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What is the Hardest Year of High School?

Ask four recent graduates which year of high school was hardest for them, and chances are you’ll get four different answers. Each year of high school brings its own set of unique challenges that students have to prepare for.

On top of those challenges comes external stressors and expectations. Add in the pressure from parents to get good grades, college applications, and heaps of extracurriculars, and it’s no wonder 70% of teens say anxiety is a major problem among peers.

While each year of high school will have its own stressors, many will say junior year is the most challenging. Junior year can be the hardest for several reasons, but with the right prep and expectations, high school students can make the hardest year just a little easier.

Why Every Year Matters

People might say junior year is the hardest year of high school, but that’s not an excuse to cruise though the other three years.

Freshman and sophomore year are building opportunities. In these two years, many students will take prerequisite courses and join extracurriculars they’ll carry out the rest of their high school career.

During freshman year especially, students will have to adjust to high school and its academic rigor. Getting good grades and getting involved in activities during the first two years of high school can help set the pattern for the next two years.

Lots of students may claim that senior year is the time to sit back and take it easy. So common is this assumption that lots of seniors claim their final year of high school is the “senior slump.”

But, letting grades slide in senior year can spell trouble for plans post graduation. Admission to college, even if already granted, could be rescinded if a senior underperforms in their senior year. Grades senior year still matter.

Why Junior Year Can Be the Most Challenging

Every year of high school is important, but a student’s junior year has its own set of unique challenges and hardships. Here’s what can make junior year tougher than the rest:

Course Load

Junior year is the time to shine before students apply to college. It’s the last full academic year of grades a university will receive before deciding to accept or reject a student. Students may elect to take their most challenging course load during their junior year to show colleges that they’re capable of academic rigor.

Some students may be enrolled in advanced placement (AP) courses. AP classes give college students the chance to tackle college-level material, while still in high school. At the end of an AP course, students can choose to take the AP exams. Scores from those tests may grant students college credits, so they can skip out of basic courses in their first years on campus.

Junior year can be an academic step-up for high school students if they decide to take advanced classes. In addition to harder classes, there’s a pressure to get good grades in them, because it can be an indicator of performance for colleges.

Tests

On top of AP tests, juniors have more key tests to prepare for. Each test comes with its own strategies and approaches, meaning specialized study and prep. A junior might prepare for and take these tests during the year:

AP Tests. As mentioned above, if a student decides to take an AP course, they can choose to take the corresponding AP tests as well.

PSAT/NMSQT. Students can take the Preliminary SAT or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test as early as their sophomore year of school, but many take it their junior year. The PSAT/NMSQT has two sections; math, and reading/writing. Scores fall between 160 and 760.

Offered in October each year, the PSAT doesn’t impact college admissions like the SAT, but it can help students qualify for National Merit Scholarships if they receive a certain score. Students are not required to take the PSAT test, but it can be one way to prepare for the SATs and potentially qualify for scholarship.

SAT/ACT. Scores from either the SAT or ACT test are required by many colleges for admission. But, even if they’re not required by a college, a strong SAT or ACT score can give a student a leg up in the application process.

Most high school students choose to take the SAT or ACT tests in the spring of their junior year or the fall of senior year. Both tests have certain quirks and strategies associated with them, so the key to getting a great score may mean lots of preparation.
Some juniors choose to take rigors in person prep courses or take several practice tests before sitting for the exam.

SAT Subject Tests. Different from the standard SAT, subject tests can help students showcase a strength in one particular subject on their college application. There are 20 different subject tests offered over five areas of study. Tacking on a subject test to a college application may help bolster a student’s resume.

Subject tests are shorter than the SATs, and are offered several times a year. Prepping for a subject test isn’t the same as standard SAT prep. Prep is different depending on the topic.

College prep

Juniors not only have more academic pressure on them and tests to prepare for, but many will add college prep to their extracurriculars. Whether that means spending weekends touring campuses or researching schools at night, finding a school that’s the right fit can take up a considerable amount of time.

There’s no one way to ensure the right fit for all students. Some may choose a campus based on their desired degree, others for proximity to home or budget. No matter the motivator, finding the right school can take time.

