches.

    Dual credit with Sophia, at a glance:

    • Great for disciplined and self-directed learners

    • No subscription or annual tuition

    • Entry-level and introductory college courses

    • 60 days to complete self-paced courses

    • Backed by ACE accreditation, transferable to hundreds of colleges and universities

    • $199 - $329 per course

    How Do You Know Which Option Is Best?

    There are plenty of great options for homeschoolers to earn dual credit. However, just because your student earns dual credit doesn’t mean that credit will transfer to their target university. When it comes to actually using dual credit, universities each have their own policy for the credit they allow a student to transfer in.

    Imagine being a high school student, passing college-level classes, or taking stressful, all-or-nothing college-level tests just to find out that only a small handful of the credits you’ve worked so hard to earn will actually count toward your degree. Frustrating, isn’t it?

    That’s why it’s important to plan carefully before your student commits to earning dual credit. You’ll need to know their target university, their intended major, the required classes for that major, the type of transfer credits that the university accepts, and which credits can be applied toward your student’s intended major. From there, you can figure out which dual credit classes or tests best suit your student, fill a requirement in their major, and meet the criteria for the university’s transfer credits.

    It’s a lot of work which you can do yourself, if you’d like. Or, your student could earn their dual credit through Accelerated Pathways.

    Accelerated Pathways

    Our degree planning brings together courses and tests from most of the dual credit options in this article, as well as some affordable courses of our own, to put together a professional, custom degree plan tailored to your student’s needs. We do the research to find the best courses and tests for your student’s target university and major, and put everything into an easy-to-follow, step-by-step, personalized plan. Then we support your student with one-on-one academic success coaching, so they can make steady progress on their degree without ever feeling stuck.

    Dual credit students take online courses that replace many of their high school classes and are then transferred to their future college. Every course your student takes through Accelerated Pathways is regionally accredited (not just a recommendation for credit). Basically, with Accelerated Pathways, your student isn’t just earning dual credit. They’re starting their actual bachelor’s degree while still in high school.

    All of this comes with the guarantee that every credit your student earns through Accelerated Pathways' customized degree plan will transfer to their target university and count toward their intended major. If it doesn’t, we’ll refund the price of the course and give you an extra $1,000 for your wasted time.

    That’s what makes Accelerated Pathways special when it comes to dual credit. There are cheaper college options out there (Accelerated Pathways costs $6,750 per year for full-time students), but if you want to get the most bang for your buck and avoid wasting your time earning credit that won’t transfer, we’re your safest option.

    We know every student is different. Whether you value affordability, flexibility, access to resources, or safeguarding your student’s credits, there are great dual credit options out there for you. Ultimately, the best dual credit option for your student is the one that best fits their needs in both high school and beyond.

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  • English Majors, listen up! Here’s How to Make the Most of Your Degree.


    English Majors, listen up! Here’s How to Make the Most of Your Degree.

    It’s as if the moment the word English enters the mind of an incoming college freshman, the barrage begins. Concerned family and caring friends do their best to turn poor, innocent students away from such a “useless” major.

    They say things like…

    1. There are no jobs for English majors.

    2. Writing is not in demand.

    3. Unless you want to be a teacher, you’re wasting your education (and your money).

    4. English is just a generic humanities degree. You might as well major in psychology.

    5. In fact, stay away from all arts degrees. They’re just self-congratulatory fields that don’t apply to the real world.

    It doesn’t matter that you love writing. It doesn’t even matter that you’re good at it. In the real world, artists starve and liberal arts majors go broke. On the surface, these arguments make sense.

    But there’s a problem: the arguments are wrong.

    1. English, Computer Science, Political Science, and Economics majors all find work at comparable rates.

    2. Nearly every modern company needs writers.

    3. Education is what you make of it. (Most English majors don’t become teachers.)

    4. English majors learn specialized and in-demand skills.

    5. CEO’s actually prefer to hire liberal arts graduates.

    However, there is one argument the detractors of English majors get right.

    English is a risky degree to invest in. If you're not careful, being an English major could be a great way to squander the opportunity of a college education.

    Thinking of getting an English degree? Here’s what you’ll need to know to get the most out of your education.

    1. Have a purpose

    “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination… so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.” - Stephen R. Covey

    English is an extremely broad field of study. It covers everything from literature analysis to teaching English in third world countries to communicating well in business environments.

    This variety is one of the nice things about being an English major. While an accountant might be stuck learning different ways to compare numbers on a spreadsheet, an English major can choose to study historical literature, contemporary publishing trends, business and technical writing, and… well you get the picture.

    As an English major, you could easily fill your schedule just with classes that dive deep into creative writing, poetry, and the philosophical implications of Shakespeare’s King Lear and graduate a happy little scrivener.


    While these classes sound interesting, they likely won’t be very useful in the long run. Because English is such a broad field, to get the most out of it, you have to approach your studies with a purpose.

    What do you want to get out of college? How do you want to grow? What knowledge or skills would be most useful to your future career? You don’t need to know exactly what you’ll do after college or exactly where you want to go in life. But you should have an idea of the direction you want to move in.

    Keep in mind that, if used correctly, college can amplify your gifts and prepare them for use in the real world. Meandering through college without a plan, taking whatever class seems interesting regardless of what you’ll actually gain from it, is the best way to squander them.

    2. Develop specialized skills

    "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." - Henry David Thoreau

    If you’re considering earning an English degree, I’m willing to bet you’re already a gifted writer. I’m sure you even consider yourself a particular kind of writer. Maybe you love writing hard-hitting blog posts or excel at telling stories, or maybe you’re a phenomenal editor.

    Whatever your particular gift, expand it. Let that be your purpose. When you’re choosing your classes, ask yourself “Will taking this class help me be a better storyteller?” Or “Will taking this class help me write better articles in the future?”

