When I decided that I would obtain a GED while still in high school, it sort of backfired and I graduated high school a year and a half earlier than I would have. If your
"class" ranking is determined by the rest of the people you are graduating with - I suppose I was the top of my "class of one" that day when the principal shook my
hand and congratulated me on my achievement.
What was to follow was a plan that I was not fully aware of. Since I graduated a year and a half early, it kind of put me in line for some perks that I would not have
normally been able to obtain had I graduated in June (rather than January). My not being aware of the perks that I was eligible for, and not expecting anything "special",
kind of led me off in a path I probably needed to follow - it got me where I am today!
The short story is that I spent a few years in the US Air Force, intending to obtain a chunk of education. I did get some college, Algebra and a few other classes, but
not enough to move me along very far.
In the summer of 1985, the last semester of the 84/85 year, I went back to the local community college and signed up for classes. I decided that I had lost enough time
and took a full load of classes. At that time, my theory was that the best classes and the most options had been available during the normal day schedule. Of course,
that was true, so I worked midnight shift jobs because they allowed me to go to school right after work (like a part time evening student might do), and take the best
selection of courses from the larger pool of offerings.
Midnight shifts suck. The rest of the world works during the "normal" business day, but it paid more money and allowed me to get this done.
This is the only, and last time I made use of loans to pay for school. I HIGHLY recommend that you NEVER borrow a dime to get your education if at all possible. You MUST
do your own due diligence and determine that you WILL have the income on the back end to satisfy your debt!
On that whole subject, read the education page where I take you through
what would be a great way of getting the job done and owning your own business too. Knowing what I know now... this is the way I would have preferred to do it.
Back to the A.A. Degree
Because I was working the midnight shift, and because the college offered classes on two schedules (at that time, either Monday / Wednesday / Friday or Tuesday / Thursday)
I was able to set my schedule up to take classes every day, Monday through Friday, and get those courses to be early in the morning so I could go to class, do some homework
and get to bed to rest for the next mights shift. I worked a minimum of five nights, and often six or seven during this period!
I chose Psychology as my major subject because I knew so much about it already, it was always an interest of mine.
How I did it in eighteen months
The thing about the first two years of college is that they are mostly advanced high school. Many of the subjects are just extensions of what you did in high school with the
ability to meet future prerequisites for upper division work. Since you are trying to get the biggest bang for your buck, you need to "shorten" the process in any way you can.
You still have to obtain the (roughly) 64 credits for the degree, and there is no real short cut for that, but you also have to meet requirements for upper division work and
the various requirements of the Associate's Degree. What I did was to find the courses that met MORE THAN a single subject area.
Instead of taking US Government, I would take International Relations (it met the social studies aspect AND the international / intercultural aspect) and World Religion (met the
international / intercultural thing and a social sciences requirement with one class). I did this sort of thing, and looked for other ideas to move me along as fast as I could go,
and it really helped.
I never thought that I would be moving, and online learning did not exist yet, so I had no idea that I would be "going to" Florida State University in the future. So, while at the
local community college, I would spend time at the counselors office - and go through their research material. What I did was to find the transfer guides to the State Universities
to see what I needed to do in order to transfer cleanly (without having to take prerequisite courses later on).
By the time I would have been moving on to the local State University, I had everything in place (educationally anyway) to simply enter into their Psychology program.
It was extremely difficult for me to get through my Associates Degree program at that time. Money was non existent, I used loans (never again did I borrow a dime for education!)
and I was spent from working to try and keep it all afloat.
I did manage to blow through the two year A.A. degree in just eighteen months though. I believe, at that time, you could not have done it faster, and I would not recommend
the way I did it to anyone!
As you will see in the rest of my pages on education, I earned the Associate's Degree in December of 1986. I was not able to get back into school to complete my Bachelor's Degree
until the fall semester of 2001, some fifteen years later!
While I was at what is now known as Broward College, people would talk about the 80/20 rule. I do not know how true it is, but the idea was that a lot of folks do complete their
Associate's Degree once they start it. Of those who move toward completing the Bachelor's Degree, if they earned an Associate's Degree first, and specifically from the community
college, 80% would successfully complete the Bachelor's Degree too.
What I want to say about that is just that it stuck in the back of my head.
Two things really; I had joined the Air Force specifically for the educational benefit - which did not work out so well for me, and if the "80%" thing was even close
to being correct, then I was sitting there in the 20% that never wrapped it up.
Those two things bugged the hell out of me until I eventually wrapped up my Bachelor's Degree. Until that point, I actually had the feeling, nagging me in the recesses of my
mind, that I was letting down those who take the leap and move forward with their education.
I am profoundly satisfied with completing the Associate's Degree and then, eventually, the Bachelor's Degree as well!
Final Thoughts on the Associate's Degree
The Associate's Degree is advanced high school. In fact, my niece graduated high school with her Associate's Degree too... this really solidifies that idea for me. The important aspect
of obtaining the Associate's Degree (specifically the A.A. degree, which is the one that allows you to directly go into upper division work), and specifically if you do it at the local
community college, is that it transitions you away from high school and into college without the major dramatic changes you might otherwise get.
The biggest benefit is that it is local and easy to get to. Now you can obtain the Associate's Degree totally online - not all of them, but some important ones.
During the Associate's Degree, you will study a range of subject matter that may help you out in upper division work, but it is still a range of subject matter. Once you get past
it and into your upper division work, you will see that you begin to study less of a range and more of the specific material that you really want to focus on. The Associate's Degree
was the most difficult thing for me to complete due to the range of material.
My Bachelor's Degree still had a couple of "sand paper across the eyeball" types of classes to take, but it was MUCH easier for me than the Associate's Degree because I was
studying material that I WANTED to study.
My Master's Degree from Amberton was more workload than any previous degree in pure volume of writing and research, but it was also that much easier because, again, it
was in a subject that I love and WANT to study. The MBA program will be the same way, difficult, but in a field that I love - business.
I can tell you right now that the J.D. degree will be that much harder in terms of research and writing, but there are even less areas of subject matter that I do not like and
a whole lot more of what I love (I love the law, and I think everyone should obtain serious legal knowledge). As such, it is less chore, and more hobby, that I look
All of this was made possible by first completing the hardest degree I ever earned, my Associate of Arts Degree from Broward College!
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Betterment of Society, Ray Hayden, Grey Jedi Master - Sentinel