Corrie-lynn Dyson is Getting Schooled! [Fierce Anticipation]

You can only see so many ads featuring a young waitress singing about how she needs a college degree before you say, “Yes, maybe an on-line degree is for me. I have a lot in common with that singing and dancing 20-year-old waitress. I’d like to get a degree while wearing my pajamas.”

Taking my cues from Brenda Walsh

Bad news, you can’t actually complete your mental health counseling master’s degree in your pajamas. You still have to do internships and colloquia, etc. but you can do a lot of it without getting out of bed. Having a toddler, I can’t take full advantage of this fact – I have to get out of bed every single day; that’s the responsibility that comes with having a child. However, I can frequently stay in pajamas and not brush my hair so that is a definite plus. In order to pay for these on-line courses, I have been forced to take a job outside of the house. This is good because, at least twice a week, my daughter sees me looking human and leaving the home to the mystical world of ‘work’. My first course was in Theories of Development where I learned that girls respect their mothers more if they work outside the home. Sure, my toddler respects me now because of my abilities to do things like reach high shelves, work the DVD player and find her toys (by looking around for them – a concept she does not yet grasp) but eventually – I’m going to need more tricks in my repertoire.

I spent two years as a stay at home mom and my laptop was my dearest friend; all my friends lived inside of it. Taking on-line courses was an obvious choice and yet it didn’t occur to me. It isn’t like I didn’t have enough prompts. You can’t turn on the TV or go to a website without being inundated with the call to get your degree without leaving your home or talking to people. Utopia! Even Shannen Dougherty (she’ll always be Brenda to me) is shilling for Education Connection. According to her ad, she’s getting her Bachelor’s degree! In Liberal Arts! On Line! Suck it, Blossom with your Ph.D. in neurobiology (seriously, it’s Dr. Mayim Bialik). I’ll admit it, I’m not entirely convinced that Shannen is working on her degree while on set. I don’t believe she’s spending much time on sets or why would she be doing such low budget commercials? Perhaps I’m being entirely too cynical.

So these ads did not instill faith in my heart about on-line schooling. In fact, they kept me from considering it as a serious option even though it’s so well suited to my current life-style (and level of misanthropy). I continued to think on-line degrees weren’t ‘real’ degrees like you get at a ‘real’ school. I’ve known for a while that I desperately need a career change, i.e., I need to make some real money. I love working with the severely mentally ill but it’s not what you’d call a lucrative field. In my current position, I am very pleased with the level of one-to-one interaction I get with the clients but I’m not so pleased with the amount of time I have to spend mopping up urine.

Continuing to believe on-line schools weren’t ‘real’ schools, I started looking at ‘real’ schools and found a lot of them are offering on-line degrees. It was a wake-up call to me: making me realize that the world of on-line learning has come a long way and reminding me that, at thirty-four, I’m a dinosaur. After some investigation (and price shopping), I opted for Capella University. It compared favorably to traditional brick and mortar schools (formerly known as ‘real’ schools) in numerous national rankings and, most importantly, I knew someone in their mental health counseling program. She’s a friend of mine who is intelligent and very diligent so I figured she’d already done most of the research for me. She also found the coursework challenging and that assured me it was, in fact, a ‘real’ school.

Saved by the Bell: The College Years

The enrollment process was a breeze, there was less than a month between my decision to go back to school and starting my first class. My enrollment specialist was a peach. He did most of the work, held my hand through the process, was always helpful and he never pressured me to apply. In fact, he encouraged me to investigate licensing requirements in my state before committing. He would ask when he could call back and would call at that time like clockwork. As a case manager, I really respected his organization and time management. It was a very strong first impression for me. There are standards for the school although they take all qualified applicants – unlike a brick and mortar school where there are only so many people accepted at a time. You need a fairly high GPA as an undergrad; high enough that I wasn’t positive I qualified and I always did well in school. I doubt this is a hard and fast restriction, though. It’s probably more to weed out applicants looking for an easy degree. I needed two letters of recommendation, a resume and a very specifically structured essay. The enrollment specialist stressed the importance of answering all the questions asked so the essay did seem like something that could stop an application from being approved rather than just proof I was literate. I wasn’t shocked to be admitted but I was excited none the less and eager to start my first class.

In my pajamas.

The course was by no means easy. I spent well over the recommended ten hours a week on class. Each assignment comes with a rubric to clarify what is unacceptable, acceptable, good and distinguished. I was going for distinguished and as a friend of mine pointed out, it’s twice as much work to get an A as a B. I found getting an A in the class to require a lot of effort but I probably could have breezed through with a B. I was amazed by the practicality of on-line schooling. I have access to the major literary databases, I don’t need to print anything out – I just read it in Adobe, and I bought PERLA so I don’t have to bother learning APA formatting again. When I had to walk into an actual library (in my efforts to put in a distinguished performance and get an A), I resented having to leave my home. All my contact with my peers is via a forum so I don’t even have to control my eye-rolling. It’s a nearly perfect situation.

We can’t all be as smart as Blossom

Not everyone in the course was what you’d call, “grad school material”. Some people just aren’t that bright, you see that in every program. Some students are straight out of undergrad and simply not prepared for the demands of graduate work – also perfectly normal for any program.

I’m talking about people who really aren’t grad school material. My personal favorite, though it took her weeks to truly shine, quoted the Kama Sutra in nearly every discussion. She cited Sting’s seminal work, “Roxanne” when discussing her work ethic. Her citation of Sting was from Wikipedia. She spelled Wikipedia wrong! In one post, she spelled Wikipedia wrong in three different ways. It was a perfect storm of idiocy, incompetence and pure strangeness.

I don’t think I’m wrong to be concerned that she was able to get into my school. When my advisor (you get an advisor and everything!) called to get my feedback on the course, she assured me that the first and possibly the second course would have students who were not suited to graduate studies but they would soon step up their work, drop out or fail out. I hope this is the case, otherwise – I will be returning to my previous stance on what makes a ‘real’ school. Until then, I’ll continue to study in my pajamas with my toddler on my lap and hope that when she remembers her youth; she’ll know that I was working hard to give her a better life and not just surfing for porn.

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