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Khaaaaannn!!!

Okay, so yeah…. That title is a super-geeky Star Trek reference.  #sorrynotsorry  But it’s a bit of a bait-and-switch, because the subject of tonight’s blog post is not actually this guy:

9f0c4-khan1

Or even this guy:

c7afd-khan2

(Although in any other context, you can talk about Benedict Cumberbatch with me any time.)

But right now, the Khan we’re talking about is this guy:

a1004-khan3

This is Sal Khan.  (Not to be confused with Salman Khan, who is apparently some hot-shot Bollywood A-lister.  It’s amazing the things you can learn from a simple Google image search.)  Or, more to the point, we’re here to discuss his fucking amazing website.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me start over:

So as we all know by now, Billie has mad math problems.  At the beginning of this month I bought into that Learning Upgrade software that I discovered, and paid $50 for the first Algebra module.  I finished it up on Friday night, but hesitated to buy the next one.  While I was learning some stuff, I found myself questioning if I was really getting enough out of it.  I also didn’t like that it was nearly all solving stuff on the screen, rather than having to actually work out equations and problems on paper.  So I got the bright idea to google some practice Accuplacer placement tests for the Elementary Algebra section (the part I’m trying to prepare for).

I took a couple, and the results were extremely disheartening.  However, while getting my google on, I turned up a link for Khan Academy.

Khaaaaannn!!!

I very vaguely remembered seeing a blip about this website on some show at some point, I recalled something about it being an education or tutoring website or something.  So what the hell, I clicked.

Ya’ll.  Oh my god.  This website is AMAZING.  I dove into the Algebra I section yesterday, and I’ve already powered through 4/17 units.  It’s infinitely more comprehensive than the other software I was using.  Each lesson I feel like I’m in an actual class, but one than I can pause and back-up when needed.  I’ve gone through about 10 pages of scratch paper over the last two days.  I feel like I’m actually learning and retaining.  Some sections I struggle with more than others, but that’s to be expected.  (No seriously bro, fuck inequalities.)

However, because this content is so much better, it’s also going to take a lot more hours for me to complete.  But that’s okay, I’ve got nothing but time.  Well, sorta.  I still want to be ready to re-take the placement test by mid-July at the latest, preferably sooner.  But I think with Khan Academy, I’ll hopefully be much more prepared.  Fingers crossed!

So far, it’s been a really enjoyable experience overall.  The website itself has a fantastic user interface, and I know it’s silly but I love that you win little badges and awards along the way for completing tasks.  I find it very encouraging, especially when I accumulate enough points to unlock an new cute little avatar!

Most importantly, the videos in each lesson are surprisingly engaging, which is saying a whole lot given how dry the material inherently is.  But Sal does a fantastic job explaining, narrating, and writing things out in ways that make sense (most of the time, anyhow… my fault, not his).  And some of the lessons are actually pretty hilarious.  I mean, really… Where else can you learn to algebra by solving for the number of Chuck Norrises (or Chuck Norrii, if you prefer)?

994b9-chucknorrises

Oh, and did I mention that it’s all completely 100% FREE?  Yeah, you read that right.  Sal’s mission is “to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.”  Anybody with a computer or mobile device can utilize this service, so there’s no excuse not to go get yo’ learn on!

I’m also super impressed by the amount of subjects offered.  Once I get through this Algebra I/II nightmare, my next goal is to find some quality study materials for the English Composition CLEP exam, which sadly Khan Academy doesn’t offer.  However, once I check that off my bucket-list I’m very seriously considering coming back to Khan to do the courses on Microeconomics and Biology and then attempt the CLEP exam in each of those.

Because seriously, the fewer college classes I have to take (and pay for) on my way to a degree, the better.

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Adulthood Is A Bitch

Get comfortable, dear reader, because this is gonna be a lengthy one. Why, you ask? Because I think I might be scrapping the whole Clinical Mental Health Counselor career path.

 

I know, I know. I sound flaky as fuck right now. But but but reasons! I have them!

Basically, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’ve never been 100% comfortable with the idea of having to go to grad school in order to make my Bachelors worth anything. If I complete my B.A./B.S. and then decide that I want to go to grad school at that point, that’s whole ‘nother story. But with my advanced age as I start out my undergraduate degree, I’ve just not been in love with the idea of feeling obligated to continue on to grad school. But I was willing to suck it up and just accept it as part of my academic path.

