Where to Get Online College Textbooks

Alright, tip number one, don’t go out and buy a book just because it says it’s used for English 101. Every teacher can chose what texts they wish to use. Sometimes there’s a consensus within the department, but even there you may have a teacher that feels passionately about using a certain text over the department selection. Wait until you have registered for classes and you either get the option in your online college account to “buy textbooks here” or hear from your instructor what books you’ll be using. Chances are that you won’t have to wait that long, but if it’s not extremely clear, don’t waste your time trying to get a book. Some teachers will even say once class starts, “the recommended book to purchase for this course is Barney’s Super English Lessons for Beginners, but I won’t be teaching from that.” In my experience it’s best to verify with the professor or online class instructor if the books that were recommended you are the actual ones you will be using. If you get your syllabus ahead of time you can be reasonably safe in trusting the books it lists as syllabi are typically written up by instructors.

Good, now that that’s out of the way and I just saved you some big headaches, let’s move onto where you get your online college textbooks. The first and most obvious place you can look is through your institution’s own bookstore. This makes it easy for students to not have to go searching, but you are likely going to pay for this convenience. Some online college programs have specialized curriculum that you can get nowhere else but through them. These may include the price of the texts in the cost of tuition, especially if it’s digital content such as ebooks or video lectures.

If the books that you are going to be using for classes are real physical books that are used by other universities and you want to save money on them, you will want to make sure that you have some data when you begin your search online for the best bargain.

If you can’t just print out a book list then grab the title of the text, what edition it is, the year it was published (the same book can have multiple years because of different editions or reprints of the same edition), the authors and the ISBN (this is usually enough to help you find the exact version you need, but the other info can help you verify that, just in case it was miscataloged).

Looking for bargains may mean that you’re getting them used, but used books don’t always look like they’ve been run over by a car. Many online vendors of books give some idea of the condition of book if it is used, most notably Amazon.com. If you like new books, just search there for used and look for ones that say “like new”. I’ve been pleasantly surprised getting many used books there that look like new.

How much can you expect to save by doing a little searching? Well, one semester I went online and think I got my books from Half.com. I recall my books being more than 50% of what I was going to pay used through my college. You should be able to save quite a bit. There are a couple online book store aggregators that will grab prices from the major retailers. Just do a Google search and you’re bound to find a couple good ones. You may also check your local news station website in the classifieds, Craig’s list or even a local thrift store (could be a long shot, but if you find what you’re looking for it may only be couple bucks) if you have time.

Think outside the box and you’ll find some great places online to reduce the cost of your education. Good luck finding some great priced textbooks for your online classes!

Understanding Online College Expectations via Orientation

Going to college can be such a new experience. While there are still teachers and students and classes, there are often times a whole new set of expectations, opportunities and services that you may not have had in high school. An orientation, while I’ve heard many complain about them, can give you the overview you need to get or keep you out of a bind once classes begin and the rubber hits the road. Pay attention to your orientation, think of it an exciting opportunity and you will be more able to remember what’s said when you need it later on.

Not all online colleges have an orientation, but many do. You may even be required to take one before starting classes. It typically isn’t too taxing, so you don’t have to worry. These orientations are to help you become aware of the expectations and standards by which you will be required to adhere. One of the most frustrating things in life is when someone is expecting something of us and we have absolutely no clue. Could you imagine if there were no traffic laws? Laws are merely a set of expectations that everyone who drives agree to live by so that there can be order and a mutual understanding between drivers. This is just as important in your online college. There will be expectations that you will be required to meet. You will be held accountable to them and even graded by them, so make sure you understand them clearly and ask questions to clarify when you don’t understand. This is essential for your sake.

Some common orientation features include showing students around the sometimes tricky online navigation system. Many are intuitive, but getting everyone on the same page is important. This will reduce the load later they may otherwise have to spend answering the same question from 50 different students.

In your online college orientation you’ll also learn about some of the more common tasks you will be performing while in your courses. You may learn how to attach or submit assignments to your professor or class facilitator. You’ll probably get an overview of the software available to help you communicate better with other students and your professor. You’ll also get to know how to attend lectures, if there are set times you have to watch them by. Instruction may also continue to help you learn how to put any multimedia content onto a portable device like an ipod or other video or audio player.

Keep an eye out for some specific points (this may also help you pay more attention!) during your online orientation that may be handy for you later.

