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

Popular Right Now

17 Things Only Nursing Students Would Understand

Hoo boy.


Nursing students everywhere have all similar struggles and can all come to an equal understanding when it comes to school. Many things come right to mind when I think of how much my life has changed since I made the decision to study nursing.

I have gave up a lot just to allow myself to go through this schooling but it was all proven to be worth it. If you are a nursing student I can almost guarantee all of these will spark an insight into what it is like.

1. Coffee is our water

It should seriously be "Nurses run on Dunkin" because the hours spent studying, waking up at the crack of dawn for clinical, the lack of sleep, the amount of school work, etc. would not at all be possible without the energy that coffee gives us.

2. Broke is an understatement

Who can work when you have probably more than one nursing exam, 2 care plans due on two different patients, clinical paperwork, ATI's, homework, etc? Squeezing in time to work is seriously a hard task and so money is often sparse and being a broke college student becomes an understatement.

3. College students go out every weekend?

Of course nursing students do get to go out from time to time, but the whole "I am a college student and go out 4 days a week" is not a thing to us. We know the struggles of having time to go out but realizing we have to do an assignment a week ahead of time because we know about how much we will be slammed with during the week. There is no such thing as free time when you are a nursing student. More like a study party. And when we do go out after a while, it is a complete and utter disaster.

4. Chose the answer that is most correct

Nursing students know the real struggle of narrowing down a test question to two answers because of all the 4 answers on a test question they are all correct; except you have to chose the answer that is MOST correct. It is not just a regular test where there is a right answer. You are ALWAYS right but it's not always the best answer.

5. Don't forget, select all that apply

This "select all that apply" is 10x worse than choosing the answer that is most correct. It doesn't matter if you have 2 of the 3 answers that are correct, you still get the entire question wrong. Not to mention, almost every single question on our licensing exam is select all that apply. If you think these are easy, you are simply not human.

6. Mental breakdowns and saying "I'm changing majors"

The daily to weekly mental breakdowns of hysterical crying and anxiety attacks because all of the things expected of us just do not seem possible. It's okay to admit that you have said several times that you wanted to change your major because of how difficult it is to keep up and pass. You manage to get through it though with hard work and dedication.

7. Saying goodbye to straight A's

Although you may have had straight A's in high school, say goodbye to that 4.0 GPA you were hoping for. You envy college students that have straight A's but you also don't realize that they also don't study nursing. We tend to be so hard on ourselves for not getting perfect grades but we truly don't get ourselves enough credit for just passing (which may I mention is about an 80 to even pass a class).

8. Dreading writing care plans (Rn Dx, Related To, As Evidenced By)

You think nursing students just go to clinical to learn how to care for patients to learn? WRONG. SO WRONG. We spend HOURS after clinical making care plans, reflections, SBAR assignments, etc. to hand in to our clinical professor on time on top of all the other class work we have to do for our other nursing classes.

9. What is sleep?

Have a test tomorrow? Who cares if you studied a week in advance, you know for sure you will be up the whole night up until the test is that morning. Have homework due in class? You know you will be up well past 3 in the morning finishing it.

10. Not yet a nurse, but friends and family sure as hell think you are

When friends or family talk about a possible medical condition and ask you to help them, you always have to remind them that you are not yet a nurse. Yet, they still want your opinion even though you have no idea if you are right or wrong. Nursing students are always receiving texts and calls from their friends that are being hypochondriacs or are sick.

11. More reading to do than reading the bible 7 times

There is no such thing as "finishing all of your reading." Teachers assign 4 chapter readings, let me remind you. One chapter is at least 50 pages of text book readings. Also, don't forget you have to outline all this reading because you know you are guaranteed to forget over half the stuff you have read.

12. Friends from nursing school are different from the rest

You can have all the best friends in the world but nothing compares to your nursing friends. They understand EVERYTHING you are going through. They know the struggle, the hardships, and the amount of stress each of you are under. I don't think it is possible to survive nursing school without them (shout out to Alexis and Jenna). They are there through every failure and every success.

13. Getting used to waking up while it's still dark for clinical

Every nursing student knows this struggle for sure and we might as well get used to it.

14. You hate bodily fluids? Might as well change your major

Nursing majors care and love more for other people that they are willing to clean up every single type of bodily fluid possible no matter what the situation. We are experts at wiping butt if you like it or not.

15. But...No matter what there is no other life we would chose

Nursing is not a career, it is a calling. It is the most amazing thing in this world there is to do. A nurse cares for someone else so much more than they do for themselves, and they don't even have to know the person. All the sweat, tears, blood, etc. are all worth it to us. "The best way to find yourself is in the service of others."

16. There is NO such thing as 'syllabus week'

Doesn't matter if your first class of the semester is one hour or if it is three hours there is never just a syllabus week. You are always staying the whole class and you are always beginning material.

17. Every week is finals week

Every week feels like finals week. The amount of stress and work due each week is overwhelming. But somehow we manage to get it done.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

14 Signs You Go To A Small School No One Has Ever Heard Of

"Your class size is what?!?"


When most people are in high school, they look at all of the big schools that are known around the country. Schools like Rutgers, Ohio State, UCLA, University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University are often at the top of peoples' lists. Believe it or not, some people don't want to attend a huge college. If you're like me, you like having small class sizes where your professors get to know you and you always see someone you know when you're walking on campus.

Once you decide where you're going and become a student there, you constantly hear the same comments from people, whether they be good or bad- but you wouldn't want it any other way. Here are signs that you go to a small school that no one has ever heard of:

1. People always mess up your mascot

Rider University

"Broncs? Like the Denver Broncos?"

"No. Just the Broncs."

2. "Oh I've never heard of that. Where is it?"

3. "Wouldn't you rather go to *insert huge state school here*?"

The answer is always the same — nope.

4. You find people all the time who know or is related to someone who went to your school

"Oh, my cousin's friend went there!"

5. "Your class size is what?!?"

6. You've never had class in a lecture hall

Patricia M Guenther

Or class with more than 50 students.

7. When people come to visit, they can't believe how small your campus is compared to theirs

Well, at least we can get up 10 minutes before class starts instead of an hour to catch a bus.

8. Dining options are limited

Rider University

But you joke around and make the most of it, secretly hoping your campus will open a Panera or Chipotle like every other school.

9. People are amazed that you actually get to know your professors and the people in your classes, and that they get to know you

Not to mention that professors are a great reference for getting a job after graduation.

10. If you went to a big high school, your college isn't much bigger

Rider University

There are about 1,000 students per class, so only around 300-400 more students than you graduated high school with.

11. Your school doesn't have all of the big sports, like football

Jamie Lewkowitz

But hey, at least we're still undefeated!

12. When you get into your major classes, you always have the same people in them

13. You can't find anything with your school's logo on it, so constantly buy more apparel from the bookstore

Rider University

You walk out of there $100 poorer with a new sweatshirt, mug, and sweatpants that you didn't need.

14. You get really excited when someone has actually heard of your school


Related Content

Facebook Comments