Can You Get a Groupon for College?

Lori Johnston | September 14, 2011

Site Offers its First Discount on College Tuition

Groupon keeps reminding me about two purchases I’ve made – two-for-one movie tickets from Fandango and a half-off deal for a photo album that I haven’t gotten around to creating. It’s also helped me take part in unique events, such as a barbecue lunch with the Neelys from Food Network and a symphony performance under the stars.

The other day, a Groupon deal showed me that the trendy site has the potential to remind some folks of their dream to finish their degree or go back to school to pursue a new career or get advanced education.

Groupon was offering more than 50 percent off a $2,232 graduate-level introductory teaching course at National Louis University in Chicago (the Groupon price was $950).

Surprise – a school actually lowered a price for students! In these days of bargain hunting and discount seeking, it seems that a college education is one of the few places where individuals seem resigned to pay higher and higher prices. I’ve seen friends invest in starting a master’s degree, only to find they can’t afford to continue the program or can’t juggle it with jobs and family (and refunds aren’t available for those courses).

The idea of purchasing something like education on Groupon may be a bit “out there,” and maybe the school only did it for publicity, but it is refreshing to see a school willing and able to lower its price on a course.

It got a lot of attention because it’s the first time the “deal is on” coupon site has offered a deal on tuition that counts for academic credit. The school says 18 individuals purchased the Groupon.

Dr. Nivine Megahed, president of National Louis University, said in a press release: “This deal will give participating students a chance to take one course and see if they are ready to make the time and financial commitment to follow through with the entire graduate program.”

Students need an undergraduate degree to be involved in the 10-week course, which counts toward three credit hours, of a 36-hour master’s degree from the school.

University officials told the AP that many of its students – the average age is 34 – are part of Groupon’s target demographics. So adult learners could be seeing more of this, via Groupon, or from other coupon sites. It could be a bonus for students already in pursuit of a certain degree, or it could be just the thing, even if you don’t get that deal, to make you reconsider college.

What do you think? Would you ever buy a Groupon for school?

-Lori Johnston

Three Beach Reads That Pack Career Power

Lori Johnston | July 1, 2011

With the “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” series over, let’s face it, we all know enough about vampires and postapocalyptic worlds and can focus on some career reading this summer.

Slip one of these books into your beach bag this long holiday weekend, and get inspired about your career or furthering your education.

These authors make it easy to soak up both the rays and important information about earning a first-time degree or advanced degree to move up the ladder professionally. Just imagine what were to happen if Katniss was to combine her Hunger Games experience with a college education – she would be even more unstoppable!

How to Get Any Job: Life Launch and Re-Launch for Everyone Under 30 (Or How to Avoid Living in Your Parents’ Basement) by Donald Asher (Ten Speed Press)

Asher, a career consultant who is author of several books, encourages people to think about their “top five issues in this world” as part of considering a career path and gives the low-down on education options, recognizing that career paths can change over time. Plus, there’s a special chapter on summer jobs.

Bossypants by Tina Fey (Reagan Arthur Books)

It’s your typical career book, but Fey’s hilarious memoir shows what it’s like to succeed in a male-dominated industry, working at SNL and having her own Emmy Award-winning show, “30 Rock,” and how she balances being a mom in show business. You get all that, and be prepared to hide under your oversized beach hat because you may be embarrassed at how much Fey’s essays are making you laugh.

The MBA Reality Check by Evan Forester & David Thomas (Prentice Hall Press)

If you’re considering earning your MBA, you probably need a summer vacation from all of that research. This book presents the MBA pursuit from the mindset of how you can be a compelling candidate to a college, written in a way where you feel like you’re chatting with a friend – albeit a very experienced, knowledgable friend who is an educational consultant. Forster’s insider’s look into getting into a business school is fueled with stories of applicants, making it an easy summer read.

Let us know if you’ve found other career- or education-related books or biographies that have inspired or informed you to take your next career step!

-Lori Johnston

Applying to college is not a one-size-fits-all-experience… and when you don’t fit the mold of the traditional 18-year-old college student, that’s a good thing. Whether you’re in your 20s or you’re approaching centenarian status, chances are that traditional college admissions policies and procedures don’t apply to you. Before you get started on your back-to-school journey, check out our cheat sheet of top nontraditional student application to-knows.

1. You can apply on a roll…
If you haven’t had the luxury of planning your college applications for years, you’ll be happy to learn that many programs for nontraditional students accept applications up to and even after the semester start date. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of rolling admissions policies or even “one-stop” admissions events that allow you to apply and enroll on the same day.