There’s no doubt junior year has a lot going on. The challenge comes not only from the rigor, but also the pressure associated with making some big life choices. Freshman and sophomore year have their fair share of challenges, but junior year will test the habits of students—pushing them to work harder academically and personally.

Making the Harder Stuff Easier with SoFi

Junior year may present a variety of challenges, but figuring out a way to pay for college shouldn’t have to be one of them. As early as junior year, students can start considering the cost of college, and the ways to pay for it.

Taking time to learn about student loans during college prep can help give juniors a better sense of what lies ahead of them. After applying for federal loans and aid, they might need to evaluate additional options to pay for their tuition. That could mean picking up a part-time or summer job, or researching scholarships or grants that can help pay tuition. It’s important a student knows their full menu of options to pay for school before committing to anyone strategy.

Another option available are private student loans. SoFi’s private student loans come with no fees and a simple online platform that allows students to repay their loans their way. It’s worth noting that students generally exhaust all other options before borrowing a private student loan.

Junior year may be the hardest year of high school, but student loans don’t have to be another hurdle.

Learn more about private student loan options offered by SoFi.



SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Do College Rankings Matter?

All articles about college rankings should perhaps be read with a grain of salt and primarily through a lens of what matters most to individuals about the college experience and what they’re hoping it will be an investment toward.

Prominent publications and people have conveyed a variety of views about whether college rankings matter:

The editor-in-chief of the Science Family of Journals said no in May 2020. “To any logical scientific observer, the fine distinctions of where schools show up on this (U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges) list are statistically meaningless—but try telling that to a roomful of alumni or parents,” H. Holden Thorp wrote.

Ian Bogost, distinguished chair at Georgia Tech, wrote in The Atlantic in June 2020: “The absurdity of a numerical ranking mechanism for colleges becomes apparent the moment you look at how U.S. News calculates it. The methodology reads like a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet: 8% for class size; 10% for high-school-class standing; 4.4% for first-to-second-year student retention, and so on.”

But just because the consensus leans toward “no” doesn’t mean it should be the last word on anyone’s ultimate decision about where to go to school.

Even U.S. News & World Report says on its best-colleges website: “The rankings provide a good starting point for students trying to compare schools. … The best school for each student, experts say, is one that will most completely meet his or her needs, which go beyond academics.”

What Are the College Rankings?

There is no single, ultimate, etched-in-stone set of college rankings. All over the world, there are entities using a wide array of criteria to appraise universities.

Rather than expecting a “yes” or “no” to the question of whether college rankings matter, it would be more beneficial to understand why “It depends” could be more appropriate.

If you’re aiming for an education from a prestigious school, and money is no object—well, first of all, congratulations and good luck.

Often, when college rankings come out from, for example, the National Center for Education Statistics—the primary federal entity for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data related to education in the United States and other nations—they’re looking at things like how future earnings from certain types of degrees from certain types of schools actually shake out along gender and other demographic lines.

In other words, they look at how college degrees pan out for real people in the real world.

But this is part of where “It depends” comes into play with assessing what the NCES or any other entity’s ratings say:

Do you know why you’re going to college, full stop? Do you know why you’re considering the schools you’re thinking about? Is how much you might earn from your degree a priority?

Is making the alumni connections that could set you up for success throughout your life the deciding factor?

Your answers to these questions—and more—may not be part of a college ranking list’s considerations whatsoever.

Before being inundated by college rankings and thinking about long-term goals and your budget, it probably would be wise to reflect on what you want out of a college.

It’s worth musing on your “best fit” college choices and how many schools to apply to.

While you’re doing so much big-picture thinking, it wouldn’t hurt to also give this ultimate college application checklist a glance as well.

Any decision about college likely will not be reached in a single sitting, so it’s also probably a good idea to bookmark and wade around in materials that even at first blush seem even halfway interesting or relevant.

Even if you wind up going with your first choice, in the end you’ll be able to feel that much more confident for giving the decision the deliberation it deserves.

