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"My granddaughter is studying at the Harvard Extension School...in our opinion, the education I am receiving at UoPeople is comparable to what she is receiving at HES. That says a lot!"

Shirley Zook
Health Science Student

Student Reviews: What It's Like to Study at University of the People - Interview with Shirley Zook, 63 years old, Grandmother, Health Science Student at UoPeople


Q: Why did you choose to study at UoPeople?

Initially, I became interested in UoPeople because it is an accredited university offering a quality higher education program online and tuition-free. Accredited, online and tuition-free…it still amazes me! Then I began to look deeper and I discovered a university with an extraordinary background and a vibrant academic community. I watched the 2014 TED talk with the founder and president, Mr. Reshef, and was inspired by his words.

"Accredited, online and free…it still amazes me!"

I became more and more impressed as I browsed through the website: the mission statement, the leadership, the partners, the instructors – all of whom volunteer their time and talents. This was a warm, exciting and close-knit academic community that I was drawn to like a moth to a flame.

Q: Had you faced any hardships in the past which prevented you from studying in a university before arriving at UoPeople?

Two factors prevented me from studying in a university in the past: money and time. With the average yearly cost of college tuition in the U.S. at $33,215, there was simply no way that I could afford higher education. Attending a physical university was impossible because I had a full-time job and there just wasn’t enough hours in the day.

Q: How would you describe UoPeople?

My first impression of UoPeople was of a vibrant, supportive and welcoming college community that made every effort to prepare me for my educational experience. After completing two terms at UoPeople, I realize that I am, indeed, receiving a quality higher education. My granddaughter is studying at the Harvard Extension School and we discuss our courses and education on a regular basis. In our opinion, the education I am receiving at UoPeople is comparable to what she is receiving at HES. That says a lot!

Q: What is your favorite thing about studying at UoPeople?

A: Again I'll refer to the vibrant and supportive academic community. My focus may be on earning a degree, but I cannot help but feel that my favorite thing about studying at UoPeople is the people.

Q: How do you think your degree from UoPeople will help you in the future?

A: When I was eight years old I watched on TV as our President, John F. Kennedy, introduced an exciting new program called the Peace Corps. I decided then and there to volunteer when I was old enough. Life took me down a different path, and I never did join the Peace Corps. However, after I retired in the summer of 2016, just out of curiosity I went on the Peace Corps website where I discovered that they had implemented a new aspect of the volunteer program embracing retired folk.

You can only imagine my excitement! However, as I spoke with a Peace Corps recruiter, I found that the volunteer program is very competitive, and the larger majority of people who do become volunteers have a college degree of some kind; this degree I did not have. I knew that I could not afford college, but I was not ready to give up on my dream just yet. I determined to find out what my options were regarding earning a degree and began searching the web. Honestly, it was terribly discouraging to discover that there wasn’t anything out there for someone like me.

One day I stumbled upon the University of the People website. I was very skeptical at first – surely there is a catch to it. But I soon realized that there was no catch – it was the real deal! It felt almost surreal as I filled out my college application. Could I actually do this?! Well, as it turned out I could. I was accepted, passed the prerequisite courses, and I am on my way to a college degree…and the Peace Corps