Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Cost of College

The United States is infamous for its exorbitant college tuition fees. According to a 2014/15 report, the average tuition at an American four-year college can cost up to $31,000 per year. Going by this amount, an American college student can spend well over $100,000 dollars just in tuition, not counting textbooks and housing, among other basic living expenses. For young adults (and really, all adults for that matter), this is an impossible sum of money to rake together over a four-year time span. Most students get loans, which means there’s an additional cost in terms of interest. And that’s just the monetary cost of college.

On top of the high dollar amount it costs to get a degree, college also has high emotional and mental costs. Students spend a lot of their time doing homework and going to class, precariously balancing their various other life responsibilities with their school related commitments. While in college, extracurricular educational pursuits and hobbies take a back seat to class assignments. College often becomes an all-consuming life style choice motivated by the pursuit of financial rewards, rather than a meaningful scholarly journey to reach an intellectual goal.

But I’m going to start first by looking at the monetary cost of college. Before anything else, I want to say that there are a number of options (other than loans) that allow students to spend less money on a college degree. One less expensive way to earn a degree is to go to a community college (like Mid-Plains) before enrolling at a four-year college. The 2014/15 report mentioned above shows that community colleges charge an average of $3,347 per year in tuition, which is significantly less than the average tuition at a four-year university. By getting a two-year degree first, students can bypass one or two years of high priced tuition at a four-year university, meaning lower overall costs.

However, despite the fact that the average college in the U.S. charges high tuition rates, there are exceptions to the rule. In today’s day and age, students can go to school wherever they want by enrolling in a college far from home or even going to school online. There are a ton of options for earning a college degree in the United States. With some research, students looking for affordable degree programs can find colleges with cheaper tuition across the country, and online.

However, for the more adventurous types, there is a way to get a college education entirely for free. Many northern European countries, like Germany, Norway, and Finland offer free tuition to their college students, both international and domestic. A lot of universities require a small enrollment fee, but after that, college is free of charge. At the end of this article is a link to a website with some additional information on countries that offer free college tuition. And yes, quite a few of these free college degrees are taught entirely in English.

So ultimately, the high monetary cost of college can be solved with some research and resourcefulness, and a little bit of imagination. But how does one deal with the emotional cost of college?

Honestly, I think the answer is different for everyone. Different people do different things to ease emotional stress. For example, whenever I feel myself starting to freak out about an assignment, I listen to some music while I work to calm my thoughts down. If I have a lot of stress about an upcoming week, I go for a jog or take a relaxing bath to figure out what exactly is stressing me out, and then tackle the problem head on. These are just a few of the things that I do to cope with the emotional stress caused by going to college. Sometimes I need a break from an intense homework session, so I go fill my water bottle and spend a minute or two staring off into space. Or I take the time to set a schedule that factors in hobbies and fun activities to keep my life balanced.

For most people, college isn’t the only thing going on in their lives; they have commitments to family and friends, responsibilities at work, and relationships to tend to in their off-time. Having a life and getting a degree is often a delicate balancing act that can be tilted one way or another at any moment, resulting in some sort of stress or emotional chaos.

The costs of college, both emotional and financial, although difficult to deal with are opportunities for learning. College has given me the chance to explore stress and emotional chaos, and figure it out how to handle them for myself. The high monetary cost of college in the United States has opened up other possibilities that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought of, like getting a college degree overseas or entirely online. Although I’ve learned a lot from my college classes, I’ve found so far that the real learning in college isn’t at all about book subjects; it’s about oneself.


Bridgestock, Laura. (1/30/2015) Top Universities. How Much Does it Cost to Study in the US? Retrieved on 11/18/2015 from:http://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/student-finance/how-much-does-it-cost-study-us

Lydian Shipp

Webzine Team Member

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Struggles of Full-Term Classes

The beginning of each new term is a fresh start, and new classes have immense potential. Even if I’m not initially interested in a particular class, I might find out by the end of the term that I want to pursue that particular subject even further. At the same time, classes I’d thought would be interesting can be disappointing. The anticipation is often hard to deal with, especially in the week leading up to the beginning of the new term. I wait on pins and needles for my textbooks, and then I wait some more until the syllabus shows up on Blackboard. And then finally the new term is in session, and I start down the 16-week long path toward finishing my newest batch of classes.

My hopeful, optimistic attitude toward my new classes usually lasts for the first five weeks of the term. I like to call this period of time the “Honeymoon Phase.” During the Honeymoon Phase, my assignment completion behaviors are radically different from the rest of the term. I work ahead in my classes, tirelessly completing assignment after assignment, and imbibing homework with my own personal touch and an extra amount of effort. I call this period of time the Honeymoon Phase mostly because of the fact that nothing can destroy my optimism, not even a heavy assignment load or a teacher that lacks communication skills. I dismiss any problems with the teacher as unintentional miscommunication, and I welcome the idea of challenging, time-consuming assignments. But at five weeks, everything changes.