What Really Matters

Although many groups rank colleges, commonly “college rankings” refers to the U.S. News & World Report list, which rewards graduation rates and reputation.

But there’s also The Princeton Review, which drills down on other factors like quality of life, extracurriculars, social scene, and town life—all aspects that reflect more on the student body being served than the quality of the institution.

Even these popular lists have no objective ultimate importance in your final decision—to wit, The Princeton Review also ranks “party schools,” a list “based on student ratings concerning the use of alcohol and drugs at their school, the number of hours they study each day outside of class time, and the popularity of fraternities/sororities at their school.”

Your mileage and what you are looking to get out of the college experience will most definitely vary.

If you have a lot of money, tons of connections, and a spotless academic record, then all things really are equal—you can probably pick any school you want.

But for others, who understand that all things are not equal, and are likely to have different priorities, it may be best to consider these lists at something of a distance.

If any of these lists and the metrics are appealing, that’s great. But make sure to read the fine print and think through the different standards of measurement—does reputation matter to all employers?

Is a small class size important to you when you understand that it can be a more intimate—but also potentially intimidating—learning environment?

Instead of placing absolute importance on any single, general list, it might be better to seek out lists more targeted to majors.

For example, use your favorite search engine to find lists of the best biology or microbiology programs.

Are you expecting to embark on a field where your future network will be important? Use that same method to find lists on the strength of different alumni networks.

Are you planning to go to grad school? If so, add “grad school” to those previous queries.

It’s helpful to look at and understand where value is being assigned on the broader lists, but the ones more directly related to your current goals are more likely to be more helpful—at least in terms of questions to ask academic or tuition advisors.

It might also be worth looking at 10 ways to prepare for college to help in brainstorming these kinds of questions.

The Bottom-Line Question

No discussion of college would be complete without touching on what you can afford to spend. Is $25,000, $50,000, or $100,000 or more in student loans worth it?

Projected earnings, length of education, and career choice can influence the answer.

Of people with $10,000 to $25,000 of student loan debt, 22% were behind on payments, but among those with $100,000 of student loan debt or more, only 16% were behind, according to a recent Federal Reserve survey of the economic well-being of U.S. households.

Applying for federal student aid via the FAFSA®—which considers eligibility for grants, federal student loans, and work-study programs—is the first step for most high school students planning to attend college, but even after scholarships, federal aid, and any college savings plans, many students come up short when all education expenses are tallied.

SoFi has several options for private student loans, which come with competitive rates, flexible repayment options, no origination or late fees, and a slew of benefits for SoFi members.

One of those perks is complimentary access to Edmit Plus, a tool that estimates financial aid, compares cost of attendance, and offers information about merit aid and scholarships available.

See if a private student loan from SoFi is a good fit.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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How College Financial Aid Works

It doesn’t matter whether you’re the student or the parents wading through college application and tuition figures: Going to college is a huge life decision, almost always synonymous with huge sticker shock.

U.S. News & World Report clocks the average tuition cost among public and private institutions as slowly but steadily increasing annually: $36,801 for private schools, $22,577 for public schools as an out-of-state student, and $10,116 for public schools as an in-state student.

Tuition, it should be noted, does not include room and board and other living expenses, so it’s no wonder that as of 2019 there is approximately $1.6 trillion in student loan debt nationwide—it all adds up, quickly.

Fortunately, there are financial aid systems in place for college students to help offset all those accumulating costs. Unless you’re expecting a huge inheritance or some unexpected windfall, going to college will likely mean coming up with a game plan to make it possible.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to help familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of college financial aid.

NOTE: Many colleges and college students are influx due to COVID-19 regarding their upcoming academic calendar, whether classes will be taught face-to-face or online, and how this may or may not impact tuition—which in turn may or may not impact financial aid policies. This article is a general guide to help both students and parents get acquainted with how to get financial aid for college and devising strategies to make college a stronger possibility for those who want to attend and earn degrees.

What Is Financial Aid, Anyway?

Broadly speaking, the term “financial aid” refers to any number of funding channels that are available to assist students to cover the many costs incurred by pursuing a post-secondary school degree.

