Trina Barber

Parkersburg, West Virginia

Kaplan University

Master of Science in Management

2012 Completion

Trina Barber started her Master of Science in Management program at Kaplan University in January of 2011. She is specializing in human resources. After she graduates in 2012, Trina plans to leave her hometown of Parkersburg, West Virginia to relocate to Columbus, Ohio where she will work as a human resources consultant.

Trina chose to earn her advanced degree online because herniated disks and persistent knee problems have left her disabled. She finds it easier to manage school and take care of her 10-year-old son and her father while she goes to college at home. In addition, online schooling allows her to complete her masters degree program without the physical discomfort of sitting in a classroom for several hours and dealing with crowds on campus.

What are the biggest benefits of attending college at home?

Because of my disability, the biggest benefit of attending college at home is that I don't have to negotiate the crowds of students on campus. I took the traditional college route for my undergraduate education, and it felt like a circus. I had to constantly fight my way through the other students when I would go to places like the bookstore and the dining areas. Parking was difficult too, because I don't want to get a handicapped parking pass. So it was a huge hassle to get around on a traditional campus where all the classes were spread out and I had to walk everywhere.

Another big benefit of going to college at home is that I can learn from the comfort of my own home. I did consider going through a masters program at West Virginia University, which is a brick-and-mortar campus in my hometown of Parkersburg. But if I had gone there, it would have taken me 2 full years to graduate. Plus, the time frame at West Virginia University was inconvenient. I would have to be in class for 4 hours on Friday nights and for a full 8 hours on Saturdays. In addition to the physical discomfort that would cause me, I would have to find a sitter to watch my son.


What are the drawbacks to attending college at home?

The only drawback I see in attending college at home is specific to my particular school, Kaplan University. The financial aid department at Kaplan University is slow and unaccommodating. For instance, in my program we take 6-week courses, but I don’t get my financial aid until the fifth week. So I have to e-mail somebody virtually every month to find out what's going on with my financial aid since I depend on that money. And more often than not, the response I get from the financial aid department is rude.


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

I would estimate that living at home saves me at least $300 a month. I don't spend any money on gas or parking, and I don't pay for childcare. I don't have any particular plans for the money that I save, but it helps me to pay the bills. A few hundred dollars of savings each month is significant for me.


How many hours do you spend on coursework each week?

I spend around 20 hours each week on coursework. When I applied to my masters degree program, the advisors told me to be prepared to dedicate 20 to 25 hours a week and I have found that it typically does require about that much time. I think that I am able to get my work done a little faster than other people, because my bachelors degree in journalism prepared me to write a 6 to 10 page paper in a couple of hours.


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

No , I don't think attending college at home affects me at all. I think that online students often have difficulty reaching their professors, but the faculty at Kaplan University make themselves very available to us. We can communicate with our teachers through e-mail discussion boards, AOL Instant Messenger or through a virtual office where we can ask questions. Most of my professors have been both knowledgeable and accessible.


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

No, I haven't had any trouble making friends while attending college at home. Most of my classmates are non-traditional students like me, who are a little older and have some work experience. A lot of them are parents as well. Because we are at similar stages in our lives, it is easy to relate to my peers.


Do ever feel isolated from campus life?

I don't feel isolated from campus life, I feel relieved to avoid it. Because of my back and my knee, it is hard to navigate a big campus the way that you have to if your classes are in several different buildings.


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

College at home is actually a little bit easier than I thought it would be. I took a few online classes during my undergraduate years, so I had a good idea of what I should expect. The academic requirements for my masters degree are not very strict. In fact, I am only required to sign on 3 times each week to meet the attendance policy. I also have to answer and respond to 2 discussion questions each week, and there is a project due every Tuesday.


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

Attending college online from home has been wonderful for me, but I find it challenging to balance my family commitment with my school work. I have to work hard to manage my family time, because not only am I taking care of myself and my son, I also care for my dad, who has leukemia. That means I need to take him to appointments and arrange treatment with his doctors. In short, I have a full plate. Sometimes my son complains that I am always on the computer doing homework instead of spending time with him, even though I make it a point to spend at least a couple of hours together every day when he gets home from school.


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

Yes, I would make the same choice to go to school online from home. Despite the time management challenges, there are so many advantages to this route. Chiefly, it is so important not to have to fight crowds for mobility. Overall, my experience with Kaplan University has been very positive.


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

I would tell students who are on the fence about living at home while going to school that if they are thinking about online college, they will have to be very driven to succeed. You cannot procrastinate until the end of the semester because you will get behind. So you should be ready to start your homework as soon as it is assigned to you and work hard to do it well and on time.