Jennifer McClendon

University of Phoenix

Associate of Arts with a concentration in Early Childhood Education

2013 Completion

Jennifer McClendon is studying to earn her online Associate of Arts with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. She expects to graduate from University of Phoenix in 2013. After graduation, she plans to become an elementary school teacher.

Jennifer attends college at home because it allows her to stay home with her 9 month old son. She prefers to study at home so she can fully experience her son’s childhood instead of paying someone else to watch him in daycare. The flexibility offered by online classes lets Jennifer fit her school obligations around her parenting routine.

What are the biggest benefits of attending college at home?

The biggest benefit of taking classes online while living at home is the flexibility that it offers me. I can plan school around my daily errands instead of having to schedule certain blocks of time for class. Getting my education this way is a lot more convenient for me.


What are the drawbacks to attending college at home?

The biggest drawback to attending college from home is that it can be difficult to manage my time well. The downside to having the flexibility and freedom of choosing my schedule is that I don’t have structure built into my day. I do all of my classes online. My online coursework requires me to be independent and hold myself accountable for completing my assignments. That means that if I do not maintain a good work ethic, I will fall behind in class, which has happened before. It takes more time to catch up on homework later than it does to just do it right the first time.

The other drawback that I have experienced with online school is also related to scheduling. I have a hard time switching between different tasks because I like to finish a job after I start it. I don’t like to go back and forth between taking care of my son and doing homework, so the best time to get my work done is when my son is asleep for the night. That is the only time that I know that I won’t be interrupted.


How much do you think you save by living at home?

I save about $600 each month in childcare. I have investigated some daycare options in my area and it would be incredibly expensive to have someone else watch my son all day. That cost alone makes online school worth it.


How many hours do you spend on coursework each week?

I would estimate that I spend about 11 hours working on my coursework each week. I take 2 classes at a time, so I study a little more than an hour each day per class. Usually, our homework consists of reading, posting on our class discussion board or writing papers.


Do you think attending college at home affects your learning in any way?

I think the general perception is that going to college at home will affect your learning in a negative way, but it has been a positive environment for me because I can take care of my homework assignments at my own pace.


Do you feel like attending college at home affects your ability to make friends?

I think that living at home as opposed to in a dorm does affect my ability to make new friends. But I find that I have plenty of opportunities to socialize, so I am not especially concerned with that. Most of the people who I am friends with are former co-workers or high school classmates. And when it comes down to it, I don’t have much time for hanging out with other people right now because I have to take care of my baby during the day and work on my homework in the evening.

That does make me feel isolated sometimes because I don’t get to experience big athletic events like the homecoming football game the way that people who live on campus do. But I am aware that if I wanted to, I could make friends through school because the University of Phoenix provides an internal social network for that purpose called Phoenix Connect. I simply don’t see making new acquaintances as a big priority for me right now.


Is attending college at home what you had imagined it to be?

No, learning from home is more difficult than I had imagined. Before I started college, I thought that online school would be easy because I wouldn’t have to spend any time in a classroom. But now that I have some experience with this method of instruction, I think it is harder to be completely in charge of my own learning.

Nonetheless, the reality of attending college has also been more positive than my initial expectations. For example, I expected to have a hard time getting ahold of my professors if I had a question. But if I have a problem, I can solve it easily by calling my instructor on the phone or e-mailing him.


How do you think your life would be different if you attended college away from home?

I think the biggest difference is that my life would be much less comfortable than it is now. I would be a lot more stressed because I would have to travel all day. I also wouldn’t get to watch my son grow up the way I get to now.


What are the biggest challenges you face in attending college at home?

I find it challenging to try to develop relationships with my professors without seeing them face to face. It seems like my online teachers are less understanding of life’s disruptions than a teacher or boss that I could see every day would be. For example, during my first semester, my grandmother passed away. We were very close, so that was difficult for me. Because I had to travel to go to her funeral, I got behind in school. I felt like my teachers didn’t care about my personal circumstances. But if they knew me better, they could see how much that situation affected my life. Then they might have been more understanding and willing to extend my deadline.


If you started college over again, would you choose to live at home while attending college?

Yes, I would still choose to attend college from home. Even though it is not always ideal, this situation is much better for my personal circumstances.


What advice would you give other students who are trying to decide if attending college at home is right for them?

If you don’t know what option to take, you should do research to compare both choices. I would recommend talking to people who take college classes from home to see if that will fit the kind of lifestyle that you want to have. It isn’t for everyone, but if you can build a routine and stick to it, this is a good choice for you.