The path to success hasn’t been easy for Vincent Osborne.
It took five years of hard work to finish his BS in Computer Information Systems, sometimes needing time off to focus on work or family. But he never gave up, and this sentiment is strong in his advice for other students: “Don’t stop no matter what. You may pause, skip a semester or two – but never stop! Don’t ever second-guess if you’re doing the right thing or second-guess if the education is worth the effort, cost or sacrifice.”
The husband and father of three learned that perseverance and celebrating the little things are what lead to completing your goals.
Professionally, Osborne has risen above many struggles and setbacks. After high school, he started several small businesses only to have each fail after a few years. The challenge of sustaining a small business left him “questioning his business acumen.”
Osborne also faced challenges in achieving his long-held desire for a higher education. In his first attempt, he ended up the casualty of a “diploma mill,” with $9,000 spent on tuition and fees but nothing to show for it. He knew he’d have to increase his standards, and so began looking for a private, nonprofit institution that was accredited and highly ranked.
He found that in Florida Tech.
Osborne says the greatest value from his education was that he gained “the opportunity to thoroughly pinpoint my shortcomings in past failures.”
Let’s hear more about his background, his experiences at Florida Tech and his advice for students.
Background and Educational Experience
Q. Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’ve been an IT professional for the last 25 years. I’ve been fortunate to have found some success in an industry that is defined by its dynamic and challenging nature (coupled with incessant innovation). Despite having a fairly successful career as an IT professional, I’ve always secretly desired the personal gratification of earning my degree.
Q. Why did you decide to advance your education through a degree program online?
Serving as an IT manager for an insurance company from the spring of 2003, I have an established career that I enjoy, so I wanted a way to obtain my degree without leaving my job. Furthermore, I have a wife, a teen and two young children. I truly did not want to leave them behind to pursue my undergraduate education when research shows that, as a result of advancing technology and changing social norms, the quality of online education has increased substantially over the last few years. Therefore, the flexibility of maintaining my current lifestyle while still having the ability to pursue my educational objectives made advancing my education online a no-brainer.
“I’ve always secretly desired the personal gratification of earning my degree.”
Q. Why did you choose Florida Tech?
Admittedly, and somewhat embarrassingly, I previously attempted an online degree program. When that university shut down as a result of failing to achieve “accreditation” as well as previous investigations by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) for running a “diploma mill,” I was dumbfounded and angry. This resulted in a personal loss of about $9,000 in tuition and book fees with absolutely nothing to show for it.
After deciding to pursue an online degree again, I insisted three overriding criteria must be met: 1) the university must be regionally or nationally accredited; 2) the university must be a private, nonprofit institution; and 3) the university must be regionally or nationally ranked.
With those criteria as a base, I then looked at other things such as costs, quality of faculty, accomplished alumni, and the quality and breadth of the institution’s online programs relative to its on-campus ones.
After narrowing down my research to a shortlist, I chose Florida Tech for the reasons mentioned above.
Q. How will your Florida Tech degree make a difference in your career?
Already my degree has made a difference in my career. My undergraduate degree from Florida Tech has provided me with the tools and confidence to execute at an even higher level than I did before. In terms of managerial competence and efficiency, I’m much better at organizing and planning. My communications to staff and external business entities are more cogent and impactful. I’d been working with technology for years prior to earning my degree; however, coupling years of real-world experience with the breadth and depth from my post-secondary education has been invaluable and somewhat enlightening.
My degree has served as a stepping stone in paving a path for my continued educational advancement. In spring 2016, I’ll be pursuing a Master’s in Computer Information Systems at Boston University, which will serve as a basis for the continued upward trajectory of my career.
“My undergraduate degree from Florida Tech has provided me with the tools and confidence to execute at an even higher level than I did before.”
Advice for Current and Prospective Students
- Communicate with your professors: Don’t be afraid to utilize each professor’s offer to communicate with them directly via their provided email address or phone number.
- Don’t take tests near your children: If you have a child or children, never start an examination with them around. Even if they are in their own room playing, watching TV, etc. – don’t do it! They will find a reason to disrupt you no matter what. Perform your tests away from your normal family environment. I utilized my company’s office. For you, it could be a friend’s house, a family member’s home – anywhere you have a stable Internet connection and no disruptions.
"Great accomplishments happen in small stages."
- Track your progress: Nothing provides a psychological boost like when you can track your progress and see measured results. Great accomplishments happen in small stages. You have 124 credit hours to complete. I used a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and titled columns for Course Number, Course Description, Credit Hours, Grade, GPA, etc. Then I had a summary box at the top which had calculated figures from within the tables. I had Total Credits Required, Total Credits Earned, Remaining Credits to Go, GPA, etc. These served as a statistical guide after every semester to plot my progress. This may seem simplistic, but trust me, the psychological affirmation when you’re able to see your overall Total Credits Remaining dwindling semester after semester is invaluable.
- Use digital versions of textbooks: When course materials are available in traditional text and digital formats, opt for the electronic version (usually PDF). PDF textbooks usually allow you more flexibility in terms of portability and convenience. You can more easily read on your tablet while your kids are playing at the park. You even have the option, depending on the e-reader, to have the book read back to you. Lastly, because many online tests are open book tests, PDF course books have the additional benefit of allowing you to quickly search their content, which is immensely faster than flipping through bookmarks in a physical book.
- Think in small steps to keep from getting overwhelmed: For those of you still feeling a bit overwhelmed at the totality of the task that lies ahead, please don’t look at it from this viewpoint. Instead, envision that a degree is simply a series of small incremental steps or goals, usually 6 credits at a time. The enlightenment comes from the fact you’ve just learned how to set deep, meaningful and personal goals and to achieve them.
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