2

One Week To Go, and I Need To Talk About It

Buckle up, buttercups, because this is gonna be a long one.  There’s only one week left until classes start, and I’m a big jittery fluffy ball of nerves, anxiety and excitement… Which for me translates to writing ALL the words.

giphy3

On Monday, I found myself back on campus, trying again to iron out the details that still hadn’t been wrapped up. I dipped out of work early, in the hopes that I would be able to knock everything out in one visit:

1. Find Out How This is All Getting Paid For
So of course, I started with the Financial Aid office and, as expected, there’s about a million people waiting ahead of me. (Guess I’m not the only student who is still fighting for their aid the week before classes.) Finally I get called back by my man, Fernando! Finally got to meet him in person, which was pretty cool.

So here’s what’s up:

The Good: I was awarded a Pell Grant, a South Carolina Needs-Based Grant, and a South Carolina Lottery Tuition Assistance Scholarship. All total, it’s enough to cover my entire Fall and Spring tuition, with a little leftover to cover a portion of my Summer tuition. Hooray! So my Fall classes are officially paid-in-full now, and there’s no risk of me missing the payment deadline or losing my seat in each section.

giphy2

The Bad: I’m on my own for books, supplies, and whatever the remaining balance for my Summer semester tuition ends up being. Of course, I’ve been telling them from Day 1, back in April, that I figured that would be the case and that I would be needing to do a small student loan to make up the difference.

giphy3

The Ugly: Despite all of my howling into the wind to let them know that I was going to need a loan, nobody in Financial Aid ever actually initiated the process or even had me fill out a loan application form. So there I was, sitting in Fernando’s office, a week before classes start and I have zero dollars for books (which this semester alone, for my three classes, are running me a cool $500 bucks) and no loan application even on file, much less processed. Neither of us were pleased.

He had me complete the form and told me he would get it processed that night. However, I saw the two very large stacks of loan paperwork he added my stuff to. And I’m fucking nervous as hell, ya’ll. I’ve been checking my WebAdvisor account online every other hour, but still nothing is posted about a loan award amount.

giphy4

2. Get My Student ID Corrected and Reprinted
This was probably the easiest part of my visit to the campus that day, thankfully. I had been trying to call the Student Records office all day Monday to see if their ID card printer was fixed yet, but I never could get anybody on the phone, which was giving me mad anxiety.

Since that office is just across the hall from Financial Aid, I decided to take my chances. They were pretty swamped too with kids doing last-minute registration for Fall, so I did have a short wait. Nothing too bad, though. The girl was super sweet and helpful, and got me in and out of there pretty quickly, with a newly corrected ID in-hand. The only kinda crappy part was that she had to retake my photo, which I was totally unprepared for, but whatever. (No, ya’ll don’t get to see the new one. #sorrynotsorry )

giphy5

3. Visit The Bookstore and Buy All My Books for the Semester
Yeeeeaaahhh. Well, as we already know from the Financial Aid visit, no books were acquired. But since the bookstore is located in the same building as my last stop of the day, and I was super early anyhow, I decided I would pop in and just to talk to somebody to verify that the printed materials that I had brought with me were indeed what I would need to get all my books once the money magically appears.

Well, quite unexpectedly for this awkward, shy, eye-contact-dodging, introverted lady, the next thing I know I’m chilling there in the bookstore with three other students (two were work study there and one was just hanging out), talking about Game of Thrones and random fantasy fiction novels, and letting them give me pointers on a couple of my classes and professors. So that was a pleasant surprise!

They also clarified for me that that out of three particular books on the list for my Western Civilizations class, I only need to choose and buy one of them. The professor makes you do a big report on which ever one you pick, and I guess it’s a huge part of your grade. And since I prefer to read on my Kindle anyhow, when I got home that night I went ahead and purchased my choice via Amazon so that I can get a headstart on reading.

giphy6

4. Meet with the Guy from Student Support Services
This is the meeting that I told ya’ll about last time, that I got stood up for. We finally rescheduled, and were to meet up at 4:30pm that afternoon. Well, even with all of my other business and socializing around the campus, I still found myself parked on a couch in the Student Lounge (where is his office is located) nearly an hour ahead of schedule. And he was nowhere to be found, so it’s not even like we could just go ahead and meet early.