2. Entrance exams may be extinct.
Many colleges do not require adult students to take traditional entrance exams like the SAT or ACT, says Shawn O’Riley, executive director of University College at Adelphi University. “Those exams are meant for high school students and don’t always reflect adults’ academic ability after they have been away from school for a long time.” Some adult degree programs measure college preparedness through computer-adaptive college placement tests (e.g., COMPASS by ACT; ACCUPLACER by the College Board) that are geared specifically toward nontraditional students.

3. You can get $$$ from Uncle Sam.
Even if you’re going back to school less than half time, you may still qualify for a Pell Grant or Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or for the Federal Work Study or Federal Perkins Loan programs. You may also be able to benefit from employer tuition assistance if you’re working full time. Tip: If you’re married or over 24 years old, parental income won’t be a factor on your FAFSA.

4. Start dates may be flexible.
“Adult degree programs often offer schedules that better fit an adult student’s lifestyle,” says O’Riley. Nontraditional students at Adelphi who are unable to enroll in August can take advantage of the university’s late-start semester, which begins in October. Community colleges across the country offer similar kinds of late-start courses.

5. The Ivies are not out of reach.
Take the Eli Whitney Students Program at Yale, for example. Eli Whitney (i.e., nontraditional) students have virtually the same opportunities as all other undergrads at Yale but, unlike other Yalies, nontraditional students can choose to school part time. And Columbia University’s School of General Studies is designed specifically for nontraditional students seeking a rigorous Ivy League degree full or part time.

6. You can get credit for what you already know.
Plenty of schools that cater to adult students offer prior learning assessment programs that award college credit for what students have learned outside the classroom, whether through corporate training, work experience, civic activity, or independent study. “[Prior learning assessment] allows students to reduce the overall cost of their degree program and accelerate their degree completion,” says O’Riley. In addition, your school may have special policies in place to assist nontraditional students in transferring previously earned college credit.

7. You might be more traditional than you think.
Colleges and universities may differ in their definition of what constitutes a “nontraditional student,” though most require that you be out of high school or college for at least five years to apply for nontraditional student admission. The University of Utah considers “nontraditional students” those who have been out of high school seven years or more and have no previous college experience. Some schools, like Trinity University in Texas, recommend that nontraditional students apply after completing at least two semesters of full-time studies at another college. Make sure you meet the specific “nontraditional” definition before applying to a particular school.

Enjoy your academic adventure!

–Robyn Tellefsen

I’ve lived in New York City all my life, and the eight years I lived in Brooklyn were some of the best. There’s one thing I’ll never miss about Brooklyn, though, and if you’re a city dweller, you know exactly what I’m talking about – parking. I have, however, managed to parlay my less-than-fun parking experiences into a few words of wisdom about finding the right college. Join me for the ride, won’t you?

It might take a while.
If you live in the city, being on time for a doctor’s appointment, dinner reservations, or a playdate requires you to factor in extra time to find a parking spot. There are no parking lots, and friends blessed with driveways are few and far between. Fight the urge to drive back home, and resign yourself to the fact that you’ll have to take a few trips around the block before you get what you want.

In the same way, finding the right school doesn’t happen in an instant. You’ll definitely want to give yourself plenty of time to get there, and it may require a few trips around college campuses before you find what you’re looking for. You might not find what you want right away, but don’t give up and go home – there’s a good college spot out there waiting for you.

Looks can be deceiving.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about finding parking in the city, it’s that what looks too good to be true usually is. Chances are that the vacant spot I see up the block is not a legal parking spot, but a driveway, a hydrant, or – my favorite – an illegal spot because of alternate side of the street parking regulations. It’s also possible that a couple of cars did a lousy parking job and, consequently, the open spot is too small for me. Grrrr.

Sometimes, all you have to do is look at a college brochure and you’re ready to find your place there. The campus looks idyllic, the school offers the major you want, and the location is fab. It’s perfect from afar – but there’s a chance that what looks like a great school really isn’t for you. So before you park yourself there, take a tour to see the school up close and decide if it’s really a good fit.

You should never sell yourself short.
Since parking is a pain near your friend’s apartment, and you always seem to get to a spot five seconds too late, you decide to just bite the bullet and park five blocks away. It’s doubtful you’ll get anything better. But then, after walking all that way (in the freezing rain), you see a spot right in front of her apartment. Oh, the agony.

Your grades have never been the best, so it doesn’t seem likely that you’ll get into the college of your dreams. Applying feels like a waste of time and experience tells you it’s better not to get your hopes up. Getting in to a “reach school” is far from a sure thing, of course, but how will you know what you can achieve unless you try?

When you do find the right school, take some time to revel in the joy of a mission well-accomplished. When my husband and I found a legal parking spot right across the street from our dinner reservations in Manhattan on Valentine’s Day, we spent at least five minutes celebrating the victory – before we even got out of the car.

Rest assured that you will reach your college destination sooner or later. Until then, try to relax and enjoy the ride!

-Robyn Tellefsen