Whether you just graduated high school, or you graduated many years ago, enrolling in college is no easy task. First you have to ask yourself a bunch of questions, starting with what do you want to be when you “grow up”? If you want to become a software engineer, you go to Stanford and major in computer science; if you want to work for NASA someday, you go to Purdue; or if you want to be a basketball star, you go to Duke (Top 50, 2016). At least those would be the ideal choices if you had unlimited resources to go to any college you wanted no matter the cost or distance. What do you do though if you’re a 31-year-old divorced mother of two, living in southeast Iowa with your parents, working part-time at a fast food restaurant, and you want to turn your two associates degrees into a bachelor degree? You would enroll at Kaplan University and take their online classes of course.
Enrolling at Kaplan
So you’ve decided to enroll at Kaplan, but what’s next? Well, if your experience is like mine, you’d receive a phone call from one of the academic advisors. The advisor will ask some routine questions, such as: have you ever been to college before, what kind of work are you wanting to do, what kind of time do you have available to concentrate on your studies, etc. This helps the advisor best place you in a program. After answering the advisor, it was mentioned that the best program for me was the online bachelor degree majoring in business. After reviewing my transcript from Southeastern Community College, I was told the number of credits I would need to complete; and I was informed that I would be able to earn my bachelor degree with just five 10-week terms. I was emailed a spreadsheet showing what my financial aid would be during my time at Kaplan; I electronically signed what was needed of me to sign, and I was given my start date. I was not informed of what classes I would need to take at Kaplan, nor was I informed where I could find this information. I received an email that allowed me to set up my Kaplan Portal, and that was the extent of my direction from any advisors.
Before any of this happened, I should have asked myself a few questions. If you’re planning to online college, you should first ask yourself some important questions. First of all, do you enjoy working with computers and being on the internet? If you aren’t that comfortable using a computer; or you simply just don’t like too, then online college is not the right choice for you. Next, are you able to learn outside of a classroom setting? If you can’t see yourself learning at home, a library, coffee shop, or another venue other than a classroom, then again, online college is not for you. Lastly, are you self-motivated, and do you like working alone? If you struggle working alone, then online college will be a challenge (How Do I Know, n.d.).
Other College Enrollment Experience
As mentioned earlier, I transferred credits in from Southeastern Community College. I earned two associates degrees there, and the experience was much different. When I sat down with the advisors at SCC, I was given a list of classes that needed to be completed for the program of my choice. I was able to choose which classes to take each semester, but was also given advice on when to take them. I was told right away that my program required me to do an internship in my final semester, and that I would want to start looking for a business to intern at sooner rather than later. My financial aid refunds were consistently mailed out after we’d completed the first three weeks of each semester. I never once felt like I didn’t understand what expected of me or how things worked around campus. It was a truly amazing experience.
Professors, departmental staff, and advisors serve as guides who can look over your potential courses each semester, give you course descriptions, and help you find and map out courses pertaining to your major. Additionally, advisors inform you about internship opportunities (Capley, 2014). I feel this is precisely what the professors and advisors at SCC did for me; however, I can not say the same of the advisors at Kaplan University.
I did not know that an internship was required for my program. I never would have thought that it would be because I was taking classes online. I did not find out until the week before the internship class started. I was very ill that week; and trying to read over the bombardment of emails sent to me in regards to the internship had me in complete panic mode. At first, I did not realize it was an online internship, so I really panicked. It took me almost 6 months to find a place to intern for SCC, so how was I going to find a place to intern for Kaplan in a week? Then I was told it was all online. I was told later that I could have done a real internship if I’d have known ahead of time that I would be taking an internship class. Interning in person at a local business, would have benefitted me so much more. It would have given me a local reference to use on resumes, and I would have gotten a much better idea of how managers work in the real world. I feel that I was denied this terrific opportunity.
Overall, I am sadly unsatisfied with my experiences at Kaplan. I did not even know that there was calendar stating the last date to request an incomplete and when the incomplete work was due until Professor Doyle told me to look the information up. I had no idea where to find it, as I was never told anything about the KU Campus homepage. For four terms, I genuinely thought the Kaplan Portal was the homepage for Kaplan. Being told about the Campus homepage would have solved so many of the unknowns, such as which classes I would need to complete.
My final complaint in regards to Kaplan is the financial aid situation. As I mentioned, I received a spreadsheet with the refund amounts I’d get back each term when I first started. I placed these amounts in my personal budget at the allotted times (I put them four weeks after the term started to give ample time). The consistency of when I received these amounts was unreal. The first refund I received just a few weeks into the term, same with the second; but the third refund came near the terms end, and the fourth was not on time either. Not only that, but after my second term I was told that they decided to change a policy regarding some grants and that now I wouldn’t receive approximately $2,250 of the refund amount I had budgeted. For a single mother, struggling to raise two children, that kind of money is nothing to joke about.
In hindsight, had I know this is how the experience was going to be, I would not have ever started with Kaplan University. I feel like I was under-informed, misinformed, and mislead. If I ever choose to continue my education further, I’ll be sure to ask everything in the very beginning.