Financial aid is available from federal and state governments, educational institutions, and private organizations. It can also be awarded in the form of loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs.

Schools don’t typically expect enrollees to cover college costs from their savings and income alone. According to the 2019 Sallie Mae/Ipsos survey “How America Pays for College ,” the typical family covered 25% of college costs with scholarships and grants.

This 25% can come in the form of many different potential resources. There isn’t necessarily a “best” option, since selecting the one (hopefully ones) that can help bolster your future college plans comes down to the financial aid’s availability of funds, your goals, and your plans.

Also, the amount of aid a student can potentially receive varies depending on federal, state, and institutional guidelines. Additionally, the type of aid determines whether it will have to be repaid: federal grants don’t need to be repaid, for example, but a loan will.

Should you be fortunate enough to be awarded federal financial aid, you’ll receive a financial aid award letter. These can be confusing to decipher, but this guide to navigating it could come in handy.

In sum: Just because an offer is being made doesn’t mean you have to accept it and there isn’t wiggle room to argue for reconsideration.

This Offer Letter Decoder created by non-profit news site The Hechinger Report could be a helpful tool to help demystify an offer letter. SoFi also has resources with information on financial aid secrets worth reviewing if you’re pursuing college financial aid. And if you are in a position to accept financial aid, here’s a guide on how your financial aid potentially may shift year-to-year as a student.

It is also worth noting that the Sallie Mae/Ipsos survey taps into four strategies that some families may consider to help mediate college costs, even if they aren’t quite ready to apply for financial aid. These include things like enrolling in advanced placement courses, dual-enrolling in community college, or investing in talents to increase the chances of earning a scholarship.

Federal Student Aid

Here’s the first spoonful of alphabet soup: FAFSA®, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is often the first step when exploring federal financial aid for college. It’s an application used by many colleges, universities, and state agencies in deciding who gets aid—and how much. (Private colleges use a supplemental form called the College Scholarship Service Profile, or CSS, which is more detailed and can be more time-consuming to complete.)

The form itself is not overly cumbersome, but the US Department of Education includes a guide on what to do if you’re unsure how to fill in any of the blanks on your FAFSA. The important thing to keep in mind with the FAFSA are its deadlines.

The Federal Student Aid office advises filling out its form as soon as possible if you’re even loosely considering applying for federal financial aid.

There’s a run-down of the deadlines here , but the key ones for the 2020-2021 academic year, for example, is June 30, 2021 to submit your FAFSA, and the window for corrections or updates is by 11:59 p.m. Central Time, September 11, 2021. Note that each state and college may have its own deadlines on top of that.

The general recommendation to fill out the form as soon as possible should not be overlooked: Both the federal government and various states award financial aid that may include grants and scholarships which, if you qualify for, won’t have to be repaid.

Some states award aid on a first come basis, so submitting a FAFSA application early could be helpful. Another wrinkle to keep in mind is FAFSA is not an island unto itself. Many colleges use the FAFSA to in turn determine how much financial aid to award to students, if any.

A FAFSA application is also a pre-requirement to be considered for federal grants like the Pell Grant, which is “usually awarded only to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.”

The grant does not need to be repaid, though eligibility is based on a family’s expected family contribution (which is information that is supplied via the FAFSA).

FAFSA’s website has a comprehensive list of federal grants offered by the U.S. Department of Education, with options for military veterans and teachers. This one-sheeter has a quick overview of various federal grants available, thoughtfully condensed into an at-a-glance rundown.

Finally, federal work-study programs are available to eligible college students, providing part-time jobs to help pay for education expenses. Such programs usually encourage community service work and work related to the expected course of study. Here’s studentaid.gov’s official site tackling the FAQs of these highly variable programs.

State-Based Student Aid

Depending on where your school is, you’ll have many different options when it comes to getting the money you need to pay for school. SoFi has a state-by-state breakdown of grants, scholarships, and other information like average local student loan debt to keep in mind as your search continues.

Because there is so much variability across each state, one good thing to remember is to read the materials you come across when applying for state-level aid carefully, thoroughly, and repeatedly—including the fine print. Some aid opportunities have residency requirements, and some schools may also offer state-based aid or discounts.

