Should You Finish Your Degree Online?


This should be a very short and simple article, but finishing your degree isn’t without some important considerations.

My History

When I started at The University of Alabama back in 1984, I was fresh out of a private, college prep high school and going to college was just the next step that I was supposed to take. My parents, to their credit, had always pushed me to go to college, after all I was in a college “prep” high school. Once at Alabama, I lost my direction. I lived in an off campus apartment, was more interested in football, cars, fraternities, girls, and goofing off. Result: poor grades in a major I really wasn’t interested in completing. I fell for a “Get Rich Quick” pyramid scheme that suckered me out of $4,000+ over a couple of years. I took out thousands and thousands of dollars in student loans, used up my Pell grant monies, and blew it all on frivolous stuff. I became more interested in going to work because I could earn money and actually DO something with myself.

I was always interested in financial matters and actually performed very well in upper level classes on finance, banking, and economics. It was the other “unimportant” classes that I did not perform very well in and eventually I dropped out of college after 5 years, over $30,000 in debt, with almost 100 hours, but no degree. I only needed 28 more hours.


I went to work in construction, building houses, then into branch banking as a teller. Later I started a Hawaiian Shaved Ice business, sold life insurance, then went to work in the lumber and building material industry. I always regretted my decision to drop out of college. It was an active decision, a decision to quit rather than trudge on. The only thing worse than losing is quitting but, that is exactly what I did. If my poor performance had been due to the difficulty of the coursework it would have been different, but I didn’t attend class regularly, didn’t participate in labs, and didn’t study at all.

I had gotten married to my wonderful, loving and supportive wife shortly after dropping out and we had three children. As our children entered grade school, thoughts of where their education would take them entered my mind and I decided to make efforts to finish my degree. How could I ever look at my kids and tell them to stay in school? Finishing my degree became my goal and doing it online was my only option. I had four mouths to feed and was working 70 to 80 hours per week as a general manager at a start up.

The Realization

Finishing my degree became a truly viable option when I discovered Baker College Online. When I realized that I could complete my degree, I was thrilled. I would be able to look my children in the eye and say that I finished. A few years after I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in the Spring of 2004, I decided to pursue my MBA online through The University of North Alabama.

A few mis-informed people still look at an online classes as somehow inferior to traditional grounded classes. My reply is, “Welcome to the 21st Century.” Many, many traditional classes now have their coursework delivered through an online format. After all, most people don’t attend class anyway! Most tests are online. Lectures are available through DVD or, again online. The times, they are a changing.

Here is a checklist of what you need to insure your success when looking to finish your degree online:

Why are you doing this? Make certain you identify your motivation so that when the going gets tough, you have something to remind you why you started this process. What goals are driving you? How do you envision your life changing when this process is over? My personal income has more than doubled since finishing my bachelor’s degree online.

At one point, this process WILL be over. How will your current employer react? How will others in your industry react? What will your options be? You need to have these laid out or at least have an idea of how you will proceed. Call it your personal “exit strategy.”

Do you have the time set aside to do this? I believe there is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the important things. You must decide that finishing your degree is important and that you will make the concerted efforts necessary to reach your goal.

Are the schools you’re considering accredited by a regional accrediting agency? Check out the Department of Education’s web site for a list of the regional accrediting agencies. Do not overlook this step. An unaccredited degree from a degree mill is worthless.

How will you pay for this? I would be irresponsible if I recommended student loans, but for may people, this is their only option. I had paid off my original student loans but to finish, had to take out some more. To my way of thinking, these loans are an investment in my future and in my self esteem. I am diligently working to pay these off and should be almost finished with both the master’s degree and my bachelor’s degree loans by the end of 2008. Other options include using Fast Web to investigate scholarship possibilities, taking it slowly and paying as you go (this is the Dave Ramsey approach), and of course you could borrow from other sources.

How does your family feel about you being unavailable for several hours per evening and several more each weekend? My wife claims that my MBA should have her name on it as well! Thank you for your support, Sweetie! I can tell you that I regularly spent 3 to 4 hours each night studying as well as 12 to 16 hours on the weekend. Yes, it was hard, but it was worth it.

Do you have the proper technology installed on your home computer? You really need a high speed connection as well as Word and Excel. You can get by with open source software for these, but you may have some hurdles in a few classes. But don’t loose heart because many times, once you’re enrolled, software becomes really cheap (sometimes free) because you are a student!

Do you have a good place to study? Good means quiet, free from distraction, and comfortable, but not too comfortable.

Have you developed good study habits? Can you develop them? Are you willing to develop them? Don’t let yourself get tripped up here. I recommend studying in short bursts of 30 to 40 minutes, then a 10 to 15 minute break, then go back to it.

How is your writing ability? Many online classes require extensive writing. I recommend taking a writing class early in your online degree career to help you prepare for your upper level classes.

Finally, don’t ever give up. Remember, the only thing worse than losing is quitting.

Check out what others are saying:
Get Rich Slowly: The Value of a College Education.
The Simple Dollar: Ten Simple Things Any College Student Can Do To Prepare For Success In Life.
Free Money Finance: More Education Equals More Pay.

[tags]online education, online degree, online MBA, finish degree, education, degree[/tags]


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