    This isn’t always easy to do. You may need to get creative in how your perceive the usefulness of some classes: the opportunities to practice the type of writing that you enjoy are not always obvious. If you’re a journalist, you likely won’t get very much journalism practice in a poetry class. On the other hand, a literary analysis class could give you more opportunities to practice researching, interviewing, and writing fact-based articles—all useful skills for journalists.

    By choosing classes based on the opportunities to improve a particular skill, you’ll quickly begin to develop specializations. And even if they aren’t always obvious, the opportunities are there. Be mindful of them.

    3. Make passion a priority, not a victim

    "With me poetry has not been a purpose, but a passion." - Edgar Allen Poe

    Have you ever tried writing something great, but found after only a few minutes of typing, your writing felt contrived? It was more like Frankenstein’s monster—pieces of disconnected dead writing that you were trying to force life back into—instead of the masterpiece that you envisioned.

    Be forewarned, this is what college can do to a writer.

    Unsurprisingly, you'll be writing thousands of words every week as an English major. And about halfway through your time in college, you’re going to get sick of research papers and maybe even writing in general. You’ll find that, even when you have no desire to write on a particular subject, even when you feel you’re unable to put two coherent thoughts together, your professors still expect you to turn in a well-written paper before the deadline.

    This is where so many English majors go wrong. They allow their mind to take over their writing. Prose that used to flow naturally and for the simple joy of writing, now forces itself into rigid formulas, adhering to the stylistic checklists of academia. The mind produces writing which earns top marks from professors—but in that writing there is no life, no passion.

    It’s almost counterintuitive, but as an English major, you need to constantly be reminding yourself why you were drawn to English. For every paper you write, write a story or a poem or an article of your own. Talk to other people about their projects, tell them about yours. Immerse yourself in the craft that you love, simply because you love it.

    Remember that great writing comes from the heart. Your passion—not your mind, not the grade—gives your writing life.

    4. Be valuable

    "Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. For him all doors are flung wide.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    The critics of English majors have a point. The same way a bachelor’s degree in dance doesn't qualify you for a salaried position at an accounting firm, an English degree isn't a surefire way to lock down a "real job" fresh out of college. The type of knowledge and skills that you gain by studying English, while useful in the right circumstances, are simply not the primary tools you’ll use to be successful at most jobs.

    I know you love writing. That’s great! Writing is not a skill everybody has. (And the fact that articles like this one are published every day on countless corporate websites proves that there are jobs out there for writers.) But this is what you need to understand: in most positions, writing alone won’t be enough to sustain you.

    In order to make yourself more attractive to potential employers, learn skills that pair well with writing.

    There’s demand right now for writers who can research products and present their findings in easy-to-consume ways. Journalism is hungry for storytellers that understand both politics and the mind of the reader. Writing sales copy for a direct mail marketing campaign is different than writing sales copy for a website which is different from writing a post for social media designed to boost brand engagement.

    Developing skills like these demonstrates an ability to adapt your writing to be applicable in a business setting. Additionally, by preemptively learning these skills, you add extra value to yourself as an employee, which gives you an advantage over other English majors who are after the same job, but only took creative writing and poetry classes in school.

    5. Use your capstone project to give yourself a leg up

    "Words are where most change begins.” - Brandon Sanderson

    At the risk of sounding melodramatic, what you choose to do for the capstone project is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as an English major. Not just because earning your degree depends on successfully completing the project, but because the capstone is your last real opportunity to separate yourself from the crowd and get an edge in post-college life.

    Choose a project that showcases your skills or helps you learn something immediately useful.

    For example, in the future I intend to start a publishing house. I have a passion for stories, and being an author and a publisher is a long-standing dream of mine. It’s what drew me to English in the first place. But I’m also very business-minded, and my studies reflected these intersecting interests. As a result, my capstone project was about how marketing principles could be applied to fiction writing in order to reverse the general downward trend in reading across the entire population.

    Sure, it sounds a little dry based on that description, but this project gave me valuable insight into realistic, and immediately applicable techniques for getting more people to read what I write.

    6. It’s okay to go after a “risky” major.

    "Real joy seems to me almost as unlike security or prosperity as it is unlike agony.” - C.S. Lewis

    Earning an English degree isn’t the easiest way to find success in life. It’s definitely not the most “secure” path. But maybe it’s your path. And that’s okay.

    Real-world application should influence what you choose to pursue in college. It would be irresponsible to ignore the opportunities that some degrees would open up to you.

    However, choosing your major based solely on how the world sees its value is a quick path to misery. If you have little or no interest in a subject, you’re unlikely to develop a passion for it. Without passion, motivation suffers and resentment rises. Maybe you start off only hating an assignment—but soon you hate the class, then the subject, then college itself.

    If you’re forcing yourself to do something that you hate, you’re probably going to fail. So don’t do that to yourself. If you plan on finishing college, it’s probably best that you study what you’re interested in.

    College is what you make it. No single course of study is innately more valuable than all others. An arts major can go on to be more successful than a business major. The value that you get out of your studies and what happens after you graduate depends entirely on you.

    Still, there is a pressure to pick the most “valuable” degree to pursue.

    My advice? Don’t stress about it, because it’s not that important.

    Every major is valuable if applied in the right circumstances and pursued intentionally. Don’t set yourself up for failure just because biochemical engineers earn a higher salary than staff writers.

    If you love writing, study what you love. If you want your degree to be more valuable, focus on expanding and refining your gifts. If you want to make yourself more valuable, adapt and acquire skills that compliment your writing.

    Most importantly, if it would bring you joy—be an English major.

    Looking to explore your degree options? Students that earn their degrees through Accelerated Pathways can save up to $30,000 over the course of their degree. So, take some time and reach out for a custom advising session and learn more about your college options.

