August 2016 archive

First Phone Meeting With WGU Student Mentor

Talking on the phone is not my favorite thing to do. I don’t know why I have so much hesitation about it. As a school secretary, I spend a very large portion of my day on the phone and it doesn’t bother me at all but ask me to call someone and I think of a million other things I can do before I make that phone call. This is one of the main reasons why I really debated applying to Western Governors University (WGU). As part of the program, you are assigned a student mentor that follows you throughout your college program until graduation. The school requires that you speak to your student mentor at least once a week for your first term, which is 6 months. After that, the frequency can go down to every other week.

And the phone conversations begin…

“So tell me a little about yourself.” This was one of her first sentences. I thought “I feel like I’m on a first date.”. To my surprise and relief, she said out loud what I had just thought. She sensed my feeling of awkwardness about her statement and quickly put me at ease! Yep, this is a good match.

My mentor’s name is Beth. She seems like a really nice person and is easy to talk to. Her voice is very upbeat and peppy. There was a genuineness when she explained that her role is to help her students succeed. Her main job is to help with any questions or concerns I may have about school. She is both a coach and a cheerleader. I’ve never had either since I never played any sport on an actual team but I know that this will be good. I understand why the school added this feature. Being an online student can be lonely. Yes, you can interact with other students through the forums but there is something about speaking and listening to someone that makes it more real. Especially when that person’s ultimate goal is the same as yours – to get to graduation!

Our next appointment is in one week. At that time we will discuss my class schedule and talk more about each class. I look forward to the many conversations we will have. Since she has been in the education field for several years and has taught many different grades, I know that I will gain some great tips and advice along the way.

How do you feel about talking on the phone? Does the idea of speaking to a mentor on a regular basis intimidate or annoy you? Would that be enough to keep you from applying to WGU?

 

 

 

 

Why Western Governors University (WGU)?

While I enjoyed my one semester experience with Charter Oak, I felt I had still not found my perfect match. Tossing and turning for nights, I realized that the path I had planned was not the plan I wanted.

I DON’T WANT TO TEACH SPANISH

There was no excitement or joy for me when I thought about becoming a Spanish teacher. Plus, I would still need to do one additional year of schooling after earning my Bachelor’s. In order to become a certified teacher through my State’s alternate route to teacher certification, I would need to travel an hour away every weekend for an entire school year.  When I thought about how long it would take me and where I would end up, all I could think was that this was not my dream. Yes, I wanted to be a teacher, but not a Spanish teacher.

EXPANDING MY CHOICES

Even though I had seen advertisements for WGU online before, I ignored them because the school is in Utah. I live in Connecticut, which is on the other side of the country. I was really stuck on the idea of getting a degree in the State I live in. Being able to attend graduation and having my family there, is really important to me. Also, I wanted my resume to show that I graduated from a college in my State.

Once I realized that my family and I could go to graduation and that it didn’t matter what State my degree was from, I started looking into online colleges that offered an accelerated, Elementary Education program. After researching for several days, I settled on WGU.

REASONS I CHOSE WGU

  • It is competency based, which means once you grasp the concepts of a course and pass the assessment, you can move on to the next course. This can significantly speed up progress towards graduation.  Courses are not set within a certain amount of weeks.
  • The tuition is extremely affordable and ebooks for most of the courses are included in the tuition fees.
  • They offer a K-8 Interdisciplinary program, which means once I graduate, I will be certified to teach Elementary and Middle School.
  • The also offer a Masters in ESL.
  • They are regionally accredited and have the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

MORE REASONS WHY

Although those are the most important reasons why I chose WGU, there are others. Like, how their exams are proctored (via webcam or a local testing site). This is important because it means that the tests can not be open book tests. This makes the course more challenging because you have to actually LEARN the material not just look it up in a textbook or refer to your notes.

One of my hesitations (besides some of the bad reviews), was the fact that you are assigned a student mentor that stays with you during your entire time as a student at WGU. The requirement is to speak to your mentor once a week to see how things are progressing. If you know me, you know that I do not enjoy speaking on the phone. I do it ALL DAY at my job so the last thing I want to do is speak to a stranger once a week. But, the more I read about it, the more it made sense. This mentor is assigned to help you maintain your progress, navigate your course, assist with any problems you may have with school. They are a support system that keeps you accountable to your goals. This is EXACTLY what I need!

I’ve already been accepted into the program, I’ve done my orientation class and everything is in place for me to start the program on September 1st. I am looking forward to speaking with my student mentor this coming Monday, and I am SO excited to start this new journey. I finally feel like I’m on the right path.