Now I’ve known all along that in order to obtain my licensure as an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), after grad school I would have to work for a couple of years as an Intern (or LPC-I), under direct supervision. Cool, sure, no worries. Right?

 

Yeah, about that.  What I learned this week is that supervision doesn’t come free. Well, let me back up… It theoretically can if after grad school you land a job interning with a agency who provides your supervision hours as part of your employment with them. It’s considered a perk of the job. However, those opportunities are fewer than you might think (especially in a small town like mine), and the ones that do exist are extremely competitive.

Because of these factors, most LPC-I’s have to find supervision in private practice, and that costs money. Big money. Like, $100-200 per week. For real, ya’ll. So let’s use some of my blossoming fancy math skills, shall we? Based on the median weekly amount of $150 per week, the equation looks something like this:

($150 x 52 weeks) 2 years = $15,600

 

Keep in mind this is AFTER grad school, so no more grants, no more loans, no financial aid at all. That cool 15 Grand+ would be coming completely out of my relatively empty, freshly-graduated pocket.

 

Can you actually hear my feet on the floor, backpedaling like a boss right now? (They’re pretty big feet, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you could.)

 

 

Needless to say, I’m feeling quite discouraged about the LPC career path now, and reevaluating all the choices I’ve made up to this point. Getting my Bachelor’s in Psychology isn’t going to lead me anywhere I want to be without having to follow it up with grad school and licensure, so I’ve been exploring other options.

The first and closest online equivalent I’ve found would be to get a Bachelor of Science in Human Services. It’s administered through the University of South Carolina, right here at the Beaufort campus. With it, I could go on to become a Substance Abuse Counselor. No grad school required, but I would still have to intern and do supervised hours for two years. However, from everything I’m reading, the opportunities for employment that provides your supervision are far more numerous. But would I enjoy it? Ehh. Maybe? I’m not sure. If I’m being completely honest, I just don’t feel quite so drawn to this field as I did Mental Health counseling.  And also because, well…

 

Another option from USC is one that I’ve mentioned before, the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, which is administered online through the main campus up in Columbia. I would probably enjoy the coursework for the major, as I could focus on Psychology, Sociology, and English courses. And at the end of 4-5 years, I would be able to say “Hey, look! I got me a Bachelor’s degree, ya’ll!” But on it’s own, it would be worth about as much as that Psychology degree that I’m reconsidering. Hrmph.

So that got me to thinking… What if I did get me a good old “useless” degree after all?  Instead of worrying about career paths and earning potential and adulting, what if I just majored in something I would enjoy? I mean, I have a decent job that I love. I’m already far beyond entry-level. And wasn’t the entire original point of me going back to college more personal than professional anyhow? To finish what I started 20 years ago?

Which leads me to…

 

 

Yeah… Writing.  Oh, come on, don’t look at me like that.  And really, I mean, if you’re reading and enjoying this blog right now, that idea hopefully doesn’t shock you. (Unless it does, and you’re only reading this blog right now to mock me to your co-workers, which I acknowledge is entirely possible.) After all, I mean, I did get that perfect score on the writing section of my placement exams. So maaaaybe there’s something to that worth exploring?

 

After some research, I’ve created a shortlist of schools that I would be interested in transferring to, all of which offer online Bachelor’s degrees in English with a concentration in Writing:

 

 

#3: University of Colorado (Denver Campus), Bachelor of Arts in English Writing
UC Denver is an extremely reputable school and is definitely a great option (hence why it made the list), but of the three, it has the most drawbacks for me. I don’t love that it’s all the way in Colorado should I need to visit the campus. Also, it’s coursework has slightly less focus on creative writing and more on technical writing, which is both good and bad: It would probably be better for employment opportunities, but also pretty boring. It’s also the most expensive of my current three choices, coming in at $467 per hour.

#2: Southern New Hampshire University, Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing & English
Yes, the same SNHU that you see the commercials for. I hesitated on this one, as generally the majority of the mass-marketed online schools are just for-profit diploma mills. But I did a lot of research, and it turns out that SNHU is completely legit, and their online programs are very much geared towards online non-traditional students like myself. And at $320 per hour, it’s the most affordable.