Other Sources for College Financial Aid

A two-sided coin that factors into one of many, many ways to approach financial aid for college is need-based federal student aid versus merit-based aid.

Some federal aid is need-based—like the Pell Grant and Direct Subsidized Loans (more on this loan type below)—meaning eligibility is based solely on the assets and income of the prospective student and their family. Factors like test scores or athletic ability, for example, have no bearing here.

The reverse is true for merit-based scholarships, which can include a wide variety of talents and interests: artistic, academic, athletic, etc.

Publishing an exhaustive list of literally every merit- and need-based aid opportunity would be near impossible, so one of the best options to find information on them is to speak to someone in admissions or to your guidance counselor who can point you to ones that might apply or often apply based on their curricula, programs, school, or state.

There are tons of online scholarship search sites out there, and dedicating some time to finding and applying as many as make sense for you can be a valuable way to spend some time—and can hopefully help you pay for some of your education expenses.

Federal Student Loans

Most students’ federal financial aid packages include federal student loans, which are awarded based on financial need and the cost of attending college. These include Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and Direct PLUS Loans.

The advantages of federal student loans include low, fixed interest rates, no credit checks required to borrow them, unique borrower protections (like forbearance and deferment), and repayment plans based on income and/or your commitment to eligible public service work post-graduation.

With Direct Subsidized Loans , the government pays the interest while the student is attending school at least half-time. That’s what the “subsidized” means here. These loans are awarded based on financial need.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans are awarded regardless of financial need, but borrowers are responsible for paying the interest on these loans from the moment you get them—or you can defer interest payments and the total that adds up will be added back onto the loan principal (that is, the total base sum you were awarded) for you to repay.

This capitalized interest can lead to you paying substantially more for the money you borrowed, because the total dollar amount of interest you didn’t pay is added onto the total amount of the loan you took out in the first place, and then you have to pay interest on THAT new total.

Direct PLUS Loans are also unsubsidized, and are awarded to either eligible graduate students or parents of undergraduate students and require a credit check to ensure there’s no “adverse credit history.” In short, that means they can be more difficult to qualify for as compared to Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Private Student Loans

If your federal student aid package and other forms of funding don’t quite cover your cost of attending college, there are also private student loans to consider.

The details on private student loans vary, because the terms and criteria will depend on both the individual lenders and the circumstances of the borrowers.

But if there’s any general way private student loans might be more appealing is because they, unlike some federal loans, can be made up in amounts up to 100% of the cost of college tuition and living expenses. (SoFi offers no-fee private student loans.)

Financial Aid Isn’t Just Loans

There’s a whole rainbow of options available to people who want to go to college and aren’t sure how they’ll ever be able to afford it. There are many more loans and programs that are available than listed here—but a good starting strategy is to see how much financial aid you can receive that does not require repayment, and if you come up short, start weighing your options.

Along with scholarships and state-based grants, start with the FAFSA because federal aid packages will likely have the best terms for students—and because it’s a requirement for many other aid options.

If you wind up coming short even with everything from here, private student loans can help fill in the gap. And, in addition to all these options, SoFi offers competitive, no-fee private student loans for undergrads, grads, and parents.

SoFi can make the process of paying for school and getting aid more stress-free with private student loans.



External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Is it Possible to Take Online Classes While Working?

College can be one of life’s biggest investments. And, earning a degree or certificate is an important step forward down many career paths.

Millions of students work to cover expenses and gain on-the-job experience while furthering their education—with some reports showing eight in 10 students working during their post-secondary programs.

Balancing the competing demands of coursework and a job can be a challenge, especially for students working full time and going to college.

There are more degree holders in the United States than ever before. Approximately 37% of U.S. adults have earned a bachelor’s degree, while over 13% have an advanced degree, such as a master’s or doctorate.

It is certainly possible to work full time while studying. Still, given the inevitable differences between schools and their program offerings, it can be a good idea to research schools (and their existing degree or certificate programs) before deciding where to attend—as tuition, topics taught, work-study options, and types of degrees being offered can vary from university to university, and from school to school.