At week five, homework becomes less fun, and more work. I start spending extra amounts of time on things like brushing my teeth and making breakfast to avoid the inevitable fact that I will have to do my homework at some point. And when I do start on my assignments, my focus is on getting things done rather than making them the best I can. However, five weeks into my classes, the positive attitude that I had at the beginning of the term lingers in my consciousness. Between five and nine weeks, things aren’t so bad. I procrastinate, but not a lot, and despite the fact that I don’t really want to do my homework, I still find the class material relatively interesting. At this time, I wonder if I’ll be able to keep up a positive outlook on my classes until the end of the term, and end the term without any negative feelings whatsoever.

I haven’t had this experience yet.

By the middle of term, sometime around week nine, I’ve had enough. I wake up in the morning, and instead of looking forward to sitting down at my computer to do my homework, all I feel is dread. I still work to make sure my homework fulfills the criteria, but all in all, I’m really working to just “get it done.” Sometimes I have some fun doing certain assignments, and wish I could spend more time on them, but this doesn’t happen very often. I have to really like the class and the homework, or honestly, I just don’t care and I want the term to be over with. By the middle of the term, I’ve usually started counting down the days until the end of the term.

After the mid-point of the term passes, my perspective on the term doesn’t change much. I continue feeling dread toward doing my homework, I try to get things done as fast as possible without skipping over any important criteria, and I check my calendar daily to see how many days are left until the end of the term. And though I know at the beginning of the term that I will reach a point when I’m not interested in my classes anymore, I still start off being excited. I really enjoy the first five weeks of my classes, and have a lot of fun with my assignments. After five weeks though, I feel disenchanted, and usually would much rather explore the subject material without homework hanging over my head. Or I just feel disenchanted because I’m not interested in the class material, and never was.

Ultimately though, I look back on all the classes I’ve taken, and I’m glad that I took them, even if they were difficult to get through. After I get some distance from that term’s classes, I realize that I learned a lot more that I thought that I did, and that actually, I had fun. Instead of being annoyed by the heavy assignment load in one class, or the teacher that was hard to deal with, I feel proud of myself for finishing the class. I know that taking difficult classes that have frustrating “I-don’t-think-I-can-do-this” moments isn’t exactly a traditional definition of fun, but they are interesting, and definitely keep my attention occupied. So even when I become uninterested, and I don’t wanna do my homework anymore, I try to remember that at some point I’ll look back and be amazed at what I learned. So when the going gets rough, I’ve just got to keep going, because it will pay off in the end.

Lydian Shipp

Webzine Team Member

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Book Knowledge vs. Experience

Throughout the world, people preach about the benefits of going to college. In third world countries, parents hope their children will go to school to become lawyers and doctors. In Europe and the United States, parents have an expectation that their children will get a college degree. College everywhere is held up as the all-important icon of education. Not to say that it’s not important; college has the potential to dramatically increase an individual’s book knowledge. But what about real life experience? People usually don’t talk about what can be gained from experience in the real world. Experience and book knowledge are two sides of the same coin: learning. And learning inside and outside of a college setting can look very different.

My experience in college has been that classes are focused on reading, and enforcing the book knowledge aspect of learning. I’m expected to apply the information that I read about by writing a paper or answering an essay question rather than by interacting directly with the subject. Learning in college occurs more through reading and lectures less than through personal experiences. Not to underestimate the importance of book learning, however. Book learning is like the foundation for all other learning. Books allow us to learn from other people’s experiences, instead of having to go through a series of trials and tribulations to get to the information. If every time we wanted to learn something we had to go out and figure it out entirely on our own (without books), the world would be a very different place.

However, despite the fact that college classes focus primarily on learning through reading, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any hands on learning opportunities in college. There are fewer than in the “real” world, but most college instructors incorporate some sort of hands on learning experience into their curriculum.

I should probably clarify what I mean by “hands on” learning.

By “hands on” learning, I mean where a person has some sort of personal experience with the subject they’re learning about. The personal experience can range from a simple thought about what they’re reading to actually interacting with the information, like in the case of reading about a country versus visiting the country itself. So in a college setting, hands-on experience could come in the form of writing an opinion-based paper, all the way to interacting directly with the subject material discussed in the textbook. For me, having hands on experience with a subject helps me remember information and be able to apply it in the future.