  • Make sure you know how to contact someone if there are any technical issues. It will most likely not be your teacher or academic advisor, but a technical department
  • The URL for daily login to your classes and interactive features
  • How to tap into the institutions resources such as a library, audio collections or academic support services

Bottom line, orientation for online college students helps to convey to the students the institutions expectations. It’s in your best interest to know them so you will not unknowingly be judged by them and call life unfair. If you don’t agree with something that’s said during orientation and it can affect your academic progress, bring it up with an advisor, to see if an exception can be made. Don’t just take matters into your own hands and become a martyr, your teachers won’t appreciate it and you know what they say, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

Anyhow, you’ll do great. Keep the excitement and be appreciative of anyone that’s providing you with an overview of what to expect and you’ll be fine. Good luck understanding your online college expectations via your orientation!

Have I Been Accepted to this Online College?

You know the scene of a girl sitting by a phone, waiting for the boy to call? What ends up usually happening? That’s right, she waits and waits and waits and finally in frustration, heartbroken and sorrow filled either throws the phone out the window and goes renegade and joins the boy hater club or falls asleep crying. Either way, she’s one disappointed girl…until he calls the next day.

This may be a pretty standard response if he actually said he would call that night. However, and unfortunately, it often happens that she anticipated him calling. She expected it even though he never explicitly stated that he would call then.

Waiting for a yes or no from the online college you just applied to may feel like this if you don’t take the time to establish clear expectations by asking when they plan on letting you know and by what method (It also helps to not be in a hurry to get started). Find out what their standard method is and then call when it reaches towards the end of any window they give you. Don’t leave things to chance. Be proactive and polite.

While some online colleges will accept and alert you pretty promptly of their decision, you may be waiting for up to a couple months if they are following their traditional methods. If you were accepted to multiples schools, great! Now you just need to eliminate everyone but one. At least at this stage of the game you options. Picking a school before you’re accepted is a little like inviting everyone over for a party before asking your mom for permission. But now that you have “permission” take a look narrowing your decision.

What happens though if you were NOT accepted? Yeah, I know, unthinkable huh? Especially if it’s open enrollment. J However, don’t fret just yet. If they didn’t let you know why you weren’t accepted, ask. Good clear communication is always preferable than sulking and ascribing this rejection to your value and worth as a human being. There may have just been a clerical mistake. Rule this out first. It could have been due to you not meeting prerequisites or deadline requirements (not too helpful now, but a good reason to start early just in case you miss something and need more time).

If you were rejected for that semester and you can’t talk the academic advisor into making an exception for you, don’t give up. Remember the bigger picture and move forward. If the reason for the rejection was your prior GPA you may be temporarily accepted, but placed under watch to determine if you can make some changes. Be grateful if you’re given this opportunity and use it as such. Now is your time to shine.

If you weren’t accepted because you missed deadlines, take a step back, prepare again and make sure you examine all the deadlines & requirements well in advance for next time enrollment is made available. This may not even be an issue for some online colleges as they are able to accept people at any time so they can go at their own pace.

Whatever your circumstances, press forward with excitement and even if you have to wait longer, you will be in a much better place when you are finally accepted into an online college.

Online College Costs – How Much Will I Pay?

While some costs of going to an online college will most likely be the same as going to a traditional school you are potentially going to save when it comes to travel and housing. Keep in mind that most universities charge on a per credit basis and typically drop prices after a certain credit enrollment is met. There is usually an ideal zone for getting the most out of your money. However, there is also a little matter of time to consider when piling on the credits for greater bargains.

The New York Times reported back in 2008 that “college tuition and fees increased 439% from 1982 to 2007, while the median family income rose 147%” (prices not changed to account for inflation). It’s not gotten any better in the US. In fact, prices for tuition in my state have gone up at a sickening pace over the last decade.

Here are some 2009 numbers drawn from Online Education for Dummies for a 3 credit course in accounting:

  • One private online college charged $460 per credit hour or $1380 in all
  • That same class at a public college was near $283 for in-staters and about $848 for out of state students.
  • In the Midwest one two-year community college offered this course online for only $85 per credit hour for in-state & in-district students and about $290 for out-of-state, out-of-district students.

Examine your local options in addition to good name online colleges because they are sometimes cheaper for the same course. Of course examining the quality of the instruction may be valuable too, especially when it comes to an accounting class. Some teachers have the ability to bring a subject to likfe while others seem to complicate it to no end. Don’t sacrifice quality for money. Whatever’s going to help you learn best is what you’re going to need.