For some learners, taking online classes while working full time is one way to fit school into an already packed schedule. In 2018, for example, nearly 7 million students were enrolled in online college classes (also known as distance learning).

If a student is figuring out how to work full time and go to school full time (or even part time), online classes are one flexible option. There are some fairly clear pros (like pre-recorded classes watchable on demand and not having to commute to campus) to taking classes online.

But, beyond scheduling flexibility, it’s likely many students still wonder: ‘What types of classes get offered online?,’ Are online courses effective?’, and ‘How to manage time while working and taking classes?’

Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of taking online classes while working full time, including strategies for juggling the demands of schooling alongside holding down a job:

Pros of Taking Online Classes

Given the time and financial investment that earning a degree can demand,
it could be helpful to weigh different schooling options before deciding whether to pursue an in-person education, online classes, or some hybrid of the two. Online classes can have distinct advantages.

Some potential pros of working towards a degree or certificate online include:

Having a Flexible Schedule

Traditionally, college and graduate school courses meet once or multiple times per week throughout a semester, trimester, summer or winter session. The length of class time varies too. For example, large lectures may only span one hour while once-per-week seminars could run for two or three hours.

If a student is taking a full-time course load, which usually constitutes a minimum of twelve credit hours, they’ll have to coordinate these blocked out class hours around their existing work schedule.

So, in-person learning, where students are expected to be in class at a set time each week, is not always the most workable solution for learners who plan to keep working while hitting the books.

For students who work full time, online classes can come with added flexibility. After all, online courses are often facilitated through pre-recorded lectures, streaming video tutorials, self-guided activities, and readings that can be done on a student’s timeframe.

In some cases, online classes do still include a certain number of live lectures or learning activities (typically hosted via streaming video) that enrolled students are expected to attend.

In those scenarios, students might opt to arrange their work schedule so they’re not scheduled on the job during the times when their online classes convene live.

Naturely, most online classes still assign weekly topics. So, students will need to consider when readings and projects are due. But, online degree programs and classes often offer a higher level of scheduling flexibility, allowing students to block out study time or “attending class” around when they’re not working.

Maintaining Location Independence

There are thousands of colleges and universities across the United States, but probably only a handful near most students’ home or place of work. While taking classes as a commuter student might be logistically possible, sticking to programs hosted by local universities might limit a student’s choice of faculty or subject areas.

Additionally, it’s possible that local options aren’t the top-ranked in a given topic—and might not even offer specific degrees or pre-professional certificates.

On the flip side, the only location required for taking online classes while working full time is a reliable internet connection and a comfortable study space. Online classes also can save students a trip to campus, giving some student workers more time to juggle post-secondary studies alongside their regular jobs.

Possibly Lower Living Expenses

Tuition is only part of the equation when calculating the total cost of attending college. Some universities may require students to live on campus for one or more years, which could carry dining hall and other fees (in addition to the base cost of living in a dorm).

Students attending four-year public universities can expect living expenses to account for 50% of the cost of education . Opting for an online degree program can help bypass some of these additional expenses.

Cons of Taking Online Classes

In addition to online learning’s merits, there are some potential cons to think through when evaluating taking online classes while working full time:

Not Every Degree or Major is Available

Colleges across the U.S. offer hundreds of majors and types of degrees. The possibility of taking online classes, as well as the number of options available, will depend on a student’s chosen field of study.

For online bachelor’s degree programs, majors focused on business and health professions are among the most commonly available. Students interested in earning a master’s degree online in business or healthcare are in luck as well. There are also opportunities to study graduate programs in education, engineering, criminal justice, and various social sciences entirely online.

Other majors and degrees, especially those that require in-person lab time or hands-on apprenticeship, such as culinary arts or chemistry, might not translate as well to an online format.

Limited Networking Opportunities

Attending college in person can provide opportunities to make friends and build relationships with professors. Building a deep social and professional network while in school may help some graduates to find internships and jobs after school ends.

