An Interview with Amy Dodson

"The most important study tip that I can offer another online student is to stay organized. At the beginning of a new class, you should sit down and look at the syllabus. Plan your own schedule out so that you can look ahead and anticipate when you will have deadlines. This will keep you from procrastinating and will help you to turn things in on time."

Amy Dodson graduated in 2011 with her online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Ashford University. She graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade point average. Amy holds an Associate of Arts from Lees-McCrae College and is a member of Golden Key International Honour Society and Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honor Society for adult students.

Amy decided to go back to school for her bachelors degree in psychology after spending years working in the medical field. She intends to pursue a masters degree in education, specializing in family and community services.

In your own words, what is psychology?

Psychology is the study of the mind and people’s behavior. It is a subject that pertains to anyone who wants to better understand how to get along with others, as well as learn to better understand yourself.

Why did you choose to get a bachelors degree in psychology online?

I chose to get my bachelors degree in psychology because my long-term goal is to become a substance abuse counselor. I would like to help individuals overcome addiction problems and counsel these individuals along their paths to recovery.

Studying online at Ashford University was a good option for me because I work and also have a family, and I couldn’t find a traditional program that would allow me to keep up with the rest of my life. I started to investigate the idea of online schooling nearly 10 years ago when it was just getting off the ground. But it wasn’t until I talked with a recruiter at Ashford that I realized how well the program could work for me.

What did you find most and least enjoyable about studying psychology?

I really enjoyed learning about the human body and mind. I worked in the medical field for a number of years before I went back to school, and I always had an interest in people and health.

However, what I enjoyed the least about my bachelors program in psychology was my statistics class. I do think I will use statistics in the future, but I didn’t have very much fun while I was in the class.

When you first considered studying psychology online what were your expectations?

When I started to think seriously about earning my bachelors degree in psychology at Ashford University, I was concerned about the cost. Online programs are a little more expensive than traditional on-campus programs or community college classes. But I was able to qualify for the Pell Grant, which was incredibly helpful. I also took out a small personal loan so that I could manage financially.

I was also concerned about being an older student and coming back to school after so many years away from the classroom. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it. It only took my first class to realize that I was totally capable of excelling in the program and finishing my degree. I set up study times for myself and made sure to familiarize myself with the online system. Then I was able to relax and build my confidence.

What kinds of classes did you take in your psychology program?

The first 12 classes that I took in my program applied directly to my psychology focus, and the rest were core classes. The core classes included a couple of English classes, math, sociology, history and a class on informal logic.

Which of these classes do you think were the most valuable for the work you do today?

Obviously, the psychology classes will help me the most in my future career as a counselor. But my English and history classes were also really interesting and beneficial. In the English classes, I was able to improve my writing and learn to think critically about literature and art. One of my English classes was an introduction to film, and I really enjoyed writing about the elements that go into film. I think that the ability to think and writing critically will help me once I become a professional in the field of psychology.

What classes do you feel were least useful?

I don’t think any of my math classes will be very useful. I took algebra 1 and 2, geometry and trigonometry. Of course, you never know what you will need in life, so I am glad I took these classes in case I do end up needing to know how to solve advanced math problems.

What resources did you use to help you succeed in your studies?

I used a number of online sources while I studied for my bachelors degree in psychology. Questia Online Library was very helpful, and so was ProQuest, which is a database of journals and academic articles. Ashford University also had its own online library that I used for my papers and research as well.

How did you interact with your professors?

For the most part, I used e-mail to communicate with my faculty while I was in my bachelors program. I had great relationships with my instructors, and I even kept in touch with a couple of them after I graduated.

Were you able to interact with your peers while studying online?

Yes, I made quite a few relationships with my classmates in my psychology program at Ashford. I have kept in touch with some of my classmates, and we are connected on Facebook.

What personality traits do you think would help a student to succeed in a psychology program and what traits would hinder success?

Students need to be motivated to do well in online classes for psychology. And they need a lot of discipline to stay on track.

On the other hand, if students are afraid to ask questions or don’t get involved in group discussions, they will probably not do well in online classes.

What was your weekly schedule?

I would spend between 4 to 6 hours on my coursework, 7 days a week, when I was in my bachelors program for psychology. At Ashford, classes lasted for 5 weeks. The first 2 days of class are spent reading, because there is a lot of background knowledge that you need in order to understand the assignments that will come later. There are up to 20 chapters of reading for each course, and you also need to be able to assimilate that information and discuss it.

Every Thursday, the first of 2 responses to a discussion question was due. These responses took quite a bit of time. I would read the discussion questions ahead of time so that I could start thinking about them early on. You are also required to respond to other students’ discussion posts. All of these responses showed your instructor that you were thinking about and understanding the material.

At the end of 5 weeks, I usually had a long paper due. This was in addition to a shorter paper that we turned in halfway through the course. Overall, I spent a lot of my time reading and writing.

How did you manage your course load? What study tips would you give to a prospective student?

The most important study tip that I can offer another online student is to stay organized. At the beginning of a new class, you should sit down and look at the syllabus. Plan your own schedule out so that you can look ahead and anticipate when you will have deadlines. This will keep you from procrastinating and will help you to turn things in on time.

Do you think the fact that you studied online affected your job prospects?

I don’t think that getting my degree online had an effect on my ability to find a job. Many of the major universities in the country are offering online classes, so I don’t think that people have the same kinds of megative opinions as they used to have about online education. I worked very hard to keep my grades up and I graduated with honors. I think this will show employers that I have a strong work ethic and know how to get things done.

Now that you have completed your psychology program, if you could go back to high school, what would you do differently?

If I could go back to high school, I would bring my motivation with me and earn my college degree sooner. If I had been as motivated as I am now to get through school, I could have finished my bachelors degree instead of stopping after I earned my associates degree.

If you were to redo your years of college, what would you do differently?

The only thing that I would have done differently is added some classes in education to my degree. I am realizing that several of the jobs I would like to do require a teaching certificate, and it would have been helpful to take some of the classes required for a teaching certification while I was in my bachelors degree program.

Overall, though, I had a great experience at Ashford University and I loved every second of it. I am proud that I worked as hard as I did and was able to graduate summa cum laude.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in studying psychology online?

I would advise students to consider what their ultimate goals are. Bachelors degrees in psychology are great, and you will learn a lot, but the degree doesn’t necessarily qualify you for specific jobs. Usually, mental health jobs require further education or certification. I went into my program with the knowledge that I would continue on into a masters program for psychology because I need a masters to become a substance abuse counselor.

Unless you are sure that you need a bachelors degree in psychology, you might consider other degree programs that fit a little more closely with your future career goals.