 

#1: University of Central Florida, Bachelor of Arts in English: Creative Writing
This program seems to have the most of what I’m looking for: A creative Writing bachelor’s program that can be completed online, strong support for online students, an entire Transfer & Transition Services department that I can speak with while I’m at my community college these next two years to make sure I’m on the right track for an eventual transfer to UCF, prerequisites that I can actually complete at TCL, and a main campus located within a 5-hour driving distance from me. In fact, it’s a drive I’m extremely familiar with and make at least once a year anyhow. That’s right, ya’ll… UCF is located in Orlando. And as far as price goes, it’s only a little more than SNHU at $384 per credit hour.

As far as a minor goes, I probably should minor in something related to my major, like Technical Writing or Journalism.  Orrrrr I could just minor in something fun, right?  You know, like Anthropology!

 

I’m totally serious, James Franco.  I mean, for fuck’s sake, just look at the titles of the courses I would get to choose from!

  • ANT 3026: Mummies, Zombies, and Vampires: Anthropology of the Undead
  • ANT 3107: Blood and Valor in the Viking World
  • ANT 3177: Archaeology of Caribbean Piracy
  • ANT 3241: Magic, Ritual, and Belief
  • ANT 4013: Anthropology of Fast Food
I’m #sorrynotsorry, but that all sounds completely freakin’ AWESOME to me.

 

But anyhow.  All of that being said, if after completing my Bachelor’s I decide that I do want to continue on to grad school after all, I have an extremely convenient option. Savannah College of Art and Design, just an hour down the road from me, offers a fully-online Master of Fine Arts in Writing. So clearly, SCAD would be the obvious choice for my graduate degree.

 

 

So that’s kinda where things stand now. Or not stand, since they’re all up in the air. That’s where things float now? Whatever. More importantly, how on Earth is it even possible that I’m 36 years old and still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up?

 

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Hurry-Up-And-Wait Time

So I never made it back here last Monday to talk about what went down at the Financial Aid office. Sorry about that! Let’s get caught up, shall we?

