Ivy league schools like Harvard and Yale are the holy grail for young, idealistic students on their way into the real world.
But they definitely aren't the only place to get a great education.
In fact, the movement towards more open, attainable higher education means there are more free online courses and classes available than ever before.
But don't make the mistake of equating cost with quality.
Many of the free online classes offered today rival curriculum and resources offered by even the best Ivy league schools. If you want to improve yourself and better your employment prospects without the insanely high costs of tuition inherent to traditional brick and mortar schools, check these out:
One of the better known online learning platforms, Coursera partners with ivy league schools like Stanford and University of Pennsylvania to offer top quality courses for free, or at least at more affordable rates. More than 20 million people are taking Coursera courses through these ivy league and other upper crust schools.
edX was actually founded by Harvard and MIT, so you know you're getting quality coursework. Harvard offers courses as varied as 'Visualizing Japan,' 'Super-Earths And Life,' and 'Introduction to Computer Science,' and you can also access partner courses from institutions like Berkeley, The University of Queensland Australia, and Boston University.
Open University is on a mission to bring social justice to all via the delivery of high quality educational content. According to the website, over 90,000 students are registered for free online classes this fall, and you can get your employer to sponsor the cost of