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California resident finds career, personal success through ASU Online

ASU alum Andrea LaRosa leaning against a palm tree smiling

Andrea LaRosa

April 02, 2024

Growing up in New York and struggling with an undiagnosed learning disability, Andrea LaRosa says her journey through high school had its difficulties.

The current California resident earned her GED at the age of 19 and, recognizing the importance of higher education, despite the odds, decided to pursue a college degree.

LaRosa moved to New Mexico and began her studies at a community college. Quickly realizing she wanted a four-year college degree, she applied to Arizona State University and San Diego State and was admitted to both.

“I aimed for top-tier universities, a challenging feat with only a GED,” LaRosa said. “I chose ASU. it felt like a better fit for me being that I was an 'older' student, coming into the game in my early 20s. ASU saw potential in me and offered conditional acceptance, which I met by passing the entrance exam effortlessly." 

She traveled to Arizona and almost finished her degree, when she decided to move to Los Angeles in search of a career in the film industry.

Still, the idea of completing the degree she started stayed with her. 

Across California, talented learners — including thousands of qualified high school and community college graduates — are trying to find available seats at universities where they can pursue their interests. 

Twenty years ago, ASU expanded into California, becoming part of the state's higher education ecosystem and welcoming students from across California. In 2006, ASU began offering its first online programs, expanding education opportunities for learners across the nation. Since the fall of 2000, more than 105,000 students from California have found success at ASU and through ASU Online.

This was the perfect timing for LaRosa, who was looking to complete her unfinished degree.

Initially an ASU on-campus student, LaRosa says the online offerings gave her the flexibility she needed to succeed personally and professionally while achieving a work, life and school balance.

“Navigating college was no easy task; focusing in class was a struggle, leading me to occasionally drop and retake courses with the help of a tutor,” she said. “I was determined not to let these setbacks define me. The introduction of online classes at ASU was a game changer. As someone who was already balancing night classes with work, the online format suited me perfectly, and I began to thrive.”
LaRosa graduated in 2008, with honors, as one of the first graduates from ASU’s online degree programs offered by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Her story is one of many California students who found both educational and professional success in part because of the pioneering spirit of ASU and how they envisioned online education — quality, accessible education that is far reaching and serves a diverse population of learners.

“Before even completing my degree, I landed a job in Los Angeles,” LaRosa said. “This opportunity allowed me to finish my education remotely, ultimately graduating with honors. This journey from being underestimated to achieving academic and professional success reaffirmed my belief in perseverance and the importance of finding one's own path to success.”

Four years after ASU began offering online degree programs, ASU Online was established and now offers more than 300 fully online degree programs, more than 88,000 degree-seeking students and more than 90,000 graduates. 

Through these online degree programs, ASU serves learners across the nation who are looking to attain a college education while having the flexibility to balance life and stay close to their friends, family and community.

LaRosa has flourished as a coach, podcast host and author, and she continues to evolve as an entrepreneur. Currently residing in San Luis Obispo, we spoke to LaRosa about her time at ASU and her life trajectory since she graduated.

Question: What led you to choose your major?

Answer: I admit I changed majors quite a bit in the beginning. I didn’t really know what I was passionate about. Then I found out about the liberal studies degree, and that sounded perfect. It allowed me to dabble in a little bit of everything. 

Q: How has your ASU degree helped you in life or your career?

A: Following my time at ASU, I pursued and completed two master's degrees. The versatility of my bachelor's degree and the esteemed reputation of ASU played pivotal roles in my acceptance into these advanced programs. In every job interview, the mention of ASU was met with recognition and respect, signaling the university's strong standing. "Oh ASU, that's a great school" was a common refrain, underscoring how the institution's prestige facilitated opportunities for me. Graduating with honors not only highlighted my academic achievements but also empowered me to seize the opportunities that ASU's reputation had unlocked.

Q: What is your current job/profession, and what was your career path to get there?

A: Leaving Arizona behind, I ventured into the film industry, where I carved out a successful career for several years. However, around six years ago, I felt a strong pull towards a more service-oriented path and transitioned into coaching. This pivot was driven by my desire to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others. Now, I've established myself as a successful matchmaker and relationship expert. I host a popular podcast, have authored a book, and lead workshops and seminars designed to equip individuals with the skills for fostering positive relationships.

Q: Was getting a degree online worth it? And why?

A: The availability of an online study option was pivotal in my academic journey; without it, completing my degree might not have been possible.

The flexibility to study at my own pace was a game changer, allowing me to learn in a way that best suited me. The fact that my degree would be recognized simply as an ASU liberal arts degree removed any concerns about the potential stigma associated with online programs. This setup liberated me from the embarrassment of struggling in a traditional classroom environment. Earning this degree stands as one of my proudest achievements.

Q: What is one misconception you think people get wrong about online education?

A: There are two prevalent myths about online learning that don't hold up. First, there's the idea that online students are solitary, lacking teamwork skills and avoiding social interaction. Second, the belief that an online education is inferior, assuming it's delivered with less effort and engagement from instructors.

While these misconceptions might apply to some online programs, my experience at ASU was entirely different. The quality of online lectures matched those delivered in person, with the added benefit of pausing and revisiting the material as needed — a feature impossible in a traditional classroom setting. This flexibility enhanced my learning experience, debunking any notion that online education at ASU was anything but rigorous and comprehensive.

Q: What advice do you have for current/future online students?

A: For those navigating the world of online education, either now or in the future, embracing the unique benefits that come with it is crucial. The ability to pause and replay lectures offers an unparalleled opportunity to understand the material thoroughly, so make sure to use this feature to its fullest potential.

Despite common misconceptions, online learning does not limit social interaction; instead, it can enhance it. By actively participating in online forums, group projects, and virtual study groups, you can develop strong teamwork skills and forge meaningful connections with your peers.

When choosing an online program, prioritize institutions known for their rigorous and comprehensive courses, similar to the quality education I received at ASU. Don't overlook the array of resources available to online students, including tutoring, access to digital libraries and academic advising. Managing your time effectively is key, as the flexibility of online learning requires a high degree of self-discipline and organization.

Approach your online education with an open mind, ready to engage fully with the experience. This mindset, combined with the right resources and a proactive approach to learning, can make your online educational journey both rewarding and transformative, leading to substantial personal and professional development.

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