Tag Archives: education

Online Schools Offer More Classes Than Ever

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Online schools are bringing college education to the masses. For a long time, the idea of a college education was reserved for those with wealth or high academic standing who could get scholarships. The average person couldn’t hope to afford the cost of attending a university. Then community and junior colleges arrived on the scene and made things a bit more affordable.

In today’s economy though, attending even a community college can be challenging. Many people are forced to work full time to support themselves and their families, leaving little time for other activities, including higher education. This is where online schools can be the answer to your prayers.

The popularity of online schooling has increased dramatically in the 2000s. One survey of 2500 educational institutions done in 2002 found schools expected their online enrollments to increase by about 20% over the coming year, and traditional enrollment to increase by about 1%. With that kind of growth, colleges are broadening their online offerings to attract more and more students. This means more opportunities for you and me.

Once limited to areas of learning like business administration, English composition and literature studies, and accounting, today’s schools are offering a wider array of curriculum. Nursing programs, computer sciences even engineering fields are entering the fray, all vying for your attention and dollars.

Not only are the community colleges offering online courses but the big name universities as well. Now it may be possible to attain a degree from the school of your choice, provided you can meet the entrance requirements. Other schools specialize in only online education courses. Check out the school thoroughly before enrolling to make sure they are accredited and can provide what you need to complete your studies.

Online schools are often more affordable than classes on campus, saves money and time on your commute, and allows you to attend class on your schedule. You can take as many or as few classes as you believe you can handle in the field of your dreams.

Getting an online degree makes your college dreams attainable while still being home to raise your family. With a college degree in your pocket, you can open more doors to employment opportunities. The job market is fierce. More people are competing for fewer jobs today than in decades. Giving yourself every chance that you can to succeed just makes sense and for many of today’s single moms, an online education makes sense.

Save Time: Plan the Night Before

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When you have to get the kids off to school in the morning as well as yourself, mornings can be the worst part of the day. If you spend half the morning looking for Bobby’s other shoe, finding Sarah’s homework and wondering what you did with the car keys, you will no doubt be late for school and arrive in such a state of mind that nothing the teacher says will be absorbed anyway. If this sounds like you, it is time to revamp your routine.

Take advantage of the night before to plan for the next morning. The evening can be a much more relaxed time to get things ready for tomorrow, and will save time in the morning. Break it into tasks, and if the kids are old enough, let them help.

Backpacks

The backpacks can be nightmare all of their own. If your kids have extracurricular activities which require special gear or equipment, or if they have classes that they need extra materials for once a week, keep a calendar on the fridge with these schedules. At a glance, you and they can see what they need for tomorrow. Ashley can pack her flute as soon as she’s done practicing and Billy can put his basketball shoes and t-shirt in the bag himself. Next comes checking the books and homework. Once the kids have finished, you can save time if you look it over to see that A) it is done properly, and B) it makes it back into the bag. The kids can do this too, but if you oversee it until they are old enough to be responsible for themselves, you’ll know it’s all packed and will avoid some of the last minute morning panic attacks.

Lunches

If you and the kids take lunches to school, pack these while you’re preparing dinner. While the chicken bakes or the water for the macaroni is boiling, start on the sandwiches. Let the kids add their own snacks while you do yours. Store the lunches in the refrigerator so all you have to do is take them out in the morning when you’re fixing breakfast.

Clothing

Lay out the clothes the night before. Each child can wake, pick up their clothing and head to the bathroom. They get 20 minutes or so to shower, dress and brush their teeth and hair before having to give the room up to the next person. Even getting your own clothes ready ahead of time can save time in the morning.

Your School Work

When you’ve finished studying for the night, go through your homework list. Make sure you have all the assignments completed. Then pack them along with your books, notebooks and any computer file media into your own backpack. Make sure your car and house keys, purse and any other personal items are rounded up too. It helps if there is a designated space in the house to keep backpacks, shoes and coats so no one has to go on safari to find them when it’s time to go.

Don’t Overspend on School Supplies

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When the single mom is struggling to get her assignments ready to hand in by the deadline, it’s nice to know that there is enough paper in the printer and a stapler available to hold the work together. But, when you have kids, you know how quickly the printer gets robbed of the copy paper for use when their creativity calls on them to draw. They also tend to forget to let you know when they need school supplies, and may end up borrowing yours. Keep extra on hand so that you always have what you need to have your own assignments ready to submit on time.

Find the Best Deals on Supplies for College

In the fall, when the kids go back to school, school supplies are usually at the lowest price. As you shop for the kids, make sure to have a list of your needed supplies, too. If you can afford to stock up, now is the time to do it. The supplies you’ll need probably won’t drop this low again until next fall.

