Am I Officially a College Drop Out? Grad School Didn't Go as Planned.
Before you tell me how disappointed you are — I can explain!
If you know me personally, you probably don’t believe I dropped out of school.
A college dropout?
In what universe?
I have a solid reputation for finishing what I start, no matter what. It might take me longer than expected and maybe I take a few detours. But I get it done.
Nevertheless, I did drop out of the Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) at UoPeople. But don’t worry. There’s no need to prepare your speech on staying in school and pushing through to the end.
I left UoPeople to start another master’s degree program in tech. This one is at Western Governors University. There, I enrolled in their Master of Science in IT Management (MSIT-M).
So … what happened?
At the end of May, I shared that I was getting my MSIT at a tuition-free university. I shared my thoughts about this unique establishment and provided information for others who might want to attend.
I started the program as planned on June 15th and instantly realized I hated it. So, in true Alex fashion, I completed all FIVE assignments due that first week and then formally withdrew before midnight the following Monday.
I enrolled at WGU the following Tuesday morning and started a new academic journey. WGU had been my first choice for perks but second for price. However, I found a way around the cost, and I’ll share it with paid subscribers next week.
What did UoPeople get wrong?
Let me start by saying that I think it’s a good university, and there are some things it does a lot better than WGU. However, I quickly realized that the program wasn’t a good fit for me. Here’s why:
Program design: Some grad programs are self-paced. They give you course material and a final destination. It’s your job to get there. Others are more like undergrad degrees, where you have classes and strict deadlines. UoPeople is the worst combination of the two. It gives you the course material like a self-paced program and has no classes, but then it has strict weekly deadlines.
Course load: I wanted to start with just one course, but the university enrolled me in two. The first week, I started my first set of assignments on Thursday morning, which was the start of their academic week. I didn’t finish until Monday night. I took the entire Monday workday off to finish those assignments and barely made it.
Knowledge and experience: UoPeople’s MSIT is excellent for someone who already has an IT background, and most of my classmates did. The coursework wasn’t hard, but most of the assignments were written in ways only fellow tech people would understand. I spent more time trying to decide which interpretation of the questions was correct than actually answering.
Grading: When learning something new, I want the freedom to make mistakes before being graded. UoPeople didn’t provide that. After each week’s reading, the follow-up assignments were graded. There wasn’t enough time to run your assignment by the instructor. So, your first feedback on your understanding affects your final grade.
Group projects: Like most students, I hate group projects. I was not excited about all the group assignments at UoPeople. Worst of all, I had to do it with people spread out around the world in different time zones and with varying priorities. People who might not have school as close to the top of the list as me.
Peer reviews: I asked around, and apparently, many grad schools have peer reviews as part of the college system. However, I don’t want to be graded by people learning the same thing I am, and I don’t want to grade their papers either. I am all for group discussions, but grading work? No, thank you.
Do I still recommend the University of the People?
I think they have an excellent mission, and they are doing great work for the people who need them. However, the MSIT program was just not designed for someone new to IT. I can’t speak for the other programs.
If you need a more collaborative learning experience, I recommend choosing another university. WGU is truly self-paced and prioritizes independent learning, but:
I can instant message my MSITM classmates on Microsoft Teams.
I have made other WGU friends by attending web conferences and adding each other on LinkedIn.
I can instant message, email, or call my program mentor.
I can call or email my course instructors to clarify assignments before submitting anything.
I have no peer reviews and no group projects.
I withdrew early enough from UoPeople that it does not impact my future academic record, so I can return at any time. After I get my master’s degree, I might go back for one of its graduate certificates. We’ll see.
Another amazing thing about UoPeople is the payment structure. I lost a grand total of $60 for trying the school — just the cost of my application fee. The school is tuition-free, and processing fees weren’t due until it was time to sit my exams, so I owed nothing at the time of withdrawal.
All in all, the experiment was worth it.
Why did I choose Western Governors University?
I could have gone to any other school after withdrawing from UoPeople, so why WGU? Illinois Institute of Technology had a competency-based MSIT via Coursera that was $15,000. I also got into San Diego’s National University, but their MSIT tuition was a whopping $25,000 after fees.
The main pull of UoPeople was the affordability of the degree at less than $3,700 for the entire thing. WGU costs far more than that but is still pretty affordable compared to the other options. And, like I said, I have a workaround for the cost.
If you are a paid subscriber, next week, I’ll share:
A full breakdown of why I chose Western Governors University
How I plan to reduce the degree cost to just $4,500
The difference between an MSIT and an MSITM
My crazy completion pace so far in a truly self-paced master’s program
What UoPeople does better than WGU
Alexis Chateau | Free Ramen is a reader-supported publication. Consider becoming a free or paid subscriber to receive exclusive posts and help cover the cost of grad school.
See you next week!