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  • How Student Loan Debt Ruins Your Life


    How Student Loan Debt Ruins Your Life

    This is the moment you’ve been working toward for the past four years. As you walk across the stage and see your favorite professor smiling at you, you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. Then you’re shaking hands, posing for pictures, and turning your tassel.

    Congratulations! You’ve just earned your bachelor’s degree. You’re a college graduate.

    As you return to your seat to watch your fellow graduates cross that same stage, you can’t help but look forward to what the future might bring. After all, now that you have your degree, so many opportunities have been opened up to you.

    Because you’ve invested your time at college wisely, you’ve developed the skills and connections needed to launch into your career. And with that career will come a home, a new lifestyle, maybe a family. The things you dream about are there, waiting for you to take them, and now that you’re done with school, you’re free to do so.

    There’s just one small problem.

    The only way you could pay for college was by taking out a loan. And like 68% of other college students nationwide, that means you just graduated from college with debt—around $30,000 of it. On top of that, your loan has the average interest rate paid by most students (5.8%), which means you’ll be paying at least an additional $9,600 just to cover interest over the next 10 years.

    That doesn’t sound too bad though. You just need to get started in your career, and you’ll be able to pay that loan off in a few years. It certainly doesn’t worry you enough to ruin your day or completely overshadow the hope you have for the future. You’re a college graduate! You’re going to be fine. Life’s going to be good.

    Like most students, you have a 10-year loan with “manageable” monthly payments. And you’re confident that you’ll pay it back on time. Maybe even sooner! Right?

    Year One—Do You Really Have a Head Start?

    Life has been something of a whirlwind since graduation day, and you’ve done well for yourself despite the chaos of starting out in life! You’ve landed an awesome job that will soon lead to your dream career. It doesn’t pay a ton of money, but you expected that as a recent college grad. You have to start somewhere, right?

    With your entry-level salary, you’re able to afford a decent apartment and cover your bills. All in all, you’re managing. And even if you get a little anxious when checking your bank account, life’s still exciting.

    What it’s like to be shackled to student loan debt just after graduation.

    The gross average starting salary for recent college graduates is around $48,000. That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? If you take care of your money, you could live well enough on that.

    After taxes, your $48,000 per year becomes somewhere between $36,000 and $39,000 (or about $3,000 per month). The apartment you’re renting takes about 1/3 of that (assuming you don’t live near either coast). Other mandatory expenses like utilities, transportation, healthcare, and food take up another third. And the average monthly student loan payment is around $400.

    If you’re lucky, by the end of the month you have about 10% of your net income left over to use however you like.

    You’ve had to make sacrifices to make ends meet. You can’t go out to dinner or to a movie very often. Weekend trips to the mall are rare. Spending even $20 a week to do something fun might stretch your budget dangerously thin. Your life, for the time being, is your work. But that’s okay because it’ll only be for a year or so until you get a little more experience and maybe a raise or two.

    Life’s hard. It’s hard for everyone though. And even though you’re barely keeping up for the time being, at least you have a head start.

    Year Five—Imagine Being Buried Alive

    You don’t know if life got easier or you just got better at managing it. Probably a little of both. Over the five years since graduation day, you’ve settled into your job and found your rhythm. You’re advancing in your career, making a name for yourself, and earning the recognition of your superiors. The pay raises and promotion were tremendous blessings, giving your budget room to breathe every month. And that’s not all! You’ve recently had a little time to focus on something other than work: you have a family to take care of now.

    For the first time since graduation day, you’re beginning to feel like you’re really moving forward in life. However, the advances you’ve made come with more responsibility. And responsibility is expensive.

    Sorry, you haven’t really made a dent in your debt yet.

    Interest on student loans is a special kind of monster. Assuming you didn’t qualify for a subsidized loan, the interest on the initial balance of your loan started to accrue the day the loan was disbursed. So even though you don’t normally have to begin paying back a loan until after graduation, your student loan debt is still going to grow while you’re in school.

    It’s also important to note that your student loan payments go toward the interest first. So if your interest owed is greater than your monthly payment, that money never touches the initial balance, and interest continues to compound. And here’s the kicker: interest on student loans isn’t compounded yearly or even monthly. It’s compounded and charged daily based on the outstanding balance of the loan (including interest), not the principal balance.

    So when your interest rate of 5.8% was applied to the $30,000 you owed at graduation, your new balance the day after graduation became $30,004.80. The day after that, it was $30,009.60.

    This process of charging interest on your new total balance has repeated every day (with the interest you owe growing bigger and bigger) since the day you took out the loan. This is how you were buried alive so quickly. Even though you’ve faithfully made minimum loan payments every month, the interest on your loan has been compounding since the start of college. At this point, you’ve barely started paying on the principal of the loan, if you’ve touched it at all.

    All that to say, if you want to pay off your student loan, you need to be paying more than the minimum required amount. But therein lies the problem.

    As you advance in life, you generally earn a higher gross income. But with more mouths to feed, higher utilities, more insurance, and the other expenses that come with living a normal life, you don’t always see significant changes to your net earnings. You’re struggling to allocate as much money as you should to paying down your student loans.

    You’re still happy. Life is good and every day has its blessings. But that doesn’t stop you from worrying what the future might hold if you don’t start getting a handle on your debt—and soon.

    Year Ten—The Year You Were Supposed to Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt

    You’ve come a long way since graduation day.

    Your family has grown. So much so that you had to buy a bigger house, making your mortgage significantly more expensive. But perhaps for the first time in your life, you don’t feel like you’re playing catch-up with your finances. You’re thoroughly embedded in your career now. Despite your family and expenses growing, you’re finally earning enough to get ahead. So, after 10 years of making payments on your student loan, it’s finally time to start actually paying it off.

    There’s a steeper cost to your student loans than simple debt.