So I spent that hour just messing around on my phone and lowkey eavesdropping on folks around me. A few people were playing pingpong and talking about school and their career goals, so that was interesting. But then. Ugh. But THEN. A couple of dudes came in and sat somewhere behind me, laughing and watching some bullshit on one of their phones with the volume all the way up.

(SIDE RANT TIME! Seriously, when the holy fuck did it become acceptable to be in public listening to/watching stuff on a personal device without headphones? Over the last year or so, it’s become pretty much my #1 pet peeve in life. It drives me absolutely insane, and I see that shit happening everywhere. People either listening to music or watching stuff on their phones, no headphones, just speakers on blast for everybody around them to just fucking deal with. It’s seriously like nails on a goddamn chalkboard to me, ya’ll.)

giphy7

The guy, Jamie, showed up right on time, 4:30pm on the dot. We had a really productive meeting! He explained the program to me, and basically because neither of my parents ever obtained a 4-year college degree, I automatically qualify. Apparently first-generation Bachelors students are considered “at risk” and have a much higher rate of failing to succeed in academia because they don’t have a support system at home that really understands what it’s all about and how hard it can be, or how to help their kids succeed. Which I totally understand now, honestly. I can’t help but wonder now if I had gotten hooked up with a program like this during my first college attempt nearly 20 years ago, would I have been more successful? Maybe so.

The Student Support Services (SSS) program basically creates a support system for those at-risk students. They stay on your ass and make sure you keep your GPA up, and require you to spend a minimum of 12 hours each semester in either the library or the tutoring centers. You’re also required to meet with the SSS counselor (Jamie) at least twice a semester, and attend at least 4 workshops per semester regarding study skills, time management, etc. The reward for meeting all of the requirements? Every other semester, you qualify for a government stipend grant that could range between $500 and $1,500 bucks (based on your financial need).

giphy8

Not gonna lie to ya’ll, that stipend is the entire reason I signed up. I mean, that’s free book money, yo. And, I mean, let’s be real… I’m actually pretty lazy and undisciplined most of the time. I’m totally getting better about it as I get older, but the struggle is still very real. So I figure the studying, counseling, and workshop requirements can only help me succeed, right?

Of my three classes this semester, two are online and one is on-campus: My English 101 meets every Wednesday at 5:30pm. I get off work at 4:00pm, and my original plan was to go home, have 30-45 minutes to change clothes and eat something, then head to class. But now what I’m thinking is that I’ll just head straight to campus and grab food on the way, so that I can get in 45 mins to an hour in either the library or the tutoring centers each week. Should knock that particular requirement out pretty easily!

Speaking of the tutoring centers, Jamie did walk me over to the building next door where the centers are located and introduced me to the lady who runs them, who actually gave me a lot of good information. Best Part: I found out that they can help me study for retaking my placement test for Algebra, and ensure that the things that I’m learning with them are the things that will actually be on the damn test! (Don’t get me wrong, I still love Khan Academy, but it’s so incredibly comprehensive that it’s taking forever to complete, and I have been finding myself wondering how much of it is more than I really need to know at this point.) And the hours that I spend working on that (which I plan to start doing ASAP) will count towards the requirement for SSS. So that is super exciting!

giphy9

So that was my afternoon at campus on Monday! And today, Wednesday, I found myself back over there again. Part of the paperwork I have to turn-in for the SSS program includes a page that has to be completed and signed by a Financial Aid counselor. And since it’s been 48 hours, and classes now start one week from today, I figured that I may as well check-in with my man Fernando about that loan application.

So after leaving work early, getting caught in a thunderstorm that was still raging when I got to the campus, wading through puddles and soaking my work shoes all the way to my feetsies, I finally made it there.  And.  Well.  If I had thought that the crowd waiting to see Financial Aid on Monday was bad…

20170809_164121

20170809_164126

That’s just what I could downlow snap pics of from where I was sitting.  There was another area behind me with probably 7-8 more people.   (Including somebody who brought their toddler, which of course randomly started screaming it’s head off at one point, so to shut it up what does the mother do?  Pulls out her phone and turns on some super whiny high-pitched children’s show.  Without headphones.  On blast.  In this super crowded waiting area.  I seriously can’t escape this shit, ya’ll.)

