University of Phoenix
Bachelor of Science in Psychology
Leah Bailey is in her third year at University of Phoenix pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She also earned an Associate of Arts in Business Management at University of Phoenix in 2010.
Although Leah now lives in Houston, Texas, she is originally from Zambia. She decided to attend college at home because the brick-and-mortar institution she attended for 3 semesters did not have any resources for international students. She prefers to study online because she feels less pressure to use perfect American English while working independently than she did in a traditional classroom. Additionally, working at home allows her to take care of her 2 children while she finishes her bachelors degree.
What are the biggest benefits of attending college at home?
One benefit to attending college at home is that I find it easier to deal with American English online than in a physical classroom. I learned British English as a student in Zambia, but it is my third language since I grew up speaking the native African languages of my parents’ tribes. Even though I have lived in the United States since 2000, I feel more comfortable studying online. I also felt like there wasn’t enough support for international students at my traditional school, but now that is less important since I can do everything on my own through the University of Phoenix.
Another big benefit to attending college at home is that I can work my studies around the schedules of my children. I have a 4-year-old and a newborn and at this age, they dictate my schedule. If I was in an online class setting, I would have to be in class at a specific time. But it seems like online school was almost made for working mothers, because I can do school when it is convenient for me. If my daughter wakes me up at 2:00 a.m., I can put her back to bed and attend class, if that is what I need to do.
What are the drawbacks to attending college at home?
A drawback to attending college at home is that you have to push yourself to stay motivated because the classes can be very dry. The material is much less stimulating than being in a traditional classroom. And often, the information I receive in my online classes is limited, so I have to conduct my own research to make sure that I am learning the material well enough.
How much do you think you save by living at home?
I don’t think that I actually save much money by going to school online, because I am not working my way through school at the same time. But for me, it makes sense to pay a little more money to go to school online because it works well with my personal situation.
How many hours do you spend on coursework each week?
I take just 1 class at a time, so I would say that I spend about 6 to 7 hours each week on my coursework. For homework, I am required to post on the class discussion board several times a week. I also have to respond to the discussions that other people in my class post. That part of my coursework doesn’t take too long, but we also do group projects, and those take a lot more effort to coordinate.
Do you think attending college at home affects your learning in any way?
I think that attending college at home affects my learning in a positive way because I don’t feel like people judge me for not having perfect American English. I was not taught this dialect of English in school, so when I attended college in a traditional classroom, I would use the British spellings of words. For example, I would spell “color” like C-O-L-O-U-R, and I got marked down for that. I couldn’t understand why that wasn’t correct, and it made me feel awkward in class. Now I don’t have to deal with that kind of judgment and pressure from my classmates. I perform better in an online environment because I feel less nervous.
Do you feel like attending college at home affects your ability to make friends?
I have not found it hard to make friends through my online classes, but I think that attending college at home does affect my existing friendships with people who are not going to school. I met a few friends through my associates degree who have transferred into my bachelors program with me, and we help each other navigate school. In fact, I think that I talk to the friends I have made online more often than the friends that I see face to face, because people that aren’t involved in online school don’t understand how much work it takes. Often, when I make plans to go out with my friends in Houston, I have to leave early to finish my schoolwork. So in that way, attending college at home does affect my friendships, but maybe not in the way that people would expect.
Do ever feel isolated from campus life?
Yes, I do feel like I am isolated from campus life, especially because the University of Phoenix has a physical campus here in Houston. When I drive by the campus, I think about how strange it is that I have never been inside my school. I wish I could go inside, but then I remind myself about my children and why I am doing school online, so they help me to stay focused on my goals.
Is attending college at home what you had imagined it to be?
Attending college at home is basically what I thought it would be like before I started my associates degree a couple of years ago. It is a little bit harder now that I have a new baby, because I have more tasks to juggle. But I still appreciate that I can access my classes anytime I want. I can even go out of state and take my school with me. Overall, I am glad that I am doing school this way.
How do you think your life would be different if you attended college away from home?
I think that if I lived on campus at a traditional school, I would be very distracted by the excitement of student life. I know myself, and I would want to take part in all of the social opportunities that would be available. I would probably miss some classes as a result. But since I know how important it is for me to stay focused, I think that online school is the best option for me.
What are the biggest challenges you face in attending college at home?
The biggest challenge of attending school at home is trying to take care of my newborn at the same time. When I need to finish important coursework, I can tell my husband and my 4-year-old that I am doing school and they know that they need to let me be. But my newborn is only 1 month old, so she doesn’t care for my schedule. I try to eliminate as many distractions as possible when I am working on schoolwork, but babies need their mothers and I can’t do much about that when she needs me.
If you started college over again, would you choose to live at home while attending college?
If I was in the exact same situation as a mother of 2 children, I would still choose to live at home for college. But if I was single or if my husband and I did not have children, I would probably go to a brick-and-mortar college. It just depends on the circumstances of my life.
What advice would you give other students who are trying to decide if attending college at home is right for them?
I would advise those students to take a hard look at what they want to get out of their degree. If they have other matters to attend to while they are learning, then online school is a good option. But if their only obligation is to get through school, then a traditional learning environment might be better for them.
If they do decide to go through online schooling, they need to know that this isn’t the easy way out. At times, online school gets hectic and tiring, but that isn’t the time to give up. They will need a support system to encourage them to keep going, rather than quitting and wasting their money. A degree of any sort is an investment in their futures, so they need to keep that in mind when their program starts to seem overwhelming.
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