    Anxiety, like a ball of lead sitting in your stomach, has been growing inside you over the past ten years. The longer you go without making real progress paying off your college debt, the worse it gets. The constant stress has gotten so bad that you struggle to fall asleep at night—and when you do fall asleep, it’s restless. It’s normal for you to wake up multiple times a night. Losing sleep, though, is only the start of your troubles.

    Your anxiety isn’t just in your head. It’s manifested some pretty severe physical symptoms as well. You’re always tired, but especially so at work and during stressful situations. As a result it’s harder for you to focus at work and your productivity is suffering. You get constant, inexplicable headaches throughout the day. Your joints begin to ache, and there’s a deep tiredness in your muscles because your body is always tensed up. You don’t have much of an appetite, which is okay because you usually have an upset stomach anyway. And to top it all off, in this constant state of anxiety—with an always elevated heart rate and a body that’s always in fight or flight mode—it’s nearly impossible for you to relax.

    In short, you’re exhausted, drained, and terrified that you’ll be buried under debt for good.

    If it’s any comfort, you’re not alone in this: 65% to 67% of individuals with student loan debt report having some or all of these symptoms. But now that you’re finally able to begin paying down your debt, you’ll just need to hang in there a little while longer. You can deal with the stress for a year or two more. That’s all it should take to get debt free, right?

    21 Years After Graduation

    The last 11 years went by in a blur. So much life happened in that time. You tried to experience as much of it as you could, but you had to miss quite a bit. You went through those years with your nose to the grindstone, working hard every month to pay a little bit extra toward your college debt. You’re exhausted. But you also have some of your old, hopeful energy back because this is the last year that you’ll ever have to make payments on your student loan.

    That’s how long it actually takes to pay off student loans.

    The average bachelor’s degree will put a student around $30,000 in debt. Most students believe they’ll be able to pay that off by the time they’re 33. In reality, though, they generally aren’t able to pay it back until they’re at least 41.

    These students spend a majority of their early life in debt that is next to impossible to get discharged, making mandatory monthly payments regardless of their income (for the average college grad, this is true even if they’re on an income-based payment plan). And if they can’t make the minimum payments on their standard 10-year plan, their debt only grows.

    After 21 years, the average loan for a bachelor’s degree costs somewhere between $39,000 and $42,000 depending on how soon the student can get control of their finances.

    So, did going into debt for your degree really give you a head start in life? Was the education you got in college valuable enough to spend 21 years paying for it?

    A Better Life

    Not long after you finally paid off your student loan debt, it’s time to send your kid to college. You see a lot of yourself in them. They’re excited and hopeful for their future, and you want to give them the best chance they can possibly have at living an extraordinary life.

    Given that, what advice would you give them about student loans? Do you think that going into debt for college will give them a better life? Or is there a better way to do college?

    Yes, actually. There is a better way.

    Instead of going into debt for college, why not make college more affordable? If you could find a way to either reduce the cost of—or completely eliminate—the most expensive parts of college, but still get the high-quality education you need, you’d never have to take out a loan in the first place.

    Say hello to Accelerated Pathways, a flexible online college program which enables you to earn a debt-free degree from any school with the guidance of a professional academic coach and the support of a thriving student community.

    In other words, we make the college experience so affordable that you can realistically pay for your degree out of pocket. Because Accelerated Pathways isn’t your typical college program, our students have the freedom to pursue college, life, and a career (or whatever else they’re passionate about) at the same time. And since a year of Accelerated Pathways only costs about $6,750, or about 36% of what you would pay at a traditional university, is it any wonder that most of our students are able to graduate debt free? Accelerated Pathways enables you to earn college credit, have a real income, build a resumé, and avoid student loans entirely. That’s what gives Accelerated Pathways students a chance at a real head start in life—a better life.

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  • Is College The Best Way to Get an Education?


    Is College The Best Way to Get an Education?

    For most high school seniors, the months leading up to graduation aren’t just about senior pranks, ditch days, and Grad Nites. These days are also filled with essay writing, scholarship applications, school visits, talks with counselors, and orientations. It’s a process that about 69% of high school seniors go through every year in order to prepare for the next big stage in life—going to college.

    After all, you’re supposed to go to college after high school, right? That’s what most of us grow up being told. The idea of high school being a necessary stepping stone to college, and college being a necessary stepping stone to a worthwhile career has been ingrained in our American culture for decades.

    Everyone knows that going to college is simply the best way to set yourself up for success down the road.

    Or is it?

    Why college?

    College, as we typically understand it, is extremely useful. It’s without a doubt among the most effective ways to earn an education—but maybe not for everyone.

    Of the high school graduates that go to college, 45% will drop out before earning their degree. Why? Because college is hard, and it takes a particular type of person with a particular type of mindset and a particular purpose to get the most out of it.

    And most people don’t know why they should be going to college in the first place.

    College helps you learn and grow as a person…

    College is a place designed for learning. Not just memorizing information in textbooks, but also a deeper type of learning. College tends to be the most difficult academic, personal, and social challenge ever faced by incoming freshmen. And as with all challenges, students either must grow in order to overcome it or fail to grow and drop out.

    On top of what they learn in class, college students are challenged to think critically, communicate clearly, solve complex problems, ask the right questions and find their own answers. College gives you the opportunity to explore your interests in an environment focused on growth. It encourages you to discover what you believe, question what you know, and define who you want to be when it’s time to face the real world.

    Yes, academics are what you will (and should) spend most of your time on at college. You should learn as much from your professors and textbooks as you can. But the other lessons—the ones that result in you becoming a stronger, more grounded, more confident person—are equally important.

    This growth is one of the primary benefits of college

AND get a better job down the road

    This is, of course, the other major benefit of going to college. College graduates, on average, make more money than those who don’t earn a degree. And although college doesn’t necessarily train you to do a specific job the way a trade school might, it can definitely help prepare you for success in your future career.