Tuition can vary depending on your location (and remember that in-state often has a specific definition, not that you just reside there, but some schools require that you’ve lived in state for a time, some as much as 3 years before being considered for in state tuition), but you’ll want to calculate all the money you’ll be saving by taking an online course. Remember to include travel expenses, cost of living (such as housing, groceries & entertainment), books (which can be the same, unless your entire curriculum is presented online, but you’ll still typically have to pay for books), fees (you may save here for going online because your institution may drop fees for services that you won’t needing. Make sure to ask for a breakdown of fees).

So, all in all, school is not cheap. There are many expenses incurred in providing a quality education for you. Don’t take it for granted and start saving your pennies now, so when the time comes you’ll be able to afford school without going into debt or getting a hand me out from Uncle Sam. Best of luck meeting your online college costs!

Online College Application – Seeking Support online college application

Have you ever been to a group meeting of some kind, perhaps one that your friend invited you to? Here’s how it may have looked. You enter a room in a nearby hotel or house, there’s music playing and chips and water at a table in the back. They have a projector set up or maybe a whiteboard or large easel with big paper. People are talking and someone stands up in the front and asks everyone to take their seat. This person is very excited, as if Bill Clinton or Donny Osmond were just in the other room. There’s a buzz in the room and people feel unconcerned that their playful bantering with the host is causing mild distraction. There are lots of smiling and when the speaker finally runs down the aisle half the room stands to applaud. You recognize them as the half that invited those who remain seated.

So, you may have experienced this kind of thing before and chances are, if you were in the group that stood up, you felt quite a bit of support and confidence. That’s what we want to have for you in your online college application process. Going back to school or taking it to the next level can be pretty difficult emotionally at times and you would do well getting as much support as you can. It’s a wonderful thing to feel like people are behind you to help you when you don’t know the way to go, but it’s quite another thing to feel like you’re going at something alone. Well, because it’s just not true that you have to do this alone, here are a couple people you can reach out to, to help get all your questions answered.

If you filled out the form on this site you will have received a call or contact from an online college recruiter. Their job is to sell you on the school they represent. If you know this from the get go and make sure to be prepared with some questions you don’t need to worry about being taken for a ride. You know what you are looking for and you let them know that you are considering multiple options. Sometimes this can even bring their special bag of offers to the table, like a discount on admission or free books. Don’t be afraid to ask for some sort of “tipping offer” if your selections are all looking pretty good. Ask them, perhaps after looking at other schools,, “So and so school provides this and is offering me that, what can you do for me?” Remember, it’s not you who are on trial here, it’s them. This is YOUR education, take charge.

Next, if you get past a recruiter you will most likely end up with a career counselor or academic advisor. Take your same questions to them and confirm them, just to make sure the sales process was squeaky clean. If you are this interested in a school, your advisor can help  you get all the documentation you need and will most likely give you their phone number and email and be available for any additional questions that will come up along the registration process.

Treat your advisor like a friend. Thank him or her for their help and follow up on the questions you ask. They may be acting as a liaison for other departments so, remember that slow response time doesn’t necessarily mean they are lazy. It could be a hold up in another department. Always give them the benefit of the doubt and be grateful for their help.

There is a lot of help available as you want and seek it out. Good luck in completing your online college application!

Online College Requirements – Letters of Recommendation

You’ve probably looked on the back cover of a book you’re looking into reading. If so, you’ve probably seen a handful of recommendations on some. By the time you are finished reading the testimonials you typically feel good about reading the book. Businesses use testimonials of people to help you see how valuable a product is. Pretend you are a book or product. Who is it that knows the product of your life well enough to vouch for it? To help sell your life story it’s important that those who are completely new to it have some references or other opinions to help them overcome what seems like an innate hesitation to trust.

You can request a letter of recommendation from anyone that has worked with you in a school, work or club setting. Basically anyone that can vouch for your character is what you’re looking for. If your soccer coach can share with your potential online college that you worked harder than anyone at practice and it showed up in games, great!

When asking for these letters you can help those from whom you request them by doing the following.

Prepare a letter or email letting them know what you’d like them to talk about. Attaching your resume can help them get a better idea of what to write about, especially if you’ve highlighted those abilities you consider to be your greatest assets. Ask them to share how they know you and for how long. Ask them to give a sincere evaluation of your professional skills (if it’s a boss or coworker), your personal attributes (if it’s a coach or team member) or your excitement for learning (if it’s a past teacher or classmate).

Some may agree to write a letter of recommendation for you, but ask if you could create it and just have them sign it. While this is avoiding the real purpose of the letter (to get an idea of what the writer thinks of the applicant), if both you and the individual from whom you are requesting the recommendation are honest then write something up that underscores some of the experiences you have shared together and what qualities or traits were displayed. Be real and he or she should have no problem recognizing it as such and feel comfortable putting their name to it. If you get this request, you may try to remember some nice things they said about you while you worked together. They’d be more likely to resonate with such a letter.

