On June 5, CNN Money reported that student debt just hit $1.5 trillion. Trillions! And the average new grad owes $28,400. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
How would anyone ever pay that off?
That was a major question I asked myself before starting college online.
Here’s my story (allow me to brag a little 🙂 )…
In just 2.5 years, I graduated college summa cum laude with an undergraduate degree in business administration.
Not only did I graduate in nearly half the amount of time (this degree usually takes 4 years), but I also graduated with a combined three years of working experience. Over two years at VaynerMedia, a digital agency owned by Gary Vaynerchuk and almost a year at VisitBritain, the British national tourism agency.
Additionally, during those 2.5 years, I took a few trips all over the world to destinations like Barbados, London, Portugal, Bangkok and Ecuador, to name a few.
How did I do this?
When it came time to start thinking about college, I honestly didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to get into debt, as I had heard story after story about people still paying off their student loans years after graduation. I didn’t really know what I wanted to study. And I kept questioning if going to 4 years of college after high school was even something that made sense for everyone.
So I took a gap year. Two years actually.
Long story short, my parents, younger brother and I sold our home, and other stuff, and flew to Santiago, Chile, four months before I turned 18. It was the year when my high school friends were getting ready to go to college. From Chile we spent about a year across eight countries in South America, a few months in New York City and over to Europe, Asia and Oceania for another year. And I ended the trip by spending a few weeks, with a host family in Ecuador just before starting college.
They say traveling helps you discover yourself and you learn things that you wouldn’t have just by staying at home. Both are true. And somehow during my trip, I found out about online college.
That was also when I decided it’d be a good idea to get a college degree. At this point, students in my high school graduating class were already in their second year of college. I didn’t want to feel ‘behind’ by going to a brick and mortar college, and I still wanted to have the freedom that I did have while on my two year gap year (traveling, getting work experience, working on my own projects).
After graduating this May, I’m officially an advocate for doing college online. And I feel the need to share my story, offering tips and tricks that will help anyone who is looking to be debt free, get a degree and have time to work (intern, full time, part time, etc).
Online college is not just for an 18 year old high school graduate. It’s also for those who are working full time, in the military, stay at home moms, anyone who is thinking of getting a degree…
From my experience as an online student, online school is not for everyone. It is for people who:
- don’t want to be in debt (the cost of online college is significantly lower than a traditional college)
- want a flexible schedule (it’s possible to still have a full time job while working towards a degree)
- are interested in furthering their education (there’s undergraduate and graduate degrees to work towards)
While there are plenty of benefits, I do have to remind people often that it still is college. Yes, you have a flexible schedule, but you also have to be disciplined, self-motivated, good at time management and of course, put in the effort and work to submit assignments on time.
I successfully received a college degree in 2.5 years with the discipline, self-motivation, time management and effort, and utilizing essential tools that make me persevere and productive. I wanted to share some of the tools I used to succeed with you here.
Before starting my college classes, I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought I would never have to buy another pencil or write anything down ever again. But I found that’s not really the case.
It’s likely you’ll save money going to an online college rather than a regular college, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be spending money on any supplies. Obviously, you’ll need a good internet connection in order to attend online college, but you’ll also have to get ready for a little school supply shopping!
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If you’re thinking about taking online classes, or are about to start, here’s a list of essential tools for online college students:
I started my online college career with a laptop that I knew needed an upgrade. It made a world of difference when I upgraded to a MacBook Pro with a touch bar.
Sometimes you’ll need to attend webinars, and depending on your degree, work with the Adobe suite, so it’s essential to have a really good computer.
Apple 13″ MacBook Pro
2. Amazon Prime
This is the essential of all essentials! You’ll need to purchase textbooks for each class you take. Sometimes the textbook is offered in eBook form, but oftentimes I found it’s better to get the physical copy.
Your online college of choice will likely have a website that they recommend you use to purchase books. I did that for the first semester and spent way too much money. I found out about renting and purchasing used books from Amazon, so Amazon Prime, Amazon’s two-day free shipping program is a must. It’s also great for purchasing any other supplies you may need for college, and outside of college.
(Read more on how to save money on textbooks for online college here).
Being able to manage your time is an essential skill to have (and that you’ll develop!) when attending online college. Though you’ll submit things online, it’s good to have a planner to visualize and schedule your time.
There’s a million types of planners out there. Whichever you prefer, make sure there’s a month to month calendar for scheduling for group projects, report papers and other big projects. Also find a planner with ample space to write due dates and assignments.
Academic Weekly and Monthly Planner
4. Assorted Colored Pens
With online college you’ll usually have to type up an assignment and submit it online. So why would you need to write anything? I find sometimes it’s easier to remember some things and take note of important points when handwriting it. And since you won’t be submitting it, why not have fun with your favorite colors?
Retractable Ballpoint Pens
5. Music Streaming Service
Speaking of fun, I always had some sort of music in the background when I was completing assignments.
Some streaming services (paid):
6. Post-it Flags
I usually rent textbooks or buy them with the intention of reselling or sending them back to the company to get a percentage of the price that I paid back. So I try to keep my books in a like new condition. The best way to do so is to use sticky flags as bookmarks.
But sometimes you may just keep the book and can afford to make some highlights and writing in it. In that case, you may need some highlighters!
Assorted Retractable Highlighters
8. Graphing Calculator
I bought one of these a few years ago (they are a bit pricey!) and thought I’d never have to use it after high school. But I found I had to use it several times in college. You may need this depending on what type of classes you’re taking, but most college degrees require a few math classes.
Texas Instruments Graphic Calculator
9. Gary Vaynerchuk Books
Too often I hear students say they don’t know what they’re going to do after college, even after they’ve worked hard and paid a ton of money for a degree.
I consumed a ton of Gary Vaynerchuk’s content while in online college, especially since I worked at his company in NYC all throughout being a full time student.
Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk
And this video by Gary:
For those papers that you end up printing out, folders are a must for organization. I had a checklist of assignments needed to submit printed out for each class stored this way.
File Folder with Pockets
11. To Do Lists
I wrote out each assignment that needed to be done each week on Sundays. It was a good feeling to cross out each item off the list every day. And by the end of the week, it felt great to see everything accomplished.
12. 3-Inch Binders
Some textbooks are only printed in or are cheaper in a loose leaf format. I’m sure that’s awesome for people who go to a physical class. They don’t have to lug around an entire textbook and can just take the pages they need.
For online students though, the book doesn’t ever leave more than a few feet from the shelf. So a binder is necessary to keep all the pages together.
3-Inch Binder with D-Rings
It’s always a good idea to have some paper handy for writing or even jotting down some notes for the future. It’s also helpful to work out math problems on and do some graphing for economics. Plus, it all stays together in one notebook.
College Ruled Spiral Notebook
I’ve been told mints help you concentrate. Prepare to concentrate a lot to get your degree.
Bag of Mints
Whether you’re a coffee drinker or tea drinker, sometimes you need that caffeine boost in the middle of the day, or to start your day.
Have a question about online college? Leave a comment or send me a message!