    The most obvious way that college prepares you for a career is through education. An engineer needs to have an advanced understanding of mathematics. A physicist needs to be an expert in physics; a doctor, medicine; a journalist, journalism. STEM programs are an excellent example of this: these programs prepare students to use a combination of knowledge and creativity to solve difficult problems in highly technical fields. Many modern careers require a specialized education for even a basic starting position. And in many cases, that education would be hard to get without going to college.

    The real money maker for most graduates, though, are the connections. Many colleges have incubator programs exclusively to help their student entrepreneurs be successful in business. Or grants available to fund student research. Many colleges have alumni networks to aid in the job search—graduating from the same college as a company’s CEO can be a major foot in the door.

    And then there are the students themselves. Colleges are full of ambitious visionaries eager to start the next great world-changing business. With the number of opportunities and connections available to college students, of course college graduates tend to have higher salaries.

    Without a doubt, a college education has its benefits. Earning a degree could set you up for personal and financial success down the road. But not everybody needs to go to college in order to be successful.

    What about the 31% who don’t go to college?

    If college is so great, why would someone choose not to go? For most of us, a high school diploma isn’t going to be enough to secure a livable income. Certainly if you have a family, you’ll need to invest in some sort of education to make yourself more valuable to an employer.

    High school graduates who choose alternative educational paths usually have a good reason. College might be too expensive for them or they had poor grades in high school. Maybe they’re simply satisfied with where they are in life or they’d rather go straight to work instead of spending more time in the classroom.

    These people want something more from life, and they need an education to get it. They just don’t need one from college.

    Instead of paying for their education, they can be paid to learn.

    Someone who chooses not to go to college has the opportunity to start their career the day after graduating from high school (if not before). Most often they find work as a tradesman and take advantage of the built-in educational path that comes with learning a trade like plumbing or welding.

    Tradesmen primarily learn by doing, often as an apprentice. They work under the supervision of an experienced tradesman who teaches them the basics, not in the classroom but out in the field doing real work. And since they’re working from day one, tradesmen are essentially paid to learn. Getting on-the-job training like this is one of the best ways to get a useful and profitable education outside of the classroom.

    Learning a trade this way has the added benefit of leading to significant career advancements almost always in a relatively short amount of time. The more tradesmen work, the more they learn, and the more they’re able to earn. For example, the average salary for an apprentice electrician is around $35,000. But after about four years, when they “graduate” to journeyman, it jumps to $55,000; and again to $67,000 or more when they become a master.

    So while people who go to college wait four years to start their career, those who go straight into a trade start right away, earning an income while getting on-the-job training that leads directly to significantly better salaries down the road.

    And they have the freedom to grow their own way.

    College is a great tool to use for self-development and growing as a person. It’s structured, relatively free from consequences if you make mistakes, and an environment that emphasizes the importance of learning. However, you don’t have to go to college to get the same or similar educational and personal growth benefits.

    Life is full of opportunities to grow, and when you don’t lock yourself into spending four years at a university, you have more freedom to choose which of those opportunities to take.

    For example, if you want to learn a trade but you’re not too excited about being an apprentice, you can choose to go to a trade school. Trade schools are a lot like college. They have classes, lessons, teachers, and homework. They challenge you academically in similar ways; however, the major difference is that instead of earning a degree at the end of your education, you develop the skills and practical experience needed to assemble an engine or build a house. You can think about the difference like this: while college might teach undergrads how airplanes work, trade school teaches you how to build airplanes.

    Alternatively, you could go into public service, start a business, or even join the military. All of these result in similar personal growth (you’ll be thrown into a situation that you’re likely not ready for, and be forced to grow in order to overcome it), and they each can lead to greater opportunities down the road.

    While taking one of these alternate paths likely means you’d be sacrificing an opportunity for a more academic education, the benefit is that you’re able to start your career much earlier. And without having to pay for an expensive education at a university or spend an extra four years as a student. You’re able to get a head start on life and make it your own.

    Who should go to college?

    While going to college is an incredible experience and has become a rite of passage for many young adults, that doesn’t mean it’s the right way for everyone to get an education.

    Go to college if you need a degree…

    For most of us, a degree is the key that unlocks the door to some future career. While many careers require entry-level applicants to have at least a career-related bachelor’s degree of some sort, not every career requires one.

    Do you plan to have a career in the medical field? You probably need a degree. Going into something like construction or aviation? You might not.

    And can afford it…

    College is expensive. Assuming you can’t pay for college out of pocket, your starting salary as a recent graduate should be equal to or greater than the total debt that you owe for your education. Even then, going into debt for college isn’t a great idea. If you’re not careful, you can very easily spend half your life paying it off.

    And have a specific purpose for your time at college…

    Most people go to college without knowing why they’re going or where it fits into their master plan. These are the people who spend years trying to figure what major to pick, wasting valuable time that they could have spent preparing for what comes after graduation. Having a specific purpose helps to keep you focused on the end goal and helps you get the most value possible out of your time at college.

    And you’re absolutely dedicated to finishing.

    There’s no point spending a crazy amount of money on your education if you’re not going to stick it out until the end. Not finishing school is a great way to waste a lot of time and potentially set you back in life by years.

    The best way for you to get an education

    If you found yourself nodding along and thinking “yup, that’s me” in the previous section, then absolutely go to college. It’s probably the best way for you to get an education.

    If not, no worries! There are better paths for you.

    The only person who can tell you the best option for your education is you. There isn’t a single best way that works for everyone. The best way for you to get an education depends on where you want to go in life.

    So what, exactly, do you want from life? The type of education you choose to pursue should get you closer to it.

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  • Why I Walked Away From College... And Why I Went Back



    You know that feeling you get when you’re about to do something that terrifies you?

    Your heart is in your throat. You hope nobody tries to shake your hand because your palms are sweating. You can’t decide if you’re hot or cold. And why can you hear your heartbeat? Is it really that loud? Can everyone else hear it too?