giphy10

Finally an hour later, Fernando finally calls me back to his office.  Guess what?  Nope, no money.  My loan is still pending.  Sigh.  But alas, I was still able to get a couple of things accomplished.  He filled out the paperwork that I need to turn in for the SSS program, and he also showed me some stuff I can go ahead and complete at studentloans.gov tonight which keep the process from getting delayed an additional 24-48 hours once the loans get approved.  Basically it’s just required financial counseling that normally they have you do after the approval comes in, but he showed me what to do so I can go ahead and finish it up now and get it out of the way.  Of course, I’m totally going to work on that as soon as I’m finished writing this stupid long blog post.  You know, because #priorities .

So to wrap this up, I’ve basically come to the decision that if my money isn’t there by Tuesday @ 3:00pm, I’m just going to put my books on a credit card, and then once the loan money comes in I’ll use it to pay the bill.  I’m far too Type-A to mentally handle putting it off any longer, and I certainly don’t want to try and rush to do it between work and the start of my first class on Wednesday.  And I absolutely refuse to be that person who shows up the first day unprepared and without her books, regardless if the reason is completely valid.  Not.  Fucking.  Happening.

giphy11

3

Minor Problems and Frustrations

So I know it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post.  Sorry about that!  But really, with classes starting in two weeks, you probably should just get used to it.

giphy17

It’s not that nothing’s been happening.  It has.  Just small-ish things that really don’t deserve their own post at this point.  But I thought I’d check in all the same, and write a bit of a hodge-podge post to summarize those things:

First Generation Student Program / Student ID Problems
Something I forgot to mention in my last post about the orientation I attended was that I briefly met the gentleman who is in charge of Career and Transfer Services.  In the very brief handful of minutes he was given to talk to our group, he mentioned that one of the things he administers is a program for First-Generation college students, to encourage and support them in successfully obtaining a 4-year college degree.  What got my attention is that if you sign up for the program and continue to meet all of the requirements (which basically means keeping your GPA up and utilizing the Tutoring Centers), you actually get a cash stipend every other semester to apply towards books or whatever.  And ya’ll know I’m all about dat free money, yo.

giphy23

Neither of my parents have degrees, so later that weekend I emailed him to see if I would qualify, even at my advanced age.  He said there’s no age limit on the program, and we arranged to meet at 4:30pm on last Wednesday to discuss it further and get me signed up.

Well, to make a long story short:  He stood me up.  His office door was wide open when I arrived, so I thought surely he’d be back soon.  But I waited until 5:05pm before I gave up, choosing to head across campus to try and accomplish another errand so that it wasn’t a completely wasted afternoon…

giphy19

Shortly after I got my Student ID Card a month or so ago, I noticed that there’s an extra digit just chillin’ in the middle of my student identification number.  It’s very obviously a typo and an easy one to make, so I wasn’t too fussed over it.  Just figured I’d get it fixed before the semester started at some point.  So since Old Boy never showed, I decided I’d save the day myself by heading over to Student Records to get that corrected.

Yeah, no.  Wrong.  I arrived at the Student Records office only to be told that their printer was down, and to check back net week (I haven’t).  So that was a bummer, and my trip to the campus really was a complete waste of time that day.

giphy20

When I got home I emailed the guy and politely called him out for blowing me off.  He was very apologetic, and we’ve been going back and forth regarding rescheduling, trying to nail down a day & time that works for both of us.  Still nothing confirmed, though.  I’ll let ya’ll know how it all works out!

Major Concerns
I kinda let the whole decision about my major slide away for the time-being, figuring it wouldn’t kill me to actually complete a semester or three or core curriculum classes before really stressing about it.

Yeah.  That didn’t last.

giphy21

Aaaaaand so I’m right back in that place again.  (Thanks, Anxiety!)  Today my thoughts were along the lines of:

Fuck it!  Why don’t I just major in something I’ll actually enjoy learning about, even if the career prospects for it are absolute garbage?!  Like Anthropology!  (Yes, I’m still stuck on the Anthropology thing… That shit looks absolutely fascinating to me, even if it is utterly useless!)  Or Creative Writing!  Or Psychology!  Or whatever!