Did you choose WGU? Why? Why not? If you are attending WGU, what is your degree program?

Going Back to College at almost 40

IMG_2099

BACKSTORY

Last year, my husband and I were having one of our evening talks and he asked me why I never finished college degree. I reminded him that there was a lot going on in our lives at that time and school was just too stressful for me (new job, son starting middle school, and other things).

After talking for a LONG time that night, we decided that I should go back to college to finish my degree in elementary education!! I was SO excited and nervous but extremely happy. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. It’s been my dream since I was a little kid and it’s something I thought I would never get to accomplish. I’m also a nerd. I love everything about school: I love school supplies, I love reading and I love researching and learning new things.

QUESTIONS

That night I jumped online to research everything about going back to college. I had a TON of questions running through my head…

  • Should I start with a community college or a university?
  • Should I attend my local school or one further away?
  • Would I qualify for financial aid?
  • Would it be better if I attended school online?
  • Could I do a hybrid (some online, some in person)?
  • Could I really handle school work, housework, family time, church commitments, etc. without going insane?
  • How would I fit school into my already busy life?
  • What sacrifices would I have to make?
  • What? How? Should? Could? etc.

After staying up WAY past my bedtime and tossing and turning all night, I was more confused than when I started! I began to question if this was really the right decision for me and for my family. I had to talk to someone who could help me figure things out. So I spoke to my boss who is a school principal. She reassured me that I could definitely do this! It was nice to hear it from someone who I’ve worked with for 9 years. She has seen my work ethic. She has seen what I can handle on a professional level, so I trust her judgment.

OPTIONS

In order to narrow down my choices, I had to eliminate what I knew would NOT work for me.

I met with representatives of several colleges, sat down with admission counselors and the head of the education department of my local university. I asked questions about the programs they offered and whether or not it was realistic for a working adult. They were all very patient and honest and I am so grateful for that.

Here is what I decided I wanted:

  • A short commute
  • Accelerated classes
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Affordable tuition

This list helped to eliminate my local community college (no Bachelor’s degrees, duh), my local university (no accelerated classes) and a somewhat local college with accelerated classes designed for working adults (expensive tuition).

So what did that leave me with? NOTHING!! I could not find ANY local colleges that met all of my criteria, except…

MY DECISION

ONLINE COLLEGE!! I had heard about it and explored the websites but I was so set on having the real school experience, like sitting in a classroom with other students and having a professor, that I totally ignored and rejected the idea of attending an online college.

Realizing that the only way I was going to get everything I wanted in a school was to go the online route, I did some more research and found a college in my State that met all of my criteria! I chose Charter Oak State College. They are a regionally accredited school (this is VERY important when choosing a school), they offer accelerated courses, they accept almost every kind of college credit including tests such as CLEP, and they have 3 terms – Spring, Summer, Fall. The staff was very pleasant and I always received quick responses to my emails.

So, I applied in November 2015 and was officially enrolled in December 2015.  They accepted ALL of my previous college credits (30) and I qualified for full financial aid! Yay! My first class started in January 2016, which was an introductory class every student must take, called the Cornerstone Seminar. It is basically an English composition class with critical thinking skills. It was a great first online class for me.

ONLINE CLASSES ARE A PERFECT FIT!

I realized that I really enjoyed taking an online class. Because there was zero commuting and I could work on my assignments on my own time, I felt less stressed about being a college student. There were due dates for certain items (i.e. weekly discussions responses due every Wednesday with responses to peers by Sunday.) So, I quickly adapted to the online module and fell into a great routine. I was able to manage school, housework and family time well (with a lot of help from my husband). Yes, there were times when the dishes piled up in the sink and the laundry overflowed. There were times when I was up ’til midnight or later finishing up an assignment, but for the most part, it was manageable. I took one more class that semester – Human Biology with a lab (4 credits). It was much easier than the Cornerstone Seminar and I finished with an A.

NEXT STEPS

My original plan was to get my Bachelor’s in American Studies through Charter Oak State College. I planned to take some CLEP tests to speed up my progress towards graduation and then enroll in my State’s Alternate Route to Certification to become a Spanish teacher. But the problem was that my heart was not really into teaching Spanish. One of the main reasons I wanted to finish my degree and become a teacher is because I’ve wanted to be an ESL teacher (English as a Second Language). I don’t want to teach Spanish to English speaking, students. I want to teach English to students who’s first language is not English. So my search for the perfect school or program started up again.

And this time, I think I’ve found it at Western Governors University. But, I’ll tell you more about that in my next post.

Have you decided to return to college? Why? What is your plan? I’d love to hear from other adults returning to school!! Comment below.