    That was me, waiting for my first coaching call.

    You see, when you’re an Accelerated Pathways student, your coach is the go-to person for guidance, advice, support, and accountability as you work your way through college. And back in my day, taking your first coaching call was about as close to “orientation day” as Accelerated Pathways students got.

    I was about to start college as a senior in high school, and that terrified me.

    I didn’t want to be here. College was never a part of my plan. I didn’t want to be sitting at my desk, staring at my phone, terrified it would ring any second, knowing the moment I picked it up, my life would change.

    So far, my life had been a series of familiar routines. It had been comfortable. Safe. Change wasn’t something I had much practice with, and I wasn’t very good at it. Yet here I was, about to enter a new stage of life.

    I didn’t know exactly how my life was about to change or how much I would need to grow as a result. I just knew that I had no idea how to navigate what was coming.

    That unknown terrified me more than anything else.

    Surprise! College wasn’t as bad as I feared.

    When the phone finally rang, I wanted nothing more than to throw it across the room.

    You know why I didn’t? Mostly because I love my mom.

    Cheesy, I know—but for as long as I can remember, she wanted her sons to go to college. It was part of the reason she chose to homeschool us. Even if I didn’t want to be here, even if it wasn’t part of my plan, college was important to my mother. I couldn’t let her down.

    So I answered the call.

    That first call lead to another and then another, and before I knew it I was taking my first college classes. Admittedly, I wasn’t the most coachable of students—I have this insatiable drive to do things my own way. But with my coach’s guidance, slowly, college didn’t seem quite as scary as it did just before that first call.

    I learned what it was like to study for a college-level exam, to enroll in a class, and to earn my first credits. I learned how to write academic papers and cite sources I found somewhere other than Wikipedia. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t know how to do any of this before I started college. But my coach did.

    Whenever I came up against something new and outside my comfort zone, my coach helped me learn the best way to handle it. And the more I learned to do, the more capable I felt, the less scary college became.

    I tried, I quit, I (almost) failed.

    That being said, the reality of the self-paced, self-directed, self-motivated college experience that is Accelerated Pathways was much more challenging for me than I had expected.

    Despite being a great student in high school, I was struggling in college. I was barely passing most tests. I was having trouble thinking and sleeping. Worst of all, the anxiety I felt before taking that first coaching call never really went away.

    I didn’t know at the time that I had an undiagnosed autoimmune disease which was the primary source of these challenges. Severe anxiety, brain fog, and insomnia were just some of my symptoms; none of which I had any real control over. Despite this, as my academic progress slowed to a crawl, and my symptoms became more severe, I blamed myself for these challenges. I didn’t know any better.

    I assumed if I was this distressed by a college program as flexible as Accelerated Pathways, I simply wasn’t cut out for college.

    So after fighting through two years of school, having earned three quarters of my degree and with a half-hearted promise to come back, I told my coach I was “taking a break.”

    It surprised me at the time. Even though I never really wanted to be a college student, the fact that I quit felt wrong. I felt like I had let my coach down, let myself down. I felt like a failure. And that feeling haunted me as I did my best to move forward in life.

    Over the next year, I spent my time living, traveling, making mistakes and learning to deal with the consequences. Finding ways to grow, becoming stronger, and discovering who I am became my top priorities. I intentionally put myself in uncomfortable situations that forced me to expand my comfort zone. I developed philosophies and rules and structures for my life. I found that the more I focused on developing myself, the easier it was for me to make progress in life.

    And even though my autoimmune disease was still undiagnosed, I was learning to live fully, despite the symptoms.

    Life definitely wasn’t perfect, but it was as close to perfect as it had ever been. I was happy. Life was relatively great. Despite the promise I made to my coach, I seriously considered not returning to finish my degree.

    But could I break my word? Could I let my coach down?

    I had come to firmly believe the only time we actually fail in life is when we choose to. Was I okay with choosing failure in this part of my life?

    Even after so much time had passed, the fact that I had chosen to quit still bothered me. The fact that I had considered breaking my word to my coach bothered me even more. And as time went by, the uneasy feeling persisted. I realized my life was great only as long as I avoided thinking about what I had left unfinished and the promise I was breaking.

    I decided that I wasn’t okay with that.

    So, after a year and a half of significant growth, I found myself once again waiting for a phone call. Only this time I was too eager to get started (and too determined to finish) to be distracted by fear.

    I chose to finish what I started despite the challenges.

    I wish I could say I didn’t struggle with school from here on out. Yet even though I didn’t struggle as much or in the same ways as before, I faced a barrage of new challenges.

    During my time off, the school I was set to graduate from had changed their graduation requirements, which meant that I would need to take some extra classes to finish. Somehow, taking such a long break had cost me 30 credits and had set me back a whole academic year.

    On top of that, I desperately wanted to change my major from English to marketing. My interests had shifted during my time away from school, and I wanted to earn a degree that reflected those interests. I had already lost a whole year’s worth of credits anyway, what more harm could changing my degree do?

    Plenty. I quickly learned that changing my degree would have been more expensive and taken even more time to complete than just making up the lost credits I was already dealing with.

    Unless I wanted to fall further behind, I was stuck pursuing a major I didn’t want anymore. Of course I was frustrated, but sometime during my year off, I had learned to see frustration as opportunity.

    These new challenges became the fuel that drove me to create a better situation for myself. I needed to overcome them in order to create the life I wanted. After all, I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I had completed my studies. So that’s what I was going to do.

    How did I end up finally graduating from college? Here’s the answer.

    With the encouragement and guidance of my Accelerated Pathways coach, I surged forward in my classes, earning between 24 and 36 credits every semester.

