Bachelor of Science in Psychology
Jennifer Campen is studying to earn her online Bachelor of Science in Psychology with an emphasis in School Counseling and Special Education. She expects to graduate from Liberty University in 2015. Jennifer looks forward to becoming a school counselor.
Jennifer decided to attend college at home because distance learning allows her to advance her education while keeping her family as her first priority. Jennifer considered attending a brick-and-mortar campus, but it wouldn’t be feasible for her to balance a traditional education with the demands of her church activities, all while caring for her 4 children.
What are the biggest benefits of attending college at home?
The biggest benefit of attending college at home is that I am able to accomplish my goal of getting higher education while still being the kind of mother that I want to be to my children. This way, I can study while they are at school. Sometimes, we even do our homework at the same time in the evenings. Our family has a 14-year-old, an 11-year-old and twin 10-year-olds, so they are old enough to understand when I ask them to keep the noise level down when I need to finish a test or submit an assignment.
What are the drawbacks to attending college at home?
The main drawbacks to attending college at home are the location of Liberty University and the total reliance on technology. When I started college, I didn’t think it would matter where the school was located since I would be completing all of my classes remotely. But Liberty University is based on the East coast, so I have to factor in a 3 hour time difference when I need to meet my deadlines. That means that if I e-mail my professor with a question about an assignment, I might not hear back until the next day, so I have to plan my time carefully.
Sometimes the volume of students that attend my school can be a drawback too, because they overpower the school’s system. People who are considering attending college at home should be prepared for the occasional lapse of technology. There are so many people online that the server will sometimes crash, which negates the convenience of online classes. If I have an assignment due when the server goes down, my professors will assume that I did not turn in my work and I will get failing marks. My professors understand the situation but it is a hassle to go through the resubmission process.
How much do you think you save by living at home?
Conservatively, I would estimate that my husband and I save around $12,000 each year. The biggest savings are childcare. For our family, the idea of childcare is more theoretical, because I have always been home to watch our kids. And if I had to be away, that would create a huge financial strain.
There are other areas of savings, too. I don’t have to pay for transportation costs like I would if I left every day to go to a physical campus. Instead of paying for gas and parking or the bus, I log in to class and I am there.
Attending college at home is not exactly like having $12,000 deposited into our bank account each year, but I like to know that I am getting an education without spending all of that money. And with a family that includes 4 children, there is always some unexpected expense. It seems like someone always needs new soccer cleats or the car needs maintenance. But going to school online from home allows me to explore a subject that I am very interested in while maintaining the lifestyle that I want for my family.
How many hours do you spend on coursework each week?
I spend 8 to 10 hours actively engaged in coursework each week. In addition, there are usually about 2 hours of homework associated with each class every week. I am currently taking 4 classes, which is enough to be considered a full-time student.
Do you feel like attending college at home affects your ability to make friends?
There is no question that attending college at home makes it more difficult to make friends with your classmates. Even though I communicate electronically with my classmates, it is not the same as seeing someone daily and having personal interaction with them. I don’t feel like I truly know someone if I can’t see them face to face. But I am not troubled by the inability to make friends with my classmates because I have many other social outlets.
Do ever feel isolated from campus life?
Yes, I do feel isolated from the campus lifestyle at times. But I am not particularly bothered by the feeling. Although this is my first degree, I have some exposure to a traditional campus lifestyle because I mentor some collegiate women for part of our church’s youth group. Through talking with these young women and visiting them on campus, I can see that the campus lifestyle looks like a lot of fun. But given my age, I am not interested in partaking in the same kinds of activities as young college students.
Is attending college at home what you had imagined it to be?
Yes, attending online classes at home through Liberty University has lived up to my expectations. I had been considering online school for about 4 years before I finally decided to do it because I wanted to make sure that the curriculum would not significantly interfere with my family’s schedule. I am happy to say that going to college at home has not done so.
How do you think your life would be different if you attended college away from home?
If I attended college away from home, my life would be immeasurably different and extremely stressful. I acknowledge that many families function well with both parents working to provide for their family. But I feel like if I was frequently gone, our family’s quality of life would be decreased. I would be worried about getting my kids to their activities and how I would have time to make their meals, not to mention spending time together.
What are the biggest challenges you face in attending college at home?
The biggest challenge for me is the communication gap that stems from relying solely on electronic communication. An example of how that gap negatively affects me is when I communicate with my peers through e-mail and discussion board posts. I lose a lot of the person’s intention when he or she is reduced to communicating through text. I can no longer sense the writer’s tone and sometimes I miss the point that he or she is trying to emphasize. To fill that gap, I try to assume what I think the person means to say, but then I have lost that person’s point of view on the matter. The miscommunication can cause friction between us.
The communication gap affects my teachers, too. Some instructors have a very hands-off approach to teaching because they assume that we are all coming to online school with the same basic knowledge about how college works. So the first day of class they hand us the syllabus and then we are essentially on our own. The effect is that when I have a question, I am hesitant to ask it. I think that if I was in a traditional classroom, certain academic expectations would be made clearer.
If you started college over again, would you choose to live at home while attending college?
Yes, if I were to start college over again, I would absolutely still choose to take classes from home. This is the only way that I can see myself in school while my children still live at home.
What advice would you give other students who are trying to decide if attending college at home is right for them?
If you are debating whether or not you should attend college at home, I advise you to write down your priorities. Consider what sort of lifestyle you want to have for yourself and your loved ones and think about how they might be affected by your decision to go to school. Think about what purpose going to college will serve in your life in order to ascertain whether you can justify the expense. After you know exactly what you want from your educational experience, then you can look for a school that matches your objectives.
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