Lastly, have them wrap up with a statement of why they think you should be accepted and how you make a valuable contribution to their program.

Preparing your letters of recommendation is not difficult. A personal stamp of approval is what this all boils down to and having a variety for the school to look at to assess your personality and character is what you’re after. Be sincere and assuming that you’ve been sincere and worked hard in the past, you should have no problem. If you doubt that there is anyone that could vouch for your personal integrity, perhaps there’s a reason and that needs to be first addressed. But regardless of the level you’re at, if you have shown some personal dedication in any field that benefits mankind, you should be able to get a witness from those with whom you worked. Good luck meeting your online college requirements!

Online School Application Process – Your Personal Essay

Part of a school’s job to ensure the success of their students. One filter you are put through, especially in upper degrees such as a master’s program or doctorate degree, is to assess your ability to write. It’s not necessarily a given that you learned to write well in your previous education, especially if an English teacher felt bad for you and cut you a break by passing you, even though your work was subpar (not really a break in my estimation). At this level the classes are not meant to teach you how to do this, but rather to help you use it. To evaluate your abilities in this area they will often ask you to submit a personal essay as part of your application process for their online school. I am going to get you caught up to speed on what that entails and what they’re looking for.

If you are applying for an undergrad degree you will most likely be asked to write a “getting to know you” type essay that gives them some idea about your past work, the awards you’ve received and clubs you’ve been involved with. If not also asked one of the following questions you may also add how these things have molded and shaped you. Often you may also be asked to describe in greater detail some of the following:

  • An important event in your life and how it changed you.
  • An individual that has made a deep impact on you and how.
  • Personal passions and why you value them.
  • A topic of your choice.

In each of these topics you have the opportunity to show your writing skills and ability to construct a well thought out idea around a theme.

If you are applying for a grad degree you’re going to be in for a different experience. Online grad schools know that your work experience can add richness to online classroom discussions. They are eager to hear you blend your work experience with your educational ambitions. It’s important for them to assess your level of motivation because again, they have a vested interest in seeing their student succeed and know that self-motivated individuals have the best chance of graduating.

There is a story of the ancient teacher that is relevant to illustrate what grad programs are looking for in the personal essays they have you write. A young man once came to Socrates and asked him to teach him. Socrates asked him how bad he wanted it, and the prospective student told him that he desired it greatly. Socrates had the young man follow him down to the river. He invited the boy into the water. He told him to go under the water. Socrates held him down till he just about passed out. When the young man came up flailing he insisted on an explanation. Socrates told him that when he wanted to learn as bad as he wanted air, he would teach him.

In whatever kind of essay you write, if you have a sincere passion to learn and grow, it should be apparent in your writing. Let them know how bad you want it and you should be find. Check out my next article to get some more pointers on how to complete your personal essay for online school application.

Online Schools – Facing Fears

Before investigating any unknown topic, fears often abound. We are afraid of uncertainty. We arrange our lives to create certainty. We work to establish financial security. We develop relationships to bring about emotional stability and we settle down into homes and communities to set up some sort of consistency in our daily lives. If you have been putting off looking into options for online schools you don’t have to be afraid, opportunities abound. Online education is booming and the selection is so great that you can find someone to teach you just about anything you want to learn.

Let me start off by sharing with you some of the degree options you have with online schools. Do you like to heal people? How about an online healthcare or nursing degree? You a whiz with money? How about honing those natural abilities with online finance courses? Do you like to get into others’ heads and help them understand their habits, patterns and behaviors? Then an online psychology degree is a good course of action for you. Are you naturally good with numbers? Is arithmetic fun for you? Take a step to the next level with an online math degree. You many more options too. You can try some online education courses, a paralegal degree, an online science degree, trade degree, mba degree, marketing degree, IT degree, human resources degree…alright, you get the picture. Just know, whatever you want to do, you can learn about online.

Another common tendency we have when even when we see a plethora of opportunities before us, we may have even narrowed it down, is to give ourselves a list of reasons why we can’t do whatever it is. We may use the excuse of not enough time or not enough money. We may think we don’t have the staying power or attention. While any or all of these may be true, those who accomplish their goals don’t let the initial gaps in reality verses needs stop them. They determine where they need to go and figure out how to accomplish the rest along the way. They say that he who had a strong enough why can accomplish anyhow. If school’s not in your immediate cards, don’t make excuses, just make a choice not to go. When it IS in your cards however, make a firm decision and stick with it.