I dipped out of work an hour early (because my boss is pretty much amazing) and headed over to the school. After waiting for a while since there were four people ahead of me, a lady finally called me back. I gave her the forms and the IRS tax transcript, and she attempted to send me on my way.
Umm. Wait, what? No, ma’am! Look. I know it’s close to the end of your day and you’ve probably already mentally checked-out. And I actually sympathize, I really do, I totally get it. But here’s the thing: I am burning an hour of PTO to be here, so technically I’m on the clock, too. And what that means is that we’re going to sit here and you’re going to answer my questions and you’re going to give me actual information. What you’re NOT going to do is rush me out and leave me to just sit around wondering what happens next.
So, as sweetly and politely as possible, I innocently ignored her hints for me to leave and continued to ply her with every damn question I could think of, successfully digging out all the information she should have offered up if she wasn’t trying to shove me out of her office.
The Bad News: As far as the issue of what happens next, it’s basically just hurry-up-and-wait time. She said that they haven’t even finished processing the requests for the summer semester (which starts next week) yet, so don’t expect to hear anything about my financial aid award package for at least another month. Great. Fantastic. Thanks for telling me so I’m not obsessively checking my student email every day, hoping to hear something from ya’ll. (Spoiler alert: I’m kinda doing that anyhow.)
The Good News: She was VERY clear that she wasn’t making me any promises, but she said based on my income and estimated financial need, between federal Pell grants and the South Carolina Lottery Tuition Assistance program… It looks like my tuition might be completely covered for the next two years!!! The only thing I would have to take out a student loan for would be books and supplies. I’m trying to keep in mind that she could be completely wrong (as she herself stressed), but still… It’s definitely a nice thing to think about!
So hopefully now sometime in June I’ll have more information. If I haven’t heard anything by the middle of the month, I’m gonna be dropping by their office and being annoying again. Note: This is a perfect example of what I said in a previous post about wanting to stick with schools within a reasonable driving distance, because sometimes you just gotta show the fuck up in order to get shit done. Which actually brings me to my next bit of news…
Another school has been added to the short list of transfer opportunities. Last week for work I had to attend a required 2-day OSHA training course (*snore*) and it was located in the building next door to mine, which happens to also be the base library and Education Building. During a class break, I wandered upstairs to the Education office and chatted with one of the advisors there, and told her a bit about my academic goals.  The lady (I didn’t get her name) directed my attention to Park University.
It’s located in Parkville, Missouri, but the school actually has a satellite campus right there in the same building. They offer a fully online Bachelors degree in Psychology, and it’s not super expensive. Still more than Kennesaw State, but way less than University of Florida. But I like the idea of having reps from the school right here in town, walking distance from my office no less, should I need anything (like to pester somebody about Financial Aid). Plus I read over the degree requirements, and if I’m understanding correctly, they only require ONE math course, College Algebra, and that’s extremely appealing to me.  So Park is in the running now, probably #2, with KSU still being #1 and UF getting bumped down to #3. 
She also gave me a two-page list of websites to check out for grants and scholarships. She said they curated the list mainly with active duty military service members and spouses in mind, but that Department of Defense employees were eligible for some of them. I haven’t really delved into it yet, but I will this week just to see if I can find myself even more free money!
In other news, I’m still pluckin’ away at my self-study Algebra lessons, doing 2-3 of them each night. Last night I finished Lesson #35 of the the first module. Since there’s two modules, with 120 lessons total, that puts me at 29% finished. (I just calculated that percentage using my newly acquired math skills. No, for real. I didn’t know how to do that before.)
Some nights with it are better than others, that’s for sure. Like, some of the lessons just come crazy easy to me, and I fly right through them. (It turns out that I’m really good at fractions… Who knew?)
Other lessons… Well. Not so much. On those occasions, there’s typically a whole lot of cussing and screaming at my laptop. (No crying, though… yet.) Things like:
  • “Why are you overcomplicating this?! The answer is 10, god dammit! Why do I have to do all these confusing extra shit?!”
  • “I have no fucking clue what you’re saying to me right now! Speak English, motherfucker!”
  • “Why am I so stupid?! You know what? Fuck algebra. Nah, bro. Just FUCK Algebra.”
No, really. These are actual things that have come out of my filthy mouth. (It turns out I’m really NOT good at solving equations and inequalities. Ugh.)
The struggle is so very real, ya’ll.
But! The silver lining here is that eventually I do always master each and every lesson. I actually refuse to move on to the next lesson until I clear the current one with 100% accuracy. Granted, some of them I have to redo 3-4 times before I get it. Even then as I’m completing the skill assessment, I’m closing my eyes and holding my breath after I input each answer until I hear the DING! telling me that I got it right. But… I’m getting it.
Now if I’m retaining it on the long-term, that remains to be seen.
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A New Leader Emerges

Some of you may have noticed the quick little Facebook post that I made earlier in the week, inquiring of my Atlanta area folks about a particular university.  After much research, I’ve decided to move the University of Florida down to #2 on my preferred university list. They’ve been bumped by a much lesser-known school…

Kennesaw State University, about 25 miles northwest of Atlanta, GA.  Reasons I’ve come to this decision?  Here we go!
  • Degree:  They offer a completely online Bachelor of Science in Psychology program, without the transfer requisites that UF has.  (They still require those classes, but I can take them there once I’ve transferred.)
  • Cost:  KSU’s online degree programs are waaaay more affordable than other schools.  $260 per credit hour, compared to UF’s $552.  Hell, even in-state at USC would cost me $412 per credit hour.  So financially, KSU is pretty much unbeatable.
  • Transfer Credits:  KSU has this amazing functionality on their website, the Transfer Articulation Search.  Basically, I put in my state and then the school I’ll be transferring from.  And it gives me a list of every single class offered at TCL that will transfer seamlessly to KSU.  That shit is extremely helpful!  Now I know exactly what electives and such to take over the next two years, and can breathe easy in the knowledge that I’m not wasting my time or money.
  • Location:  KSU is located not far from my Aunt Debby and Uncle Mark, who I adore.  So anytime I need to drive up to the campus (probably once a semester), I’ll get to visit with them.
  • Owls:  The mascot is an owl, ya’ll!  I fucking love owls!  (This wasn’t so much a factor in my decision as much as a sweet bonus that I’m pretty happy about.)
So that’s the plan as it stands right now.  I realize that a lot could change over the next couple of years (or hell, even the next couple of weeks), but this is what I’m working with at the moment.  I feel really good about it, too!  I’m excited!
In other news, remember the Tax Transcript that I had to request from the IRS and have them mail to me?  Well, it arrived on Friday.  So on Monday, I’m going to ask my boss if I can dip out an hour early to head over to the Financial Aid office at the school, and turn it in along with the verification form that I also had to complete.

