Why I Am Taking Free Online Courses Before Going To Grad School

Why I Am Taking Free Online Courses Before Going To Grad School

The current state of free education in the US and how I am taking advantage of it.

After graduating in 2015 with a Bachelor’s in Journalism I realized that I had been in school, of one form or another for 18 years of my life. Being in my early twenties, that means that most of the time I have been alive has been spent in classrooms.

Granted, after high school, college was a gift in more ways than one, I learned what I wanted to do in and out of the classroom. It was education on my terms, not me sitting at a desk trying not to fall asleep as the teacher tries to inform me about letters that symbolize numbers.

But once I got my degree I realized that I needed to take time to do other things and decide whether to go back to school down the road.

As a form of a Gap Year I joined a ten month service term with AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps, and from that I received an Education Award, a sum of money I can use to pay for education.

Education in terms of student loans or tuition costs. I had not thought too intently on going to graduate school, mainly because I was unsure of what I wanted to study and tired of the school book lifestyle.

Now that I have put some miles and minutes between me and campus life I do miss it, but most importantly I now know that I want to go back. I like the structure school provides while simultaneously inspiring me to be creative with it and make it my own.

So now I have the want to go back, the problem? I am still not sure of what I should study, and I am not about to pay thousands of dollars if I do not know what I want to do.

A family member mentioned free online courses, and truthfully my initial reaction was disinterest. Having just spent a whole lot of moolah on education, it was hard for me to believe that any quality courses were offered for free.

But, I am not one to run with my initial reactions on things, I am the research type that needs to see firsthand if things really are what they seem. An empirical learner, if you will.

So I began to research and happened upon edX. They offer free courses from Harvard, Berkeley, Boston University, University of Queensland Australia and many more. The courses offer a certificate of completion at the end and sometimes the piece of paper does cost money, but nothing compared to the money it costs to be a full-time student.

Like any college course, edX classes have lectures, interactive labs, quizzes and tests. The best part?

It is on my schedule and there is absolutely no risk.

I can access course material anywhere there is Wi-Fi, and I do not have to throw money at an uncertain cause. And it gets better, they offer a variety of courses from Architecture, Business, Engineering, Medicine to Language courses.

I want to make sure that going back to school is what I really want right now or if it is just what Barney Stinson refers to as “Graduation Goggles”, as if I am somehow romanticizing the memory of the atmosphere of college versus the actual schoolwork. My first edX class begins January 10th on International Law, and I am excited to test the waters. To dive back into the pool of education, (to weirdly continue with the water allegory).

All this consideration of free education got me thinking about two things: 60 Minutes and Bernie Sanders.

An episode of 60 Minutes covered Sal Khan’s story in his creation of Khan Academy. A nonprofit that stemmed from one YouTube video that the MIT and Harvard graduate made to help his young cousin with Algebra. While the organization has expanded immensely from when CBS originally aired that piece, I imagine the feedback and praise Khan has received since has been even more positive.

Khan Academy has lessons on k-8 math to Organic Chemistry and Macroeconomics. The idea behind the free courses being, “Changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. All of the site's resources are available to anyone”, according to their posting on www.volunteermatch.org.

Bernie Sanders comes to mind because an integral piece of his presidential campaign was offering free college education. His campaign on free education exclaims, “In a highly competitive global economy, we need the best-educated workforce in the world. It is insane and counter-productive to the best interests of our country and our future, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades. That shortsighted path to the future must end”.

Sanders is not alone in his convictions, Green Party’s Jill Stein raves about the importance of forgiving student loan debt altogether. Now Sanders is part of a proposal to make college education free for families that earn less than $125,000 per year in New York, according to a story "Politico" published. California is said to be making strides towards it as well.

As Sander’s campaign website states, the concept of free education is not new in fact it has shown positive results in Germany, Norway, Sweden and others.

My thought is, why not? Education should be accessible to everyone and the idea of putting a crazy price tag on it is irresponsible. While there are necessary costs to consider and serious changes to be made to accommodate free education, it is doable. We just have to get a little John Lennon with our mindsets and stop holding onto the archaic traditional arguments.

So, until the day that tuition is free or at the very least more affordable I am taking advantage of what is out there until I figure out if I am ready for the workload and what I want to study.

Cover Image Credit: Huffington Post

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6 Quotes To Help Get You Through Midterms

Midterms suck. Here's something to get you through them.

Midterms suck. We all know it, and we all feel it. Midterms are that thing that takes over your life for two weeks, and you pour your whole heart and sole into them just to do it all over again a month later.

So here are some quotes to get you through your first round of Spring midterms:

1. "Sometimes you just have to put on lip gloss and pretend to be psyched." - Mindy Kaling

It gets dreadful sitting in the same spot in the same place for hours on end, but you got this.

