Online education: Don’t bake your education in the traditional mold

There are many misconceptions about life as an online student. There is a stigma that online students are a group of people looking for a second chance at their education, that they are older, either professional or under-employed, possibly a teen-parent, introverted and looking for an easy way to get through college while wearing their pajamas.

Now, some of this may be true, but let me set one misconception straight. Online classes are not in any way easy. In fact, I’d venture to say they can be harder. To be an online student means you are extremely disciplined, motivated and can multi-task like a boss — you may even be one. Sure, it can also mean you are a struggling single parent fighting for a better life or even a retired 65-year old wanting to learn something new. You can be a military hero stationed in another country or a parolee looking for a second chance. The possibilities are endless. One thing is for sure: The option for an online education is a distinct and very important one. Too many beautiful minds are being wasted simply because they have been forced to think they cannot do it.

For most of my life, I have never done things the traditional way. High school bored me, and I never had the desire to follow the pack. Although my grades were good, I just wasn’t enjoying my education. Teachers called this ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but later on I called it many other things: creative, artistic, different, and yes, at times I even thought I was stupid. It was not surprising to me that during my first year at a small college in Southern California that I just wasn’t ready. I was 18, and I just hadn’t seen enough, felt enough, or tasted the spices of life. Intellectualism did not find its way to me hereditarily. My father spent time in the U.S. Air Force and later trade school, and my mother was a homemaker who never went to college, nor was she ever expected to; neither was I.

After my first year at design school, I dropped out. I knew my life was easily fitting into a mold. You can spend four years in college, maybe even cap it off with another two years of post-bachelor studies just to seal the deal in a lousy job market, get the husband-two kids package deal, a bonus cat, dog, fancy car and house if you got lucky enough to avoid the lousy job market — just to work for as long as you shall live. No, that wasn’t for me. I wanted to be like Hemingway. I wanted to travel. I wanted the world to teach me what my small town upbringing hadn’t — and it did. I kept college in the back of my mind, because I knew I would eventually return. Eventually, I headed for New York City and later traveled to places like Paris, the West Indies, and Mexico. I road tripped across the Southern U.S., out West and into the Florida Keys, and am now temporarily residing in the Northern U.S.

It wasn’t until about two years ago that I decided it was time to return to college. After the financial crisis, I knew that I had hit the ceiling income-wise, and if I ever wanted to make more for myself and get the husband and children package, I needed to do more with my life. Going back to school for me was an easy choice. I had nothing holding me down. I applaud anyone with family obligations, or any challenging situation who made the choice to go back, because it is just that: challenging. For those of you who are sputtering through college taking course after course not knowing if your degree really defines you, know that completing your education in a four-year slice of life is no longer the norm. I decided to complete my degree at Arizona State online because I can continue to travel. I can still network with students and professors, belong to student associations and clubs, partake in study abroad programs, intern, and have access to career services among many others. And lastly, yes, I can do it all while still in my pajamas.

Reach the columnist at 79.bryan@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @ChellyLynnBryan

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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