So with any luck, I’ll be back here on Monday evening with an update on just how the hell I’m going to pay for all of this.  Because…

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Ya’ll, guess what?!

I GET TO RETAKE THE ALGEBRA PORTION OF MY PLACEMENT TESTS.
I just spoke to the college and they said I can attempt the test up to three times in a one-year period.  The required wait-time between test attempts is only three business days.  So that means pretty much anytime before the Fall semester, I can retake the test and try to get a score high enough to make me exempt from those Beginning and Intermediate Algebra classes!  CAN YOU TELL THAT I AM VERY EXCITED?
So of course, this means I’m going to spend this summer studying my assssss off.  Money will be super tight for the next couple of paychecks, but I’m gonna do it: I’m purchasing the full version of that Learning Upgrade algebra study software tonight, since I completed the last of the demo lessons yesterday.  I am determined to chew through this high school level crap so that I can place into college-level algebra and not have to spend all that extra money and time getting myself up to speed.  I will ace that test next time, dammit!
Okay, true, but I still need to master that shit if I’m ever going to get through college.
In other news, the credit transferring stuff is making my head hurt.  I’ve been looking more and more at the transfer requirements for the University of Florida, and there’s a few parts that cause me great concern.  I touched on this briefly in my last post, but now we’re gonna get deep into it, ya’ll.
Here’s what it says on UF’s website:

WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR COMPETITIVE TRANSFER APPLICANTS?
Competitive upper division applicants (students with 60 of more college credits earned) should have at a 2.75 overall GPA and all the below courses completed with at least a 2.75 GPA:
Required:

  • Introduction to Statistics (STA 2023)
  • General Psychology (PSY 2012) 
  • Biological Science (BSC 2005/2009) or Biology I (BSC 2010)
  • Pre-Calculus: Algebra and Trigonometry (MAC 1147) OR Pre-Calculus Algebra (MAC 1140) and Trigonometry (MAC 1114)
    So what’s the problem(s)?  Get comfortable, because this is gonna be wordy:
    • Introduction to Statistics:  I can take it at TCL online.  No Problem.
    • General Psychology:  I can take it at TCL online.  No problem.
    • Biology: TCL offers it, but I’ve checked the Spring, Summer, and Fall terms just out of curiosity to see what scheduling is typically like.  It’s not offered online, and it’s not offered at night.  They only offer it as a class that meets twice a week on-campus during the day.  This, of course, does not work for me.  So unless something significantly changes over the next year or so, it’s not going to be possible for me to obtain those credits before I’m ready to transfer.  Problem.
    • Pre-Calculus/Algebra/Trigonometry:  I don’t even entirely understand what they’re asking for here.  Based on the UF course titles, it seems like their Pre-Calc, Algebra, and Trig can be taken in one combined class.  Or you can take Pre-Calc/Algebra and Trig as two separate classes.  However, at TCL, they offer College Algebra, College Trigonometry, and Elementary Calculus as THREE separate individual classes.  Do I need to take all three?  How do I find out what UF will take from my courses at TCL as transfer credit and how it will all translate?

      Furthermore, again based on my investigation of the current year’s three semesters, Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus classes at TCL are, like Biology, only offered on-campus and during my workday.  So it’s impossible for me to take those two classes prior to transferring anyhow.  In my application to UF, if I were to include a letter explaining this, and my intent to make obtaining credit for these courses my priority upon matriculating to UF (where they ARE offered online), would it make any difference?  I wonder if contacting Admissions at UF would do me any good, or if they would just tell me that they can’t make that determination until I put in my transfer application in a couple of years?  Problem.

    I know it probably seems super early to be so worried about this stuff, but I couldn’t disagree more.  I’m not about wasting time and money on classes that won’t transfer, or spending two years working on a program that won’t facilitate a transfer to my preferred university.  As such, I feel like now is the precise time to be taking these things into consideration, so that I can build a course of study for the next two years that actually helps me to accomplish my goals.

    And, you know, preferably not lose my fucking mind in the process.