Surprisingly, you can often get a better deal at the office supply store than you can at the discount stores on school supplies. Watch the ads, and rebate offers. Sign up for their email newsletters so that you don’t miss out on sales, especially if you’re looking for more expensive items like a computer, printer or storage.

The campus bookstore has school supplies for sale, but they are usually more expensive than purchases made off of the grounds. While a handy place to pick up emergency needs, each student will have to make the decision about whether having supplies that show off the school mascot is worth the extra price.

If the single mom is taking a course like photography or art, she may need special supplies that can’t be found in the discount or office supply stores. Special papers, brushes, fixatives and even camera film can be quite expensive. Suggest that the class get together and purchase the items in bulk, and you’ll be able to save a substantial amount of your education supplies budget.

Suggested Supplies

When the single mom goes back to school, she’ll probably realize that she needs the same basic supplies that her young children need.  To keep everything in one place and make transportation easier, start with a backpack or book bag. You’ll be carrying everything back and forth on a daily basis, without the benefit of a desk or locker to keep your items in.

Special items and supplies will be listed on the syllabus that is available in advance of the school term, but basic items each student should carry with them are:

  • Notebooks
  • Binders
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Eraser
  • Pencil Sharpener
  • Tape
  • Folders

College students buy their own textbooks and often find that instead of taking copious notes, it’s often easier to write in the margins of the book or use a highlighter to mark important text. A small pack of sticky notes for extra notes and to use as bookmarks will also come in handy.

If you plan on doing homework outside of the home, pick up a small paperback dictionary and thesaurus and keep them in the backpack for when you need them.

Other items that are often needed for throughout the term include:

  • Calculator
  • Stapler and staples
  • Copy paper
  • Printer ink or toner
  • Data Storage

The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation Award

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There is a lot of competition for scholarships for college, but that doesn’t mean that the single mom shouldn’t apply. Scholarships just don’t arrive, they have to be searched out and recipients must show that they are qualified and deserving of the award.

Finding a scholarship that you are eligible for may take a lot of research. It’s no use doing the work to apply for the scholarship unless you meet each one of the requirement.

Many scholarships are available to single moms who fall within varied guidelines because they are funded by people who recognize the special needs these women require and know that an education is important to establish financial security in a single parent household.

The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation offers 5 Education Support Awards in the amount of $2000 each. The awards are for low-income women with children who are furthering their education.

The awards for the year 2011 are subject to applicants who were enrolled in an accredited program during the 2010-2011 school year and who fall within the following criteria:

  • Women who are at least 17 years old
  • Mother of a minor child
  • Fall within the low-income guidelines
  • Enrolled in skills training, GED program or ESL; or pursing the following degree:
    • Vocational
    • Associate’s
    • Bachelor’s (first only)
    • Professional/master’s/doctoral

Applications for the award for the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation Awards must be postmarked no later than July 15, 2011, but will not be accepted before May 15, 2011. The five moms who win the award will be notified in October, and they can use the $2,000 to pay for direct education expenses or for living expenses while they are enrolled in school.

Patsy Takemoto Mink was the first woman of color ever elected to the House of Representatives, serving Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District.  Until her death in 2002, she worked for civil rights, women’s right, civil liberties and economic justice. The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation was established in 2003 to carry on her commitments of support and opportunity for women with low income, especially mother, helping with education access for moms and educational enrichment for children.

The application can be downloaded from the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation website (http://www.patsyminkfoundation.org). Remember that there is a lot of competition for scholarships, awards and grants, so it’s important that your application be filled out correctly and completely. This applies not only to this award application, but for any that you apply for. Check and double check the application before submitting it. Make sure that you meet all of the criteria for the award, and if you don’t, keep looking because the eligibility requirements that are set out for scholarships, grants and other education awards have been designed for a purpose.

College Graduation: Are you Prepared?

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Nothing can be more frustrating than wrapping your last semester of school with graduation looming on the horizon only to discover you are short a credit or two. Perhaps you’ve chosen your graduate school and discovered that some of your credits won’t transfer there.  It happens to the best of us can it can happen to you. How do you prevent such a setback from knocking the wind out of your graduation dreams? Success in any endeavor often comes down to organizational skills and strong planning.

When you begin your college journey, you will pick an area of study and that will likely place you in either an arts or sciences category. Each has a specific set of credit requirements needed for college graduation. Depending on your area of study, English, history, etc., there will core classes and electives that you will need to take. You can discuss these classes, the ideal electives and the best order to take the classes in with a counselor who understands all the requirements and is equipped to guide you.