And in addition to that, why don’t I just minor in Hospitality and Tourism Management, and treat that as my fall back!  (Because really, the more and more I look at the Major program requirements, the more I just want to curl up and sob like a little bitch.)  But on the other hand, do employers really give any flavors of fucks about your minor, or just your major?  Plus aren’t the two supposed to be somewhat related, or at least complimentary?  Does any of this shit even matter at all?

giphy22

Financial Aid
So while we’re talking about the fucking awesome choices I’m not making regarding this extremely important investment in my future, let’s talk about the money I’m gonna spend on it!  Or not spend, at least for now.  I think.  Things finally happened with my Financial Aid.  Sorta.  Confusing things that need clarification, so I’m not prepared to go into detail quite yet.  But for now I’ll just say there’s money on the way, I just need to have a chat with my boy Fernando to clarify the amounts, disbursement intervals, etc.  Hopefully I’ll have more details the next time.  So at least that’s exciting stuff though, right?!

giphy18

4

The Most Adulty Choice Yet

I’ve been putting off writing about this degree option for a while now, but I figure it’s probably time to put it out there.  I think I was kinda hoping that it would just kind of fade away and I would forget about it completely.  Unfortunately, that super pragmatic part of me keeps coming back to it, and so it deserves discussion.

The majority of my adult work history has been in the hospitality and tourism industry.  15 years of it, in fact.  I was hired by my first hotel back in 2002, at just 21 years old, working the front desk in Guest Services.  After that, I went to work for AirTran Airways for a few years as a Customer Service Specialist in one of their call centers.  Before too long, I found myself back in another hotel, doing the same role as before, for a couple of more years.  After that, I became a Travel Agent for a little over six years, and I was pretty damn good at it, too.

giphy24

I only very recently left that job (in February of this year, so just 4 months ago) for my current administrative position… which is in a completely different field.  Why did I abandon my beloved travel industry?  Actually, it really came down to just two reasons, but both were pretty major factors:

  • Money. See, most travel agents work solely on commission, which is something I could never do.  It’s too unpredictable, especially living paycheck-to-paycheck.  But the agency I worked for was different.  They didn’t pay commission, but instead paid an hourly wage, so I knew what my income would be every two weeks and could budget accordingly.  Unfortunately, that wage was extremely low given the amount of work and level of knowledge and skill required.  I was barely clearing $23,000 annually, ya’ll.  But I made it work for all those years even though it was definitely tough.  The hardest part, though, was that I knew I was worth more.  So when an opportunity presented itself, even though it meant leaving the tourism industry, I jumped on it.
  • While I loved the industry itself, I was completely, truly, 110% burnt out on customer service and sales.  Every time the door would open or the phone would ring, my chest would get tight and my anxiety and irritability levels would skyrocket.  I still very much enjoyed the research and planning part, learning about destinations and assembling dream vacations for clients.  I just hated dealing with them.  Pasting on the fake plastic smile every day became more and more of hardship.

So I left, and never looked back.  Until now.

uscb1

The University of South Carolina offers a completely online Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management degree completion program, and it’s even administered out of the Beaufort campus.  So.  Let’s weigh the cons and pros of this one, shall we?

CONS

1. I fucking hate customer service and sales.  Maybe in 5 years by the time I graduate, I’ll have been away from it for long enough that I’ll get over that some.  Plus, in management, yes I’ll have a good deal of front-facing guest/client interactions, but a lot more back-of-house work, too.  And I’m really good at both, I just don’t love the first part.

2. In the curriculum are a required 9 hours of food/restaurant classes, as well as some sort of departmental partnership with hospitality and concessions during the annual RBC Heritage golf tournament out on Hilton Head… all of which sounds absolutely fucking miserable to me.  I mean, it’s just 3 classes and one week a year for a couple years, so I suppose I could suck it up.  But UGH.

PROS

1. I wouldn’t be throwing away 15 years of industry experience.  This is honestly the top reason I’m considering this degree.  In fact, I might even be able to get out of some classes and practicums with my work history being as tourism-rich as it is.