Taking online classes may make it more challenging to connect with professors and fellow students, though. That being said, it’s still possible to make a strong impression on professors and peers in course assignments, presentations (whether individual or group), and written correspondences.

If a student is planning on taking online classes while also working full time in the same field (e.g., a nurse or a teacher studying for an extra certification in those professions), this potential networking disadvantage may be less of a concern—since they can still connect with fellow professionals on the job.

Strategies for Taking Online Classes

Whether a student just graduated high school or is returning to the classroom after years of working, being prepared can help adult learners get the most from their online classes—and, ideally, help to create a healthier work-life balance. Here are some key ways to prep for working full time and going to college:

Making a Schedule and Sticking to It

The flexibility of online classes can feel liberating, but those readings, online discussions, and assignments still need to be completed. Keeping one’s work schedule in mind, it can be helpful to block out some non-work hours during the week or weekend just for studying and school assignments.

It may also be helpful to think about when to get school work done. If you’re not a morning person, it’s likely you won’t be cracking the textbooks at sunrise. If you find out that your present work-school schedule is hard to sustain over time, it’s perfectly okay to go back to the drawing board.

The important thing is to find a time-management system that works for the duration of the time you’re both working and studying full time.

Starting Small

Even if students who feel confident and excited about returning to the classroom (virtual ones count, too), taking online classes while working full time may be a big adjustment.

Some online degree programs allow learners to enroll as part-time students, which can be a ‘trial-run’ opportunity—allowing enrolled workers to understand how demanding juggling school and studies can be (before paying full tuition).

Understanding how much time each online class will demand can help student-workers to be realistic about how many classes they can take each semester without burning out.

Setting Goals and Rewarding Progress

Creating achievable goals at the beginning of each class or semester is one way to stay on track, grow as a student, and measure success. Attaching a reward to these periodic goals can help many learners to stay driven and engaged.

Whether you passed your first online class or are graduating summa cum laude, you deserve to celebrate achieving your educational accomplishments—things like, passing a major certification exam or completing a big group project.

Paying for Online Classes

For some students, the cost of online education (after subtracting dorms, dining plans and transportation) can be an additional determining factor. The individual cost of online degrees and certificates will vary significantly from school to school—including price differences between public and private universities’ programs.

In some cases, online-only programs may cost less for enrolled students. In others, online classes are priced similar to their in-person counterparts.

Whether a student opts to work and go to college at the same time, how to pay for college is likely a big question. Making a plan for financing your education is one step in figuring out how to take online classes while working full time.

Completing the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) can help applicants determine how much federal student loans and grants they’re eligible to receive. Students can also explore scholarship opportunities through universities, nonprofit organizations, and private foundations for additional funding.

Many students also borrow money through private loans to pay for advancing their education. SoFi’s no-fee private student loans offer flexible repayment plans, helping students find a loan that fits their budget and financial plan. (It’s worth noting that federal student loans come with baked in benefits, like income-driven repayment or public service loan forgiveness, that are not guaranteed by private lenders).

Applying online with SoFi is free. You can find your student loan interest rates in 3 minutes or less.

Learn how SoFi’s private student loans might help pay for the full cost of attending college.



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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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Pros & Cons of Joining Greek Life

When college freshmen step foot on campus, they may go to an activity fair and see members of sororities and fraternities encouraging recruits to join. They might want to know that becoming part of Greek life can have its upsides and downsides.

Whether or not students decide to let their Greek flag fly depends on their personality, their specific situation, and their goals while they are in school. Some may find Greek life incredibly enriching, and others could decide it’s a waste of their time.

By learning what Greek life is all about, students can add that decision to their freshman checklist for the new year.

What Is Greek Life in College?

Greek life is made up of communities of students who live together, volunteer for different organizations, pursue networking opportunities, and much more. The communities consist of sororities for women and fraternities for men.

Sororities and fraternities may have various objectives, but overall they exist so that students can make meaningful connections with one another, develop leadership skills, and give back.

More than 10% of college students are members of sororities and fraternities, and these societies have 10 million-plus alumni members, according to StateUniversity.com.