If you are attending a junior college in order save money, but you have plans of transferring to a four-year institution, you will need to be certain the courses you take now are transferable. Receiving your Associates degree is wonderful but if many of your electives don’t transfer and you have to take them over again at the next school, you haven’t saved any time or money and have delayed your final graduation, possibly by several years.

It is a good idea to have your four-year college picked out before you begin taking classes. When you meet with your adviser, he or she can tell you right away what classes will transfer and which ones will not. This can save you valuable time, money and heartache.

As the semesters unfold, the college graduation requirements in a particular field of study can change. Meeting with your counselor or adviser at least once each semester will keep you advised of any changes and how they might affect your graduation plans. This is also a good way of making sure the courses you take are transferable in the event you are graduating from a junior college and continuing at a four-year college.

Staying informed and reviewing your credits against the requirements for graduation on a regular basis will help you avoid any last minute surprises that could derail your graduation plans.

Financial Aid: Are You Dependent or Independent?

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So you are going to college, but you need financial aid. You may be an adult, over 18 and a parent yourself. Surely this means you are independent, free of your own parents? Not necessarily, at least not in terms of financial aid and FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. So what determines your dependency status and what does it mean to you?

There are a number of questions you must answer to determine if you are still a dependent according to FAFSA. Look at the following list.

  • Were you 23 years old or older before January 1 of this year?
  • Will you be working on a master’s or doctoral degree or certificate?
  • Are you married?
  • Are you a parent AND do your children receive more than half of their support directly from you?
  • Do you have other dependents that live with you and receive more than half of their support from you?
  • Are both of your parents deceased?
  • Were you a ward of the court?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training?
  • Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?

If you are able to answer yes to any of these questions, even one, you are considered independent for the purposes of the FAFSA. If you answered no to all of them, you will be required to supply information about your parents and their financial standings on your application.

Even if you don’t live with your parents, if you fall into the dependent category, you will have to include your parents’ information. It doesn’t matter that they may no longer claim you as a dependent on their taxes. For the purposes of the FAFSA, taxable dependency is irrelevant.

The information is still required even if your parents don’t want to help you pay for college. It is used to determination the amount of financial aid you are eligible for.

There are some special circumstances which may qualify you as an independent even if you did answer no to all the questions. Some examples of those circumstances would include lack of contact with your parents, parental abuse, Parental substance abuse or parental mental illness. Another point to consider is that you may fair better as a dependent if you are providing support to your parents. These and other situations should be discussed with your financial aid office as they can guide you on how to proceed.

What You Will Need to Apply for Financial Aid

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Applying for financial aid is a complicated process closely related to doing your own long-form income tax in complexity. There are many steps along the way and many pieces of information you will need to provide before an evaluation of your application is completed. Since receiving financial aid may mean the difference between whether you can afford to attend school or not, I highly recommend you prepare well in advance. Here are some things you’ll need to gather.

  • Social Security Card
  • Driver’s License or State Identification
  • W-2s and other documentation of any money earned in the most recent year prior to year you are applying for aid in
  • Copies of your most recent tax return along with your spouse’s if you were married in the previous year
  • Documentation of untaxed income such as payment to tax-deferred pension and savings plans, child support received, untaxed portions of IRA distributions, untaxed portions of pensions, or veteran non-education benefits
  • Copies of all bank statements from the most recent preceding year
  • Most recent business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond, and other investment records for preceding year.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will have to supply your alien registration number or permanent residence card, also.

If you can be claimed as a minor by your parents, you will have to supply all of this information for both parents as well before application can be evaluated.

You will need to know the federal school code for the school you want to attend. You can find a listing of federal school codes at the Federal Student Aid website.

Be sure to check with your school for the deadlines for applying for student aid. These deadlines change for each semester. Missing a filing date could mean you have to wait another semester or longer before you can apply.

Gather all of this information together and keep in a safe place until you are ready to complete the online registration. You can update the information yearly as you will need to reapply for each semester that you seek financial aid. Keeping the information current and in a location that is easy to find will speed up the process for you.

Once you have gathered this data and entered the information into your application, you can expect to receive a Student Aid Report in approximately 4 weeks. It will either be sent to the email or mailing address you provide in your application.

Financial Aid through Scholarships

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Financial aid for college is any kind of financial assistance. Sometimes this comes in the form of student loans but it can also come in the form of scholarships. Scholarships do not have to be paid back. They are awarded on the basis of need or merit and can offset some or all of the cost of attending college. Scholarships are not just for athletes and rocket scientists either. There are a few things you should know before looking for scholarships.

College Specific

If you are interested in attending a specific college, check the school’s website to see if they offer any scholarships and what requirements are attached. You can also speak to someone in the financial aid department. They can advise you of any scholarship opportunities at the school.

