Why it’s important to stay enrolled this fall

COVID-19 has caused some major disruptions among Missouri’s colleges and universities.

Students like you are now faced with the decision to enroll in fall classes or take the semester off.

A recent survey conducted by OneClass found that some students don’t think signing up for a semester of online learning would be worth enrolling and paying full tuition.

However, the vast majority of Missouri’s colleges have already announced plans to re-open with in-person classes in the fall. And school presidents are currently working with health officials to develop safety guidelines for everyone on campus.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re still considering taking a semester off,:

Students who take time off are less likely to earn a degree.

About 4 million students with some college and no degree have re-enrolled in school at some point in the past five years. Only a quarter of those students end up completing college.

Life sometimes gets in the way of learning. Health problems, emergency expenses, family crises, and even global pandemics can come up unexpectedly. However, the best way to ensure that you’ll graduate on time, and in the cheapest manner possible, is to stay in school until your degree program is complete. 

Economic uncertainty is often the best time to pursue higher education.

Americans often turn to higher education during times of economic strife. Unfortunately, unemployment rates are up, which means that well-paying jobs may be hard to find right now.

An economic downturn is a good time to earn a professional credential or degree. It makes you an attractive candidate when the job market starts to improve. Studies show that people with a degree are also less likely to be unemployed, even during uncertain times like a pandemic.  

Many schools want small classes to be held in person.

Universities all across the country – from Ivy League schools to Missouri’s public institutions – are optimistic that some in-person learning will take place. Colleges’ large lecture halls are usually reserved for general education or lower-level courses. Upper-division, degree-program class sizes are relatively small, so those classes could still be held in person while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

A degree is still a degree.

As a survey respondent told OneClass, “Whether I’m in-person or online, I’m still paying to get the same degree.”

It’s totally understandable to prefer face-to-face, in-person classes to online learning. Just know that taking online classes for a semester won’t negatively impact the value of your degree. Future employers will see that you’ve completed and passed all the courses and exams your degree program requires. They might even commend you for staying on track under such abnormal circumstances.

This semester could be the most affordable one yet.

A surveyed college student said because of COVID-19, he isn’t expecting to pay for student housing or a meal plan this coming semester. Those are two pretty major expenses. If you choose to commute from home or take online classes this fall, continuing this semester could end up saving you money.

Myth #97 – Majors set your future

Certain majors open up a wide range of career opportunities. Engineers and computer scientist, on average, earn the higher salaries. Students with accounting or teaching degrees tend to have an easy time finding employment. However, the major you choose does not necessarily determine what kind of job you’ll have or how much money you’ll make.

A recent study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that only 27 percent of college graduates work in their field of study. A quality education, regardless of your major, will equip you with a broad and adaptable skillset. A philosophy major could go into supply-chain management, a journalism student could land a job as a graphic designer, an accounting major could decide to go to law school instead of study for the CPA exam.

Choosing a major doesn’t necessarily narrow your possibilities, it creates more. Follow your passion and do what you find interesting, and the right future will find you. Utilize the Journey to College College and Degree Search or MoSCORES to explore majors offered right here in Missouri. 

Myth #111 – I only need to apply to one college

Applying to multiple schools is a smart move to help you keep your options open. Having a few choices allows you to weigh your options and opportunities, and find the best fit for you. Applying to multiple colleges during your senior year of high school lets you make a more informed decision on where to attend.

Students should take costs into consideration when finalizing their future plans. You could be eligible for grants and scholarships, which can help you make the right decision for you. There is also always the possibility that you may not get accepted to your top college choice, so applying to multiple schools helps to make sure you don’t end up without a plan. Consider applying to multiple schools, going on campus visits, looking at the types of degree programs offered, and reviewing your financial aid offer before making a final decision.

15 to Finish: Graduate on time

When you enroll in college you probably start out with some specific expectations – including the amount of time it will take to complete your degree.

If you are attending college full time, you likely expect to graduate with an associate degree in two years or a bachelor’s degree in four years.

Here’s the problem – more than half of Missouri students do not earn enough credit hours each semester to graduate on time. Many students may not even realize they are making this mistake.

Students can come up short for a variety of reasons. They may limit themselves to 12 credit hours per semester since 12 hours is considered full time to qualify for most financial aid programs. They might start with 15 credit hours but drop a course or two as the semester progresses. They may need to retake courses in order to earn a higher grade so the credit will count toward their degree.

Why does this matter?

Staying in college an extra year or more comes at a price. The longer you stay in school, the more it costs. An extra year of tuition, fees, room and board, and books, plus the money you could have earned if you had graduated and gotten a full-time job can add up to $50,000 or more. For many students, another year in school also means more student loan debt.

What’s the solution?

Do the math!

  • Know how many credit hours you need for your degree. Determine how many credit hours you need to complete each semester to earn an associate degree in two years or a bachelor’s degree in four years.
  • When you register for classes, think 15 to finish. You need to complete at least 15 credit hours each semester to put you on track to graduate on time. Make sure the credit hours you earn count toward your specific degree, so map out the courses you need.
  • If you aren’t averaging 15 credit hours a semester, consider summer school or online courses to help you stay on track. If you’re still in high school, AP and dual credit classes can help you get a head start on earning college credit.

Talk to your parents and your advisers about the courses you need to reach your college and career goals. Focus on 15 or more credit hours a semester to graduate on time.

Summer checklist

School’s out for the summer, but there is plenty to do before fall.

Don’t get sidetracked by summer melt — where students who intend to go to college never actually enroll for the fall semester.

Start checking these items off your list to make sure you’re in good shape to start your freshman year.

To do:

  • Register for and attend summer orientation.
  • Pay all required deposits.
  • Register for fall semester classes.
  • Make sure you have a plan for housing and transportation.
  • Save money to pay for your books.
  • Make a realistic spending plan for when you start college.
  • Look at your degree map and plan out how many credit hours you need each semester to graduate on time.
  • Seek out part-time employment before the fall semester starts.
  • Consider job shadowing a few different career options throughout the summer to help you identify which career path is right for you.
  • Check with the admissions and financial aid departments at your school to make sure they have all of the information they need from you.

If you need help finalizing your college plans, contact the admissions department at your school. If you’re in the Kansas City area, contact the Missouri College Advising Corps College Connections Center.