Taking the Nontraditional Route to a Bachelor’s Degree: A StraighterLine Success Story

Beth Dumbauld

success-story-sonya-young-apuSonya Young lives in Florida and has been in the workforce for nearly 20 years. She’s an accountant who already has her Associate in Applied Science in Accounting. Over the years since her first job, she got married, and kept working. Life was busy - and it continues to be busy. But that hasn’t stopped Sonya from pursuing additional academic credentials and her bachelor’s degree.

Sonya originally started her career in an entry-level position in accounting, and her talent in accounting quickly became apparent. After she earned her associate degree, she was able to take on new responsibilities. She got promoted - several times. Now, she’s a financial officer at a nonprofit.

And yet, around 8 years ago, Sonya realized that “not having my bachelor’s degree was becoming an issue. To advance even further in my career, to earn a directorship at nonprofit, I knew I needed to go back to school.”

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Taking the Nontraditional Route to a Bachelor’s Degree

In 2008, Sonya made the decision to enroll at StraighterLine partner college American Public University (APU) in order to earn her bachelor’s in accounting. She chose APU because the school offered “great distance learning options,” an absolute necessity since she planned on working full-time and needed a program that would allow her to “fit school around [her] schedule.”

Sonya also liked how easy the school made it to transfer credit from her past educational and professional experiences. In her words, “I had already earned my associate degree and as well as quite a few ACE Credits through CLEP exams - and intended on continuing to earn alternative credit once enrolled. APUS [American Public University System] makes it easy to transfer credit!” She also liked the fact that APUS had a strong history of working with military students through American Military University (AMU). Since APU and AMU are both part of APUS, she felt that the school would have the right tools to help students succeed in a flexible environment.

Unfortunately, after Sonya first enrolled at APU, her husband fell ill. She needed to suspend her studies for a few years to help take care of him, but in 2013 she was able to return back to school once again. That’s when things got really interesting.

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Earning Credit Through StraighterLine

“I’ll always be a lifelong learner,” said Sonya, “but I also have a tendency to research things to death. I’ve found that the key to going back to school is actually just getting started!”

Fortunately for Sonya, she found an online forum of like-minded adult learners who were also looking to earn their degree affordably, flexibly - and through emerging degree pathways. That’s where she first heard of StraighterLine.

“Over the years, I’ve been a fan of earning alternative credit,” she explained. “Throughout my working life, I’ve learned on the job. It was important to me to find a way to earn credit for what I already knew. Even back when I was earning my associate degree, I took advantage of test-for-credit programs that could earn ACE Credit.”

While online, she started hearing more and more about StraighterLine and its low-cost online course options: “I like to stay informed, and while I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree, I saw that APU had forged a partnership with StraighterLine.”

One of the things Sonya liked best about the StraighterLine - APU partner college relationship was “how simple it would be to enroll and transfer courses. You just go directly to the APU’s partner college page [on the StraighterLine site] and take a look at course equivalencies. The course equivalency section spells out exactly which StraighterLine courses APU will accept in transfer.”

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Two Courses Short of a Degree

Sonya’s understanding of alternative credit pathways became a critical component towards her graduating on time. “I was preparing to graduate at the end of 2015,” she recalls, “when I reviewed all my completed credit requirements with my advisors at APU. Through this review, I realized I needed two more courses to complete my degree.”

Sonya didn’t want to wait another semester to complete her requirements. She was looking for a way to complete her degree as quickly as possible, and that’s when she turned to StraighterLine.

“StraighterLine courses are self-paced, and you just pay for a monthly membership. That works for me. I’m disciplined enough to complete my courses online, and I wanted to finish quickly. Plus, while you are enrolled in a StraighterLine courses, you get a real-time online snapshot that lets you know where you are in your course at all times. You can easily see how much you’ve already finished, and how much you have yet to complete. It’s really helpful!”

After taking a look at the course equivalency agreement between the schools, Sonya enrolled in StraighterLine’s US History II as well as Business Law: “The courses were challenging, and I really needed to work to get them done, but they were also really interesting!”

Advice to Other Adults Considering Earning Their College Degree

“While it’s important to do your due diligence, don’t spend all of your time just researching and never getting started,” she advises. “You can begin working on your degree with StraighterLine, and start knocking out general education courses right away.”

Sonya will be graduating with her Bachelor’s of Accounting Degree at American Public University in February 2016. Thanks to StraighterLine, she completed the final two courses she needed for her degree program and is now planning on earning her CPA. Congratulations, Sonya!

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