2. While the classes are administered online like all of the programs I’m considering, I do love that the campus is right here in my town.  I know I’ve talked several times on this blog about how my preference is to go to schools within a reasonable driving distance, so that when I need to go to the school and fight with Financial Aid or whatever, I can easily do so.  Well, I really can’t get any closer than USCB.  Plus I know they have a relationship with Technical College of the Lowcountry, so all of my credits are more likely to transfer.

3. Something I have only touched on briefly in this blog is my long-held dream of relocating to the central Florida area.  Not just because of Walt Disney World either (though that is a huge part of it), but I genuinely enjoy the area and all that it has to offer.  I’ve actually been kind of in love with Florida in general ever since I would spend summers there as a child with my bio-dad’s family.  As such, all of the degree paths I’ve looked into so far have been low-key in the context of “Could this take me to Orlando?”  Well, this is the one degree that the answer is a resounding YES.  With all the other degrees I’ve considered, my lack of work experience in those fields is going to be a major hurdle to overcome.  However, with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism, combined with my work experience, I could potentially land a great job in Orlando straight out of school.  Not to mention that the salaries are pretty nice in that area for tourism management positions.

4. Once I’m in Orlando, I would be perfectly positioned to pursue my Masters degree should I decide that I want to do so.  The University of Central Florida (which I’ve talked about here many times) has the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, which is a huge school for hospitality and tourism.  They don’t offer a bachelor’s degree program online, but they DO offer an online Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management.  And really, having that could only enable me to get even better employment and salary offers, so I most likely would do it.

5. Though I’ve put vacationing on hold for the most part while I focus on school, I do still love to travel and likely always will.  There’s still so much of the world on my bucket list.  By staying in the tourism industry, I’ll have access to so many benefits and discounts and opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise.

giphy23

So.  That’s two pretty lame Cons versus five really practical Pros.  The choice is kind of obvious, right?  As much as I would love to pursue a different path, this one just makes the most practical sense and will likely benefit me the most both immediately and in the long term.

It’s just going to require a lot of adulting and patience on my part.

giphy25

0

So the Plan This Week Is…

Bachelor of Arts in Communications, with a Concentration in Professional Writing and a Minor in Social Media Marketing.

b3a2f-clarification

No, really. I’m serious. Let me explain.

So of course, in typical Billie fashion, I’ve continued to turn the idea of the Creative Writing degree over and over in my head until it’s tumbled to death. And here’s the thing: I’m an okay writer with a decent-ish grasp of language mechanics and grammar, etc. I immensely enjoy words and crafting things with them in an engaging way.

When possible, I particularly love to make people laugh with my writing.  Turns out that not every platform is the appropriate place for dick jokes, though.

What I’m not great at is making up stories. I don’t really ever write them, and I’m not into poetry at all, to be quite honest. I was thinking that maybe once I was in a structured Creative Writing program, I would learn to be excellent at it. But then I look at sample writing prompts, and they do absolutely nothing for me…

  • Smoke, Fog, and Haze: Write about not being able to see ahead of you.
  • Sugar: Write something so sweet, it makes your teeth hurt.
  • Numbers: Write a poem or journal entry about numbers that have special meaning to you.
  • Dread: Write about doing something you don’t want to do.

giphy6

All that being said, I do enjoy the creative process of stringing words together, but in a different sort of way. Ways that directly observe the world around me, that inspire action or reaction, that convey thoughts and ideas, that bring real life to the page (or screen). Words used to persuade, to help, to inform. That’s the style of writing I’ve always enjoyed best. Travel recollections. Book reviews. Editorials. Opinion columns. So on and so forth.

Basically what I really want is a degree in blogging, frankly.

giphy7

“Okay, but Billie, you know there’s a division of Creative Writing for Non-Fiction, right? Some programs even let you do a concentration in it within your major!”

Yes yes, I know. And believe me, I have very much considered it, and haven’t entirely ruled it out, honestly.  University of Central Florida‘s Creative Writing program offers classes and workshops in Non-Fiction.  So if I do go with a Creative Writing degree, that is more-likely-than-not the direction I will go with it.

