Tips for College Moms
Like many of you, I took a few (ten?) years off of school when I had kids. I decided to go back, but even when I did, I realized I have no idea what I'd be good at as far as a career goes. I'm currently studying Mortuary Science but who knows if that will stick. I change my mind too much!
Anyway, I have been in college for going on 2 years now, so I wanted to share some tips for college moms that I've picked up along the way. Most of these tips translate well to any college student, just for the record!
On the home front…
Before I get to the tips on saving money and choosing the best classes, I want to talk about how much work college really is when you have a family. I'm currently taking four courses, all online. I recommend doing at least one in-person class if you can just to break it all up and also because online courses can be a lot more work than in-person courses are. This isn't always the case, but I'm learning this semester that many times it can be.
Each of my courses has a different deadline for assignments each week, which means I'm logging in literally 7 days a week to track everything. With in-person classes, you do your class time, do your homework, and that's that. I love both types of learning structures, for different reasons.
When a professor doesn't understand how to use the online platform very well, that trickles down to the students so in one of my classes I'm scrambling to figure out what the hell he is talking about all. the. time.
I'm taking ENG102 this semester. We are on week 2 (week 1 was just an introduction), and we have been given the assignment to watch two documentaries. That takes about 3.5 hours, but takes another 30 minutes or so because we have to take really good notes. That's 4 hours for one class for one week so far… but that's not all!
Not only do we watch the documentaries and take notes, we have to write 4-5 paragraphs on the discussion board about why we chose the documentary, what stood out, etc. That's another half hour. Then, we have to write an MLA formatted paper for each of the two documentaries we watched. They're supposed to be 2 pages long. I'd say that's another 2 hours (1 hour for each paper).
That's nearly 7 hours for one class for one week. I'm guessing it's going to end up being more like 10-12 when we get into the “real” work.
Take that and multiply it by 3, 4, or 5 depending on how many courses you take at once. 30, 40, 50 hours? That's like a full-time job. Ehem, without pay. It's important to keep this in mind when signing up for college if you have kids! If you have an actual job as well, there's literally no time left. It's possible, don't get me wrong, but it's tough so I want you to be realistic going into it.
Remember your WHY.
When college gets tough, remember your why. I talk about this all the time in my Virtual Assistant Training. If your WHY is strong enough, you can do anything. Remember your why, let your why ground you. Keep your head in the game!
Do you really need the class?
Make sure you need the class for your degree if it's one you're not excited about taking. Trust me, if I didn't need Accounting to graduate, I wouldn't dare take it. Blech.
On the other hand…
Take a fun class!
This isn't always feasible, but if you are able to sneak a ‘fun' class in the mix, it helps break up the monotony of the other classes and helps prevent burnout. So far, I've taken two photography courses (see what I learned) and an extra psychology course for fun.
Check out the professor.
The professor can make or break the class. As mentioned above, my Accounting class was one I dropped after literally the first class. The professor was awful and I knew we would be butting heads all semester. Considering math is a subject I hate, I got the hell out of there as soon as I could.
Check out Rate My Professors. Keep in mind that these ratings aren't tracked at all, meaning any student can put a good or bad review in even if they haven't taken the course. However, based on the reviews and my experiences in the classroom, Rate My Professor has been right 9 out of 10 times. The one time it was wrong was when I absolutely loved one of my teachers, but she had a low rating because of how “all over the place” she was. I have ADD so she and I were on the same wavelength!
Read the syllabus before taking the course, if possible. This will give you an idea of how organized the professor is, how intense the class is, and what's expected of you as a student.
Make new friends.
This is a tip I'll give but I haven't really followed through with yet. If you're taking the same class, chances are you have something in common. Your classes most likely won't be full of 20-somethings, there's usually a good mix of young kids and older folks.
I've taken a dozen or so classes, mostly online, so I haven't made any real friends this way. I didn't seek anyone out to form friendships with, so I'm not saying it's impossible I'm just saying I haven't done it yet. :)
Even when I take in-person classes, it seems we are all so busy that we don't get together much. And bob help us all if there's a group project involved. Group projects make me homicidal.
Free Online Textbooks
Gutenberg Project – free online ebooks.
moodle – a collection of open source textbook sites.
College Open Textbooks
Book Boon – free online ebooks.
Open Stax – tons of free college ebooks viewable online or on your e-reader.
Ebooks Search Engine – custom search engine for college books.
Reddit – a user compiled TONS of free ebook sources. Tons.
Save Money on College Textbooks
I've had college textbooks cost about as much as my courses cost, so one thing you want to make sure you do is save up some money ahead of time for them! I would say $200 per class is a good average, though some will be quite a bit less and others will be quite a bit more. When signing up for classes, look to see which books they require. Price out the books and then choose the class. Sometimes the same exact course is taught by a different professor, offering a cheaper textbook option.
Unless you are going to use the text book in the future, go to Amazon and RENT the book*. The first few semesters I was in college, I bought each book. I love books and wanted to keep them after the class was over. After spending $250 on an Accounting book that I couldn't return because I opened it and only attended one day of class before dropping it, I am over buying the books! I rented my most recent books and saved literally $500 this semester.
*Make sure the book you're renting doesn't have an access code that's needed for the class! If it does, you'll need to purchase the book new – or send a quick email to the professor to see if the code is absolutely required for class (sometimes they're not). Sometimes the professor will have an idea of where to get the access code for cheaper, or will even have a few free codes as well. It never hurts to ask!
See if your campus book store will price match Amazon. I would rather just order everything online and be done with it, but if the book isn't in stock online or is back-ordered, call your campus book store and see if they match prices. My local campus does.
If you like eBooks, they are usually about 25%-50% cheaper than the physical books are. This isn't always the case, but it's been true in all of my classes so far. Unfortunately, I cannot work with eBooks. There's something about having the book in my hand that makes it so much better. I hate when an eBook is the only option!
I'm in a few (okay way too many) homeschooling groups and one of the moms gave this tip:
E-bay deserves special mention, especially as it relates to expensive science texts. Often the most widely used science texts are sold in the US and UK under one price, then sold as “international editions” to the rest of the world for a fraction of the US price. E-bay makes these available. The books usually ship from Thailand or other Asian Country (though the books are in English).
It can take a week or so to receive them, but the cost difference can be huge. The US edition of “Organic Chemistry 9th Edition by Casey/Giuliano is $133.00. The International version of the same text is $30.00 plus $17.00 for a total of $47.00, that’s an $87.00 savings…that is one third the cost of a local CC three credit class! Know that IE texts often have a mixed up table of contents, soft covers, and thin pages – but they can be perfect for that one time use 4 credit single or double semester class.
Make your money back on books!
If you buy physical books and won't be using them after the semester is over, immediately list them on Amazon or eBay for sale! Don't wait, as editions change and you want to get it sold for the best price! The absolute best time to sell books is in July/August before Fall semester starts, and then again in December/January, as Spring semester is starting. It's tougher to sell book at the end of Spring semester, but not impossible – and with Amazon it doesn't matter because they will buy your book back and give you store credit.