I just finished my first semester as a completely online student (I didn’t have to go on campus in order to take my midterm or final) about four weeks ago at Southern New Hampshire University or SNHU (No, they didn’t pay me for this). And here’s what I thought.
First of all I started the admissions process about two weeks before the term started. I had been interested in taking online classes due to the fact that I was staying in Florida with family and couldn’t take my normal classes at the community college I was currently enrolled in in Ohio. I had looked into online classes there at the community college, but they required you to take the midterm and final on campus. That just wasn’t feasible, considering I would have to take a plane ride twice a semester just to continue school there.
And I wasn’t doing that great at home with my parents either. My Mom and I clash a lot over a lot of different issues so being in that house wasn’t healthy for both of us. One of us had to go. And of course, that one would be me.
My Grandma offered for me to stay with her in Florida and I jumped at the chance. Who wouldn’t want all of this sunshine and warm weather that rarely gets lower than the 40’s. It’s an upgrade from Ohio.
But the problem was that I didn’t have a job and I get pretty depressed if I stay in the house all day with nothing to do for a sense of accomplishment. So I decided to look into online schools, since the nearest university is a 50 minute drive away.
I found SNHU due to advertising on the TV back in Ohio. It’s a non-profit, and was the cheapest accredited school with the most degree options. At least when I looked. So I called my parents (for help with the financial stuff since I’m still considered a dependent with the FAFSA guidelines) and signed up.
At first they were worried that I wouldn’t get all of my paperwork in on time. So my admissions advisor put me on a plan that allowed me to take classes on the condition that my paperwork came in. I was very thankful for this.
I started my class and found it pretty easy to navigate. It was on the BlackBoard platform (they will be starting BrightSpace next semester in January, so I’m not sure how easy that will be to navigate. Update coming). I was familiar with it due to my experience at the community college.
The class was project and assignment based. Although the coursework seemed easy to me (but I come from a family of nerds, so I tend to find a lot of intellectual material fairly easy to understand) it was a lot of work and made me think.
I really enjoyed it. The only advice I would give is to read the rubric very carefully and follow all of the directions to the best of your ability.
I only took one class to start out, just to dip my toe in. I tend to take on too much at once and over extend myself. It took me about 8-10 hours per week to complete the material, sometimes less.
So I decided to go up to two classes this semester. It was a lot more work, but it was doable. I recently started a job in retail as well, and that made time a little tighter, but it is still doable.
However, it is over $500 out of pocket to take two classes at once for me (with financial aid). Multiply that by every eight weeks (the terms, 6 per year total) and that it is too much for me to go to school and save up money as well.
So I am going back down to one class per semester in order to save up some money for a car and other things I need down here that I didn’t bring with me.
The advisors and teachers have all been great (some people don’t have this experience but they are rare) and I have been happy with my experience at SNHU.
It will take me a little longer to get my bachelor’s. Each bachelor’s is 120 credit and each class is 3 credits. That’s 40 classes for your degree. Divide that by 6 terms per year and it will take you 6 years and 4 terms to get a bachelors. Thankfully I was able to transfer a lot of AP and transfer credits so it will take me only 5 years. But even that is fine as long as I can save up money while in school and (hopefully) have enough to cover a good chunk of my student loan debt.
One final thought: I joined online facebook communities where you can ask questions that classmates will answer. It has been a lifesaver at times, and it’s great because it doesn’t make you feel quite as alone in your education journey. I would highly recommend joining one.
In case you wanted to learn more about SNHU their website is here