Another type of Writing major option is Technical Writing, but it’s just way too dry for me.  Technical Writers are the people who write instruction manuals and such.  Which I don’t want to do.  Because I would rather not spend all of this money on a degree only to wind up sitting in an office like…

giphy8

So all of these wandering thought-bunnies eventually brought me to another place…

When I was a travel agent, one of my favorite tasks was having to write up the copy for and work with our company’s Marketing department to produce a poster/flyer to advertise upcoming special events we were offering. Another favorite job of mine there was managing our office Facebook account, combining images with copy I would write to try to get people interested in our services, attractions, and destinations. And as much as I didn’t love direct sales (aka customer service), I did always enjoy the part of crafting an exciting and persuasive presentation via email to pitch a pricey vacation to an interested potential client.

Which got me to thinking about a friend of mine who works as a copywriter with the Universal Orlando Resort, in the in-house marketing department.  He loves it, and I’ve always been kind of envious of what he does, as it seems like an absolutely fantastic gig and something I would truly enjoy.  So.  Why not go for it, riiiiiiight?  Or at least put myself on an academic path that has more of a chance of leading me in that direction.

giphy9

The other reason I’m considering moving away from the Creative Writing degree and more towards this Professional Writing degree is simply Adulting.  As I conveyed previously, if I’m going to do this… you know, spend all this time and money, especially this late in my life… then it would be vastly preferable to get a degree that will actually have at least some potential to for improving my career prospects and financial position.

And frankly, this degree is just far more practical, with courses like:

  • ADV 263: Advertising Copy and Design
  • ENG 220: Business Communications
  • COM 230: Graphics and Layout in Print Media
  • COM 235: Intro to Journalism
  • COM 310: Social Media
  • COM 325: Editing for Media and Publication
  • COM 340: Writing for Public Relations
  • COM 445: Writing for New Media
  • COM 232: Desktop Publishing
  • COM 315: Communication in the Digital Age
  • COM 329: Editing for New Media Technologies

See?  Definitely less artsy-fartsy and more worky-jobby.  But still things I feel that I would enjoy learning about and honing my craft in.

giphy10

I initially wanted to do a minor in Graphic Design, something else I’ve always enjoyed and have often been told that I have a talent for, but I ran into a snag.  One of the courses required for the minor has a pre-requisite course, which is fine, I don’t mind taking additional Graphic Design classes.  However, that pre-req course is described as being “Mac-based.”  And I’m a PC user.  And I’m not about to run out and spend an enormous wad of cash on a Mac just for one class.  Sooooo… Sadly, I had to scrap that whole idea.

So after exploring my options some more, I came across the Social Media Marketing minor.  By adding this skill set to my degree, I’m effectively exploring my love of digital platforms and learning how to use them to make money, as well as expanding my career options that much further.  Plus, given my vast ineptitude with math, something dealing with the online world is the closest I’m ever going to get to a STEM career.

giphy11

Now all of this being said, I do have a couple of reservations about this degree path (of course I do… thanks, Anxiety!):

  1. It’s a Communications degree.  I haven’t been out of school long enough to forget all of the shit that gets talked about Comm majors.  No, seriously.  If you don’t know, then google “Communications Majors Stereotypes” sometime, and you’ll see what I mean.  And while I don’t much care what the average schmoe thinks of my Communications degree, I do have to consider how it will look to employers.
  2. I recognize that I’m probably overselling it, not just to ya’ll but also to myself, as while some of the course work looks really interesting, other bits of it seem super boring, especially the Marketing classes.  But I’m sure there’s no such thing as a program where you’re going to 110% love all of your classes, right?

After spending waaaaaaay too much time comparing schools and programs, the only one I’ve found that offers the blend of professional writing, advertising, and digital media that I’m looking for is Southern New Hampshire University.

2f890-snhu

The good news is that they have a fantastic online degree program, and the classes are administered through Blackboard, which is the same software that TCL uses for their online courses so the transition would be pretty seamless.  However, choosing SNHU also means giving up on my goal of staying within my region so that I could take road trips to the school as needed. I would only ever see the SNHU campus twice: When I fly up in a couple years to check it out before I officially enroll (which most online students don’t ever do, but I feel very strongly that I need to see with my own eyes what I’m getting into and where I’m going to be accumulating a massive amount of debt before I make a commitment), and then again 2-3 years after that for graduation.

So that’s where things stand this week.  I’m sure I’ll be back in a week or two with a totally different agenda.  Stay tuned!

giphy12

0

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.

giphy

0

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?