Now that you seen that there are many degrees for you to choose from you, have let go of all your excuses for not moving forward let me share with you one last idea for facing your fears. One thing that is an important aspect for many who want to keep moving forward in a path they’ve chosen is surrounding themselves with people who support their decisions. Being with other students, going to some online school forums, making a connection with a career counselor or academic advisor are good activities for those who want to maintain momentum.

Querying Other Online College Students

When the search is on for a good online college program you’re going to want to get the broadest possible idea of what that programs is like. While academic advisors and instructors have a vested interest in seeing their program survive, other students who have taken classes can be more open about their experience with the program.

There’s a good chance that the institution will not readily share with you names of their students, but they may have an alumni or graduate club that you could visit and ask students about their experience with said online college. The school may even have a program where they get testimonies from students. Chances are these students are only going to say good things, but do your best here are some questions you can ask a student or past student. You may even try posting these questions on an online forum such as Yahoo Answers to see if anyone else has attended the online college in question.

Start with a general open-ended question to let them lead the conversation such as, “What was it like attending this school?” By starting here you let the student give you what stands out in their mind. This is valuable information.

What was your favorite thing about this school or program? If they don’t have something that stood out as great, then you may have some clue into the program. Then again, you may also be getting some insight into the student themselves. Try to distinguish between an overall downer attitude about school and a negative experience with this college in particular.

Was there anything you would change or didn’t like? It’s more probable than not you’ll get an answer to this. No program can please everyone all the time. Even if they aren’t passionately against this or that aspect of the program, they are likely to share with you some candid things for you to consider.

On a scale of 1-10 how good do feel the curriculum is? Would you recommend it to others? If you contacted this student through the university’s testimonial group, chances are they’ll say yes, but you can ask them to share why they gave the answer they did. This will help dive deeper into their overall experience.

How would you rate the instructors? Keep in mind that even students can have a slanted view of the class or instructor. If they didn’t get along with the teacher that doesn’t mean that the teacher is a poor teacher, it could mean that the student is very disagreeable, didn’t do homework and expected to still get a good grade. Try to get a sense of the student’s motive behind their response.

These and other questions can give you a good sense of a student’s experience in the online college you are looking into. Feel free to come up with some of your own and make sure to thank them for their time. Most students are willing to share with you what they thought of a class. Take it for what it’s worth, combine it with the other information you are getting and let it help you settle on the college experience that’s right for you.

7 MORE Questions to Ask Your Online College’s Academic Advisor

In another article “7 Questions to Ask Your Online College’s Academic Advisor” I shared a list of questions to take with you when speaking with your list of prospective online college’s academic advisors. Grab this list too you’ll have a great bunch of questions that will prepare you for what lies ahead.

  1. What’s the registration deadline? Don’t feel rushed into making this decision. The next set of classes may start tomorrow, but if you don’t feel good about it, don’t commit. Investigate your choices thoroughly and then decide.
  2. How soon do classes start? Some online schools have more flexible start dates than regular universities. Traditionally there are less than a handful of start times throughout the year.  If your online program is an accelerated one or if you’re working on a self-paced course or certification you may be able to start at any time, but find out.
  3. Is graduation a static or flexible date? Do they offer a one size fits all approach where everyone that starts at the same time graduates together? Or can you speed things up a bit by taking the classes as fast as you can learn?
  4. What are your class sizes? If a class is too large you may not be able to get needed attention from professors. Between 12 & 25 is ideal, if it’s much more you may wish to find out if there are helpers for the instructors to make sure you don’t get neglected.
  5. How many weeks are the semesters/terms? Life is more than education. You may have other plans already set in motion such as a marriage or big trip. I don’t think you should personally cancel those things for school, so if you can’t give school relatively full attention for the time period then plan on it at a later date.
  6. Do you offer refunds? Most institutions offer full refunds if something happens after you begin and decide to drop out or postpone your classes. Just because you never know when something will happen that will take priority over school, ask to see if they will allow you to defer your education, get refunded, etc. Don’t expect a refund if you’ve finished half the semester and then decide to call it quits, by this point they’ve already invested time and money into you.
  7. What’s in the fine print? Sometimes fees or other requirements won’t be explicit in the literature you receive on a website or brochure. Make sure to ask if the total cost includes services for offline students that you won’t be using or if you’ll be expected to purchase anything in addition to your tuition.

These are some questions that will help you understand better what you’re getting into. Make sure to ask them or find them in the prospective student literature. They may forget to mention some of their policies before you register, but be assured that you will be expected to abide by them once you begin. Good luck!