2. "If you were able to believe in Santa Clause for like 8 years, you can believe in yourself for like 5 minutes." -Unknown

After all, confidence is key during an exam, other than knowing the material.

3. "Embrace the glorious mess that you are." -Elizabeth Gilbert

It's okay if things get a little messy because you're gonna kick butt on exams.

4. "Toss your hair in a bun, drink some coffee, put on some gangsta rap and handle it." -Unknown

Nothing beats messy hair and coffee. Own it.

5. "We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same." -Carlos Castenada

Put your work into your classes and into positive mental health. Nothing else.

6. "Sometimes you gotta work a little, so you can ball a lot." -Tom Haverford

Get through midterms, and the the rest is history.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/design-desk-display-eyewear-313690/

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Life is Easy When Your Major is a Party Major

Disclaimer: This article isn't a sarcastic one AT ALL.

You may be wondering why I chose to write this article and what exactly a “party major” is. Well firstly, I’m writing this article as a sort of “I give up” when it comes to talking to other people about my major. Yup, you heard me correctly, I’m waving the white flag to all of the narrow-minded people around me that like to act like they know everything about something that has nothing to do with them. You win, this article is my final declaration of how wrong I’ve been about myself this entire time and proof of how right you were all along.

Secondly, I’d like to define what a “party major” exactly is. Before today, I thought I grasped this concept pretty well. A “party major” to my knowledge was a major that is so easy that even a person who partied day and night could still maintain good enough grades to stay in college and continue to party. This means that no real effort is required and no real future after college is needed- just pure fun and no stress.

So after looking at my major and evaluating all of the work I put into homework, quizzes, tests, exams, papers, and all of the parties I DON’T go to, it seemed to my calculations that my major does not = a party major. But since my major isn’t anything mathematical, scientific, or “important” whatsoever, I guess I’m not smart enough to get those kinds of calculations about the things that matter in life, correct after all. So cheers to YOU, the “non-party major,” for putting me in my place, yet again, and this is my final battle cry.

Remember that thing called "high school" that everyone had to go to before entering college? Ah yes, the times where you were forced to take every type of class, even the ones you had no interest in, and you were graded on how well you could memorize information and take tests. It’s not like high school was supposed to be used for anything useful, like I don’t know, trying to decide what you like and what you want to do for the rest of your life. Ah no, that would just be ridiculous! And it’s not like I actually pushed myself at all in high school to get good grades in the classes I didn’t like. Why would I do that? I didn’t even take AP Chemistry, Biology, Literature, Calculus, or European History and get straight A’s in all of them, that would just be too hard for me considering I’m a Communication Studies major and I like to take the easy way out.

I like to read books not because I’m interested in them, but because I have to. I’m not passionate about writing at all, I actually hate it and just enjoy wasting my own time and other people’s time when they read what I write. Why would I want to be successful, happy and absolutely love what I do, when I could major in something more important and what you consider “harder” to live a life full of misery and hatred? Sounds like fun. You’re right, all the people like me just don’t have the ambition to do something hard, so we continue to work jobs to waste our own money and sometimes even our parents’ money when we have to pay off tuition and student loans for a good portion of our lives.

I love my “party major” so much, that’s why I decided to take on another one at the same time. I’m double majoring in Communication Studies and English just so I can have twice the fun and twice the time to party, not because I like to challenge myself and get the most out of my college education. Passion, who needs it? Passion is just another stupid cliche that us millennials shouldn’t use as an important device when trying to plan out the rest of our lives. I think we should all just look at the generations above us- our parents and even our parents’ parents- and fall into miserable 9 to 5 jobs like them in order to achieve some fake happiness.

I totally agree with the statement that English and communication skills aren’t useful at all. It’s not like we use different words, phrases, and expressions in our everyday lives to get our point across to people. It’s not like the authors of your textbooks had to be the list bit coherent or literate to write down things in a way that was easy for you to understand an important concept. It’s not like we have to be able to communicate effectively to important people in a job interview, or in a workplace, or even to gain someone’s respect. Why would we want to be able to understand something intellectual that our professors or higher-ups are saying, when we can just copy it down and memorize it for a test. Ignorance is bliss.

Now this article is not intended to be a jab at any majors other than my own- like I said, it’s my final resignation. I wrote this to take the time to criticize my own majors, something I actually know a little bit about, rather than going out of my way to criticize another person’s major that they might care deeply about. It’s not like I can use what I know and what I’m in the process of learning to do anything effective or significant with my life. It’s not like you clicked on this article and got to this point in it because you actually care about what I have to say. It’s not like I’d rather be measured by my abilities and my success in the future, instead of being thrown into the same category as the people who didn’t take their life or education seriously. And I certainly don’t think my thoughts and ideas have any sort of authority or power over anyone else, even though I have the platform and the voice to write about things like this, and you don’t. I really wrote this article because I have so much free time on my hands. After all, life is easy when your major is a party major.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash

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