    While college took a more prominent role in my life, the life lessons I had learned during my time off helped me maintain my health, balance school with my personal life, and build multiple businesses while I was at it. And because of the flexibility of Accelerated Pathways, I didn’t even have to sacrifice my new-found interest in marketing. I was able to replace all of my lost credits with business- and marketing-oriented classes. Those 30 missing credits became an opportunity to create my very own marketing degree.

    When before I would have broken under the pressure of balancing college and life, now I had grown enough to thrive. When a traditional college would have limited my academic opportunities, Accelerated Pathways gave me the tools to get what I wanted out of my studies.

    It wasn’t long before the kid who never planned on college ended up graduating with top marks, a bachelor’s degree, and plans to go back for a few more.

    Looking back at that first coaching call, I can’t help but laugh at how terrified I was.

    I could have ignored that call out of fear—the choice was there for me to make. At any point I could have chosen to quit and never come back. So why didn’t I?

    Because people who loved and believed in me held me accountable. Even though I was terrified at the start, even though I wanted something else, I persevered because I knew that I couldn’t let my team down.

    My team gave me the motivation to persevere through college; and Accelerated Pathways gave me the ability to learn and to grow in the way that best fit me.

    With my health, I don’t know if I would have lasted a full year at a traditional college. I’m positive that I wouldn’t have gone back after a break. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have had the flexibility I needed to pursue my evolving academic interests. I wouldn’t have fit into a traditional college program.

    Accelerated Pathways was a program that fit me, not a program I had to fit into.

    But if you were to ask me what the true power behind Accelerated Pathways is, I’d say it’s the coaches.

    I am grateful to my coach every day for his investment in me. He was a key member of my team and my guide through the unknowns of college. We never met in person, and he didn’t know this until our very last call, but from the start of my journey to the end, I stepped into the unknown, pushed against my fears, and grew because of—and for—him. I would never have done that for myself.

    If I hadn’t been a part of this program, if I hadn’t had a coach who believed in me, if I hadn’t taken that first call, I wouldn’t have grown into the person I am today. I would still be afraid. I would still be horrible with change. I’m sure I would have grown; but I’m positive I wouldn’t have grown in such a meaningful way.

    Going to college was never a part of my plan. But if I’m being honest, that was a stupid plan.


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  • What is STEM?


    What is STEM?

    I’m sure you’ve heard how important STEM is. You’ve also probably heard that people with STEM careers typically do pretty well financially. But what you might not have heard is what STEM actually is.

    Getting a definition for STEM is easy enough: it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. So take a biology class in college, and technically you're taking a class that’s a part of STEM. However, STEM is much more than just a useful way of grouping subjects in a catchy acronym.

    At its core, STEM is a teaching philosophy that integrates all four disciplines together into a single, cross-disciplinary program which offers instruction in real-world (as opposed to purely academic) applications and teaching methods.

    This is important to understand because getting a math degree doesn’t necessarily mean you completed a STEM program, even if math is a STEM subject. Without the integration of all four disciplines and the use of real-world teaching methods, you don’t get the educational benefits that make STEM degrees so valuable and careers in STEM fields so desirable.

    Do you think you might be interested in a career in STEM? Accelerated Pathways can help you out! Our team can talk to you about your goals and help you build a customized college plan designed to help you reach those goals (and save money along the way). Click here to learn more.

    STEM is pretty different. And, like, really difficult.

    Don’t worry if you’re still a little confused about all this. STEM is a complicated idea to wrap your head around. It might be easier to fully understand how STEM subjects become a STEM program if you knew what a college-level STEM program actually looks like for a student.

    STEM is extra heavy on science and math.

    Remember, the disciplines that STEM focuses on are Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. While technology and engineering might sound like fun (I mean, who wouldn’t want to build robots in class?) for a large portion of potential students, science and math are very much not fun. Unfortunately, being able to quickly master these two subjects is an integral part of doing well in STEM.

    Science and math are particularly important in STEM because technology and engineering are dependant on them. If an Architectural Engineering student needed to design a 10-story building, they would first need to understand the underlying mathematical and scientific principles that make a building like this possible. STEM careers share this heavy reliance on either math or science—often both. This is why students who don’t perform well in math or science so often quit STEM to follow an easier academic program. Or they just fail out.

    However, this doesn’t mean that STEM is beyond reach if you’ve struggled with these subjects in the past. It just means that STEM will likely be more difficult for you than others. Alternatively, you might find that understanding these two subjects is actually easier for you than it has been in the past, given the practical way these subjects are taught in a STEM program.

    For the rest of you super smart left brain types who excel at math and science, don’t get too excited just yet. Math and science are only the tip of the iceberg.

    STEM is a new way of learning.

    As a philosophy, STEM is meant to create a program that integrates all four disciplines in a way that forces the student to use cross-disciplinary knowledge to solve problems. Which essentially means that the traditional learning style incoming freshman are used to—typically some form of memorization and recitation of information—is pretty much out the window.

    You’ll rarely be given the explicit solution to a problem. Instead, you’ll often be required to use what you already know to figure out the right answer for yourself. This requires a significant amount of creativity and flexible thinking, as well as technical knowledge and mastery of each individual discipline.

    This approach to education is often why those of us who are extremely analytical, but not especially creative, tend to struggle with STEM. Successful students quickly learn how to think for themselves and abandon their expectations of being told what to think.

    Of course, STEM teachers won’t assume that incoming freshmen in a basic technology class already have mastery of advanced, graduate-level mathematics. Students in STEM are guided in their learning to build up mastery of the four disciplines over time, just like non-STEM students. However, when the time comes for them to apply what they’ve learned, whether a student does well or not depends heavily on how well they’re able to solve the problem, not how much they’ve memorized.

    STEM gives less freedom to choose classes for fun.

    Because STEM students require a solid foundational understanding of a broad array of subjects in order to succeed, they typically have less control over what courses they take (and in what order they take them) than students in other programs. After all, while other students are only required to gain a mastery of a single discipline, STEM students are required to gain mastery of four.