I was homeschooled, so when I was younger I had a lot of hands on learning opportunities. I practiced my fractions by baking with my dad and learned about the atmosphere by documenting the weather and cloud activity where I lived. Yes, I did read books (lots of books), but what really made the information stick in my head were the hands on experiences that I had. Interacting with what I was learning opened up other possibilities for learning, and I formed connections between a variety of subjects. For example, baking was rarely just about fractions; I learned something about chemistry, and got to practice my reading skills too.

I like to compare the difference between book knowledge and experience to traveling. A person can study Egyptology in college, but until the person actually goes to Egypt, they won’t know the smells and sounds along the Nile or the feel of the streets of Cairo beneath their feet. Although people don’t usually acknowledge these experiences as being as educational as going to college, I believe that they hold equal significance and importance.

So learning is more complicated that just going to college and getting a degree. I have to go out into the world and work to learn and remember what I’m learning. So, whenever I can, I immerse myself in whatever I’m learning about in my college classes. I develop my own opinion, and have experiences with the subject. The whole point of college is to increase one’s abilities and book knowledge, after all, so why not go for it and really learn?

Lydian Shipp

Webzine Team Member

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Doing Homework While Distracted or Otherwise Occupied

Homework is frustrating enough on its own without any distractions, but a minor life-catastrophe can make homework into an overwhelming problem. For instance, if my computer dies and I lose an almost finished project, or something goes wrong with the program I’m using, homework can go from frustrating to maddening. If I come down with a fever and I feel slightly delirious, my homework pile can seem insurmountable. The list goes on, and when I consider all the various distractions that can happen in life, it’s easy to imagine how having homework can easily escalate into a full-fledged crisis.

But what is a distraction? By my definition, a distraction is any non-homework related issue or interference that gets in the way of my ability to complete an assignment. Based on this definition, I like to classify distractions into two groups: external and internal.

External distractions are self-explanatory. Anything non-homework related that gets in the way of doing assignments is an “external distraction.” One distraction that I run into a lot (those who don’t own cats probably won’t be able to relate) is when my cat walks in front of my computer screen, or decides to cough up a fur ball when I’m in the middle of a thought or have just gotten into a workflow. A possibly more relatable example would be a phone call or a text from a friend in the midst of a heavy homework session.

I’ve found that the best way to deal with an external distraction is to take care of them immediately, if possible. For instance, if the phone rings, I can either take the call or turn the ringer off. Obviously, some external distractions can’t be dealt with, like loud construction projects going on nearby, or a catfight right outside my window. I usually deal with these sorts of things by putting my headphones in and trying to drone out the noise, and if I can, I move to a new, less distracting location.

Internal distractions, on the other hand, are persistent thoughts that refuse to be ignored. In my opinion, this is the most bothersome type of distraction. Whenever I have an internal distraction begging for my attention, I try to address it right away so that I can continue working on my project. Sometimes I go for a short walk to work through some of my thoughts. Other times, I stare off into space for a couple of moments. Some thoughts require more attention than others, but if I take a short break to at least work through my thoughts somewhat, my work goes more smoothly and is usually of a higher quality.

Distractions, although not directly related to homework, add to the stress of deadlines. I know that in any given hour that I’m working on an assignment, it’s likely I’ll get interrupted by some distraction. Some days are better than others, but it’s rare for me to get into a workflow that’s totally focused and free of external distractions.

Every week when I sit down and work out my schedule, I take into account all of the distractions and inhibitions that might arise while I’m working on my schoolwork. The way I prioritize my homework assignments is often based on two things: 1) the amount of resistance I have toward doing certain projects and 2) what homework assignments can be done efficiently even with numerous distractions. Most often, the last thing on my list of priorities is whichever assignment can be done even with frequent interruptions and distractions. Then, if something comes up and I can’t work on said project for an extended period of time, I can stuff work time into gaps in my day and I’ll still be able to finish the project. Meanwhile, the assignments that require the most concentration tend to go further at the top of my list of priorities.

Ultimately though, factoring in the potential distractions and interruptions that could happen in any given day is practically impossible. There are set times when I know I won’t be able to work on homework, like when I’m in transit to a class or appointment. I can work with these interruptions pretty easily by planning my homework schedule around them. It’s the unforeseen distractions and interruptions that are annoying. They slow down my workflow, interfere with my ability to think straight, and even lessen the quality of my work.

But distractions aren’t all bad. They are frustrating, no doubt about that, but they’re a part of life. I’ll probably always have to grapple with distractions, and find ways to get around them as obstacles. College is like a training ground that lets me safely and comfortably practice working with distractions before I go out into the real world where I’ll have to deal with distractions within the context of whatever work I do. I prefer to look at the distractions that arise when I’m doing my homework as an opportunity to practice self-control and discipline, rather than as a major interference. After all, the distractions aren’t going to go away anytime soon.

Lydian Shipp

Webzine Team Member