Students who are interested in becoming members must apply and then go through an initiation process. Once accepted, they will live with their sorority or fraternity, usually in a house on campus, and participate in activities like sports, dances, parties, and community service opportunities.

Sorority and fraternity names consist of two or three Greek letters, like Phi Kappa Theta, Sigma Pi, or Delta Zeta, a nod to the first U.S. Greek letter society, Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary as a literary, debating, and social club.

Many students only know about sororities and fraternities from pop culture references like “Revenge of the Nerds,” “Animal House,” “Legally Blonde,” and “Old School,” which depict a perennial party.

While that is certainly true in some instances—and fraternities have come under fire for their alcohol use and hazing rituals—Greek life can be much more meaningful and beneficial than these portrayals.

Upsides of Greek Life

It isn’t all shenanigans and keggers, and maybe not even a drop in some frats and sororities. Here are some perks.

Friends

When new students first get to college, they may not know where to turn to make connections. If they become part of a sorority or fraternity, they could make many new friends right away, bond with them through different activities and social events, and remain friends for life.

Networking Opportunities

Students will also have the chance to network with their new peers. When they’re searching for internships or jobs, these connections can prove to be highly valuable.

Plus, if a job hunter lists their sorority or fraternity on a resume and a recruiter is a Greek life alumnus, that could open up a conversation and make a candidate stand out.

Possibly Cheaper Housing

Living in college dorms can be incredibly pricey. The price of room and board at public schools approaches $9,000 on average, and tops $10,000 at private schools, according to MyCollegeGuide.org.

If students are sharing a house with many members of a sorority or fraternity, they could save money.

They may also save money by having access to a full kitchen, where they can make meals instead of purchasing a meal plan or eating at restaurants all the time.

Development of Leadership Skills

Sororities and fraternities need leaders who will come up with ideas for activities, pilot volunteering efforts, and recruit members.

If members step up and decide they want to become leaders, then they are taking on new responsibilities and developing crucial skills that will be valuable when they graduate from college and start to look for jobs.

Volunteering Opportunities

Fraternities and sororities are focused on philanthropy.

Students can participate in different volunteer projects with their fellow Greek life members and contribute to making the world a better place.

Not to mention, this will look good on a resume because it shows that a student is passionate about certain causes and wants to do their part to improve the lives of others.

Potential Downsides of Greek Life

Like a toga, Greek life isn’t a good look for everyone. Here are some possible cons.

Cost

Joining a fraternity or sorority could cost thousands of dollars , and monthly dues can range from $20 to more than $200.

Local and national chapter fees are not always covered in the regular monthly dues.

And if fraternities or sororities get into trouble, members could be fined as well.

Reputation

Fraternities and sororities have gotten a bad rap from movies and TV.

Worse, students have died in hazing accidents throughout the years, leading colleges to take administrative action against fraternities especially.

Some fraternities and sororities do emphasize parties and drinking, which is all fun and games until someone begins to flunk out, becomes addicted, is involved in an assault, or is injured.

It’s best, of course, to socialize responsibly and always make academic studies the priority.

Time Commitment

Because Greek life involves so many events, and members are expected to participate, joining a sorority or fraternity means a huge time commitment.

Spending too much time on Greek life activities and not enough on studying or working at internships could have a negative impact on a student’s future.

Determining Whether or Not to Join Greek Life

Joining a fraternity or a sorority can be a great decision, especially for freshmen who may not know anyone on campus. If they are a part of Greek life, then they will stay busy, make friends, network, and contribute.

On the flipside, if they are in a campus family that is constantly throwing parties and not interested in enriching members’ lives in a meaningful way, then joining wouldn’t be a good idea.

If students don’t have the money to join or are scrambling to pay for college in general, then that’s another issue.

A private student loan can fill the gaps in the cost of attendance. Interest rates, repayment plans, and fees vary by lender. It’s best to shop around and compare.

The Takeaway

A sorority or fraternity can provide camaraderie and enduring connections, and enhance a call for service and leadership. It can also be time consuming, expensive, and distracting. Greek life isn’t for everyone, but some will find it a life-changing college choice.

Look into a no-fee private student loan from SoFi.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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