Preparation

Use some of the online scholarship sites to find scholarships suited to you. Some, like Scholarship.com and Fastweb.com, offer excellent search and tracking options. Read the requirements and qualifications carefully. Some may require community service, extracurricular activities or good writing skills to answer an essay question.

Be Organized

You will need certain documents for most applications. Make sure you keep these on hand, in multiples, so that you can submit quickly when you find an opportunity. Among the items you are likely to need are a current photo, an exceptional cover letter, a history of all your community service work, school transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Letters of Recommendation

The letters are important as they indicate someone else’s support for you. They should come from a credible source, not just a friend or family member. The person should have a connection to why you deserve the scholarship. Good candidates would be a teacher, someone who knows you from your volunteer work or your employer if you are working in the field you are going to school for. Give the person ample time to write the letter. If they will agree to it, write the letter for them and let them sign it. If you choose this option, keep the praise realistic.

Look Frequently

New scholarship opportunities are added frequently so check back often. Additionally, changes in your own profile may open up new opportunities. If your GPA improves by as little as .3, it may qualify you for new opportunities. Changing majors or improving your community service portfolio could also open doors.

Attention to Detail

The most important thing you can do is pay attention to the details. Make sure you submit all the required materials by the posted deadline. Failure to include one piece of information or to get it there on time can cost you the award.

Different Types of Schools for Single Moms

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When a single mom makes the decision to go back to school she has many choices to make. She needs to first decide what sort of school she wishes to attend because this option will affect many of her other choices from the financial aspect to child care and class scheduling.

What every single mom should know about universities and colleges is basic information that will allow her to arrange financial aid, schedule classes and make a plan for child care, goals and other aspects of going back to school. The type of degree or certification she chooses to obtain will also affect which type of school she needs.

Community College

For continuing education community college is often the first step. Most community colleges offer 2-year associates degrees which can be transferred to another college or university in order to obtain a bachelor’s degree. While community colleges don’t typically offer dorms or student housing plans for a single mom the lower cost and flexible scheduling for both physical and online courses make them a viable option to get started.

Undergraduate Colleges and Universities

Undergrad colleges and universities generally allow students to earn a BA or BS degree in a 4-year program. There are different levels of undergrad colleges and universities all across the country.

  • Public- are funded by the state and often offer lower tuition for state residents.
  • Private – are not state funded and provide equal tuition costs regardless of state residency.
  • Specialized- private colleges and universities that specialize in offering single sex education, religious education or a specific topic of education such as culinary arts or engineering.

These colleges and universities offer hundreds of classes related to many different majors unless they are specialized schools.

Graduate Colleges and Universities

Graduate schools allow students to earn the next level after a bachelor’s degree which is known as a masters or a doctoral degree.

A single mom needs to evaluate the benefits of each type of school and decide upon a course of action determined by what type of field she wants to work in and what sort of degree she wants to earn.

Pell Grants Ease The Costs of College

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The murky waters of financial aid for college can be daunting waters to tread. There are so many options and so many hoops to jump through that it can be intimidating. Pell grants are one of those options, but what are they and how do they work?

What Is a Pell Grant?

A Pell grant is a form of financial aid provided by the federal government, usually to low income students who have not yet earned a bachelor’s or professional degree. In some cases, awards might be made to post-baccalaureate students pursuing advanced degrees in specific fields. Pell grants are not loans and do not have to be repaid at all. Other forms of financial aid can be combined with Pell grants to ease the cost of college tuition.

How Much Money Is Available?

The amount of money available to any individual student students but the maximum anyone can receive is $5,550. Some of the criteria used to determine the final amount are your status as either a full-time or part-time student, your financial need, the costs you have to pay to attend college, and whether or not you plan to attend school for a full year or not. Additionally, the full amount is guaranteed to any student who lost a parent in due to military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept.11, 2001. To qualify for this military service condition, you must be under 24 years of age or enrolled in college on at least a part-time basis at the time of the parent or guardian’s death.

Currently, the award of two consecutive Pell grants may be made in a single year to speed up your degree process. You need to be enrolled a minimum of half-time in a program that results in either an associate or a bachelor’s degree.

How Do You Apply?

To apply for a Pell grant you will need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You will identify the college you are attending and all of your financial information in this application. The application is evaluated by the U.S. Department of Education. When the evaluation is completed, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR indicates whether or not you are eligible for a Pell Grant and other requirement such as your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) toward your education costs, if you are still considered dependent on your parents.

The current administration’s budget concerns are causing the Pell grant system to be evaluated for upcoming years. The parameters as outlined here are valid throughout June 2012.