    As a result, STEM students might not be able to take many extra classes outside of their STEM requirements. So if you’re a STEM student with a passion for photography, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to take many photography classes during your time in college. This lack of freedom can force students to take a series of classes that they might struggle in back-to-back, or even at the same time.

    And since STEM programs don’t work unless a student makes steady progress in all four disciplines simultaneously, stacking difficult classes on top of each other like this can easily lead to falling behind and failing out.

    This might not seem like an issue to an especially driven student. Most people go into STEM with an idea of the difficulties that come with the program and are willing to take on the challenge. However, with this restrictive schedule and high-stress environment, finding time to explore your passions or simply take a break becomes extremely important for STEM students. Otherwise they could quickly burn out.

    STEM programs are a ton of work.

    Even STEM students who are already gifted in all four disciplines are often challenged by the sheer amount of homework and studying required by each class. These programs are famous for having super heavy workloads, which makes sense as the subjects covered in STEM programs are extremely complex. Being able to adequately understand them requires hours of extra work outside of class.

    But it’s not all busy work. STEM students have to be careful that their eyes never glaze over while completing a project, because making mistakes can be costly. STEM students are expected to deliver the highest quality of work—regardless of how much homework they have. Which, again, makes sense if you consider the jobs these students will be doing after they graduate.

    If a software developer makes a single error in a piece of code, they can break an important program and cause a company to lose thousands of dollars. Even a tiny miscalculation in a rocket launch can cost lives. So many STEM careers require perfect execution in high-stress environments—it makes sense that a STEM education will require the same thing.

    STEM forces students to approach education in an active and exploratory way.

    Despite all the hard work, STEM can be lots of fun too. Remember, at the core of these programs are real-world applications and study methods, which means you won’t simply be learning about robots in a classroom setting. You’re actually going to build robots in order to learn about them.

    A good example of this is California Institute of Technology (one of the best STEM colleges in the nation) which teaches Biological Science by combining classroom instruction with student participation in their research programs. Their students have an active role in producing whatever cutting edge technologies or ground-breaking discoveries the university is currently working on—actively doing real work in the discipline that they’re in the process of mastering.

    This type of education, learning by doing, will be a large part of your day in a STEM program.

    What can I do with a STEM education after graduation?

    Technology advances by leaps and bounds seemingly every day. Yet everything from new software to new metal alloys for spacecraft to the discovery of new sources of renewable energy or the cure for a previously incurable disease all need to be produced by someone. And as technology continues to advance, the already high demand for STEM professionals continues to climb.

    Going through a STEM program is pretty intense. It requires a lot of dedication, perseverance, and sacrifice to make it all the way through. However, this style of education builds the skills and mindsets that employers find incredibly valuable. And since the demand for STEM professionals is so high, employers in STEM fields are willing to offer some of the most generous starting salaries that recent graduates can get.

    The most in-demand STEM careers right now:

    Computing is one of the fastest growing STEM fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 71% of STEM careers are in computing. Not sure what “computing” is, exactly? Just think along the lines of Software Developers, Statisticians, or Computer Systems Analysts. If they work with computers or programs, they probably have a career in computing.

    This high demand for computing professionals makes sense if you consider how much of our lives have become reliant on some form of digital technology. It’s how we communicate and keep in touch. It’s how we entertain ourselves. It starts the engines in our cars; in medical practices, it keeps us alive; it drives massive segments of our economy; and for better or worse, advances in digital technology will continue to control the future direction of our society. As our daily lives become more reliant on software and digital devices, jobs in computing will become increasingly more important.

    Engineering and Physical Science is the next largest category of in-demand STEM careers. These are careers like Orthodontists, Petroleum Engineers, Biochemists, Nurse Anesthetists, Civil Engineers, and Cartographers. Yes, cartographers—map makers—are still a thing and they earn a median salary of $63,990. (Cool, I know.) These types of careers have much less to do with computers and more to do with rolling up your sleeves and getting elbow deep in real work, with real results that you can see right now.

    Life Sciences and Mathematics are much smaller fields than the previous two, but they make up the third most significant chunk of STEM careers. These two fields involve the more theoretical STEM careers that account for only a small amount of the demand for STEM professionals. These are careers like being a Clinical Research Associate or an Economist that—while still in demand—might be harder to find a position in.

    However, these are by no means your only options when it comes to STEM careers. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer working with computers, building robots, drawing blueprints for skyscrapers, or developing groundbreaking medicine. If you can make it through a STEM program in college, there’s a STEM career for you.

    Should You Pursue a STEM Education?

    If you’re expecting to find a great career straight out of college, going through a STEM is one of the best ways to do that. It would be difficult to get a better education (other than maybe getting a couple years of on-the-job experience). However, not everyone is cut out for a college-level STEM program. Want to know if STEM is for you? Ask yourself a few questions:

    Are you serious about your education? STEM requires an insane amount of commitment and hard work. There isn’t much room in these programs for students who just want to have their “last four years of freedom” before getting a real job.

    Are you actually interested in STEM? So much of being successful in a STEM program comes down to a student’s ability to stay focused on, curious about, and actively interested in a subject. It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll do well if you’re falling asleep in class because you’re bored.

    Are you willing to take on the challenge? I don’t think I pulled many punches in this article. STEM is hard. Likely the most difficult challenge you’ve ever considered taking on. Even the most gifted and driven students struggle with it. The students who succeed are the ones apply themselves every day and approach that challenge head on.

    If you think STEM would be a good fit for you after everything you’ve read, then you might be exactly the type of person who should pursue a STEM education.

    Want to know if a STEM degree is the right choice for your goals? Accelerated Pathways can help you build a customized college plan designed to help you get a degree for a career in STEM (and save money along the way). Click here to learn more.

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