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It’s Real, It’s For You: Students Review Their Calbright Experience

Recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote an article about ways we can get working adults back to college, highlighting the experience of a Calbright student.

They interviewed Alicia Rangel, who moved to California from Texas after withdrawing from a local community college, and the obstacles she faced to finally getting her education.

“She also found little support for her dreams of education at home,” the Chronicle wrote. “Neither of Rangel’s parents has a college degree, and she was expected to serve as a caregiver and surrogate parent for her three younger siblings. ‘I felt like my family wasn’t that encouraging of me as a woman of trying to go out and get my own,’ she said of her tight-knit Hispanic clan. “‘They’d rather see me under the arm of somebody who can kind of take care of me.’”

But then, she found Calbright:

“Rangel found a sense of community online that she never had in person. When, as a newbie, she was having trouble navigating the online-student portal, a fellow student replied to her message almost instantaneously — after midnight on a Saturday.

Now she tries to help create that community for others, working as a peer tutor and student ambassador. She logs on for study groups and career workshops, and she and another student, who have never met, started a virtual art club. When she suddenly spaces out in the middle of a conversation with her boyfriend, Dylan, looking at her phone, he knows she’s probably in the Calbright Slack channel, direct-messaging a student in need of help.”

That’s an inspiring story, and it’s one that Calbright students frequently share. 

Our Students Give Us Rave Reviews

In survey after survey, our students tell us they would recommend Calbright to their friends. Not just because it’s a career focused online college that’s currently free to all Californians, but because the experience they have here is so good. 

Often they think it’s too good to be true — all this, for free? — but they live it. It’s real. 

Randall, a graduate of our Data Analysis program, is one of those students. He said:

“It’s too good! There’s no way it’s real! Nobody believes that this is really free! But seriously – it is. I’m really doing it. When you think about it, it’s crazy that there’s an institution like this, but it’s also crazy that there aren’t a lot of institutions like this. Why did nobody ever do this before?”

Maryam said that after enrolling in Calbright, she not only got an education, she got a community:

“Everyone was available. And the community of students and instructors on Slack was wonderful. When I had a question, I could ask. I could join study sessions, I could get assistance and support. I felt very connected, and it helped a great deal.”

Alicia, who was quoted by Chronicle, not only found community, she found a better job: 

“I needed a job, so I found Calbright and the first thing I did was go to Career Services and work with the resume builder. She helped me a lot, and then I used that resume to get the job I have now at a non-profit at a children’s hospital. And that has really helped.” 

That was also Jimmy’s experience. He found community:

“I love that it’s self-paced, but also that unlike a lot of programs where they say it’s self-paced there’s guidance attached with that at Calbright. You get to decide your schedule, but they work out a plan with you that fits your life. And there’s so many people I can connect with – I have a specific instructor for the class, and also a counselor and coaches, and they’re all on the same Slack I am, and so if I get stuck I have someone to reach out to. I had an experience once with a coding boot camp where it was self-paced, but if I had a question I had to contact customer service. At Calbright, if I ever get stuck or confused or need more information about something I just reach out to any of these people who I already know, and they always get back to me, sometimes as fast as five minutes, never later than the next day. And if they see I’m idle from the program for a week, I get a message asking me if I need help getting back on track. I love that about Calbright. They have guidance. They have mentorship. It’s great.”

And he used his education to get a better job:

“None of my work history has anything to do with IT, but because of Calbright I got to introduce myself as an IT person. (The president of the company I was applying to) liked me, so he had me talk with the director I’d be working with, and we went over more of the technical stuff, and at the end of it all the president said ‘We’d like to give you an opportunity, if you want to join our team.’ They’ll start me off with a job, and once I pass my A+ exam that I’ve been studying for at Calbright, they’ll give me a raise to go with that. I’ve been working since then, and it’s been nothing short of amazing. Everything that I’ve been taught has really prepared me for this.”

Williams got a better job as well:

“While I was studying for Calbright’s cybersecurity certificate, a recruiter reached out to me on LinkedIn about a job in cloud systems. Everything we’d done worked: soon I had a job offer, and I really like my new work. And now, even though I already have a new job, I’ve decided to keep studying at Calbright and get my CRM Platform Administration certificate, too.”

“If I didn’t get the IT certificate at Calbright, I probably would not be here now. That triggered everything else that happened afterwards

College Staff Who Support Your Life

While many students talk about the career boost they got from Calbright, and the community they find at Calbright, others emphasize the support they found during difficult times in their lives. 

Students like Matt, who said: :

​​“My wife and her family were kind of in a tight spot a month or so ago, we were on the edge of something being really wrong. I told Calbright about my situation, and everyone was super supportive. Our counselors said it wasn’t a problem if I needed to take time, and they worked to help keep me on track.”

And Leila:

“I didn’t even think that I could get disability accommodations due to my permanent disability, but my Calbright support team knew I could and helped guide me through the process, which is so helpful. They’re always there, always looking out for us.” 

And David, who said that during the pandemic:

“I had been trying to tend to my mother, who lives in New York, during the pandemic. But she died in July, and it was harder than I thought not being able to see my mom at the end, because NY would not allow CA residents entry into NY. There was some guilt of not being able to say goodby and attend her service and internment. Motivation became difficult for me. Some depression came in. I was surprised that one of Calbright’s counselors reached out to me, and we set up weekly check-ins. I was surprised at how influential that was. It got me motivated again, it was nice to have a human face to check in with after being so isolated. It was friendly and a relationship. It helped me get back on track.

That’s the combination that I like about Calbright. It isn’t just working through the modules. Having that human interaction, even if it was on Zoom, was really helpful.”

Calbright is uniquely designed to support adults without a college degree who want to transition or improve their careers with new tech skills. When that’s what students are looking for, they start telling their friends: Calbright is for you.

That’s the most important review we can get.

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