Valerie Luera

University of Phoenix

Associate of Arts with a concentration in Psychology

2012 Completion

Valerie Luera is studying to earn her online Associate of Arts with a concentration in Psychology at University of Phoenix. She expects to graduate in 2012. Eventually, she wants to earn a bachelors degree and work as a school counselor.

Valerie has decided to attend college at home because it allows her to stay near her close-knit family while saving money. She works full time at a bank in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas. Initially, Valerie felt left behind when her friends left their hometown for traditional universities. But now she is glad that her parents convinced her to stay home since several of her friends who went away to school withdrew because they could not afford it.

What are the biggest benefits of attending college at home?

The biggest benefit of attending college at home is that I get to stay close to my family. My 13-year-old brother and I are very close, especially since we have moved together so many times due to my family’s military obligation. I also think that living with my parents makes life easier because whenever I need something from them, they are available.

Moving away would have meant neglecting certain roles that I fulfill in my family too. For instance, I spend a lot of time with my grandfather, even though he doesn’t live at my house. I take him to doctors’ appointments and help him out a lot. It would have been hard on both of us for me to leave.


What are the drawbacks to attending college at home?

I think the biggest drawback of attending college at home is that I am missing out on the traditional college experience. I don’t get to live in a dorm with a roommate or meet people at the cafeteria like I would get to if I lived on a physical campus. I am not meeting a wide variety of people like I would at a traditional school. But for me the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.


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

I would estimate that I save at least $500 per month by living at home instead of paying for a dorm or my own apartment. My parents don’t make me pay rent because they want me to be able to save the money that I make as a banker. I probably would not be able to work full time if I went to a traditional university, either. So in a way, staying home allows me to save my salary as well.

I save in other ways too, since my school is totally online. I don’t have to worry about buying books because students at University of Phoenix rely on e-books. I save on transportation, too. If I add up all of those costs, I can see that I will save thousands of dollars this year by staying at home for school.


How many hours do you spend on coursework each week?

I spend about 12 hours each week doing coursework. My schedule through the University of Phoenix only allows me to take 2 classes at a time. I typically do about 2 hours of work each day, so my homework is manageable. I work full time at a bank as well. I have to balance work with school and that takes a lot of self-discipline. Most people finish working and go home to relax, but I cannot do that because I would get behind in class. I always do my homework in the evening before bed.


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

Yes, I think that I learn better using the online format than I do in a normal classroom. Before I started school at University of Phoenix, I went to a community college in San Antonio. I had both online and on-campus classes through San Antonio College and I prefer to be taught online. I tend to zone out in a classroom instead of focusing. With online school, I stay focused better because I am the only person responsible for my learning.

I have fewer distractions living at home, too. I don’t have to fit my studying around a noisy roommate or try to concentrate while someone next door is having a party. At my house, it is always quiet in the evenings so I can get my homework done.


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

Yes, it does affect my ability to make friends because I meet fewer new people by living at home than I would if I went to a physical campus. But I have plenty of social interaction in my life through my job and interacting with friends from high school. That bothered me when I first started online school, but it just isn’t that important to me right now.

It isn’t like I am totally isolated from my online classmates, either. We can message each other through chat rooms or e-mail if we want. But it seems like most of my classmates are just as busy as I am, so I don’t spend a lot of time trying to personally connect with everyone.


Do ever feel isolated from campus life?

I would say that I do feel isolated at times. For example, I turn on the television and see college football games where all the students are dressed up and cheering together and I think it would be nice to be a part of that community. But I am not too concerned about that aspect of college anymore.


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

College at home is very close to the experience that I thought I would have. It has let me keep my priorities in line, which are saving money and staying in my comfort zone with my family.


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

Life away from home would mean living a totally different lifestyle. I would have so many more distractions living on campus such as parties and sports events. I would be living in a dorm instead of with my family. And having to live according to a certain course schedule means that I would have to give up my job, or at least drastically reduce my hours, so I would not be saving money.


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

My biggest challenge is that I do not have a study group to reinforce my learning. My online classmates live all over the United States and that distance makes it hard to work together as a group. If I was in an on-campus class, I could physically meet up with people and we could study together. It is a lot easier to talk about confusing material in person than through a chat room.


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

Yes, I would choose to live at home for college if I did it again. I want to continue to live with my family as long as my parents will permit it since we have a good relationship and I am saving money.


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

I would say that attending college at home is a good idea if people are comfortable living with their families. A lot of people do not have the same kind of relationship with their families that I have, so it is probably not a great idea for everyone. I just wish that I would have known a long time ago that living in a dorm is not the most important part of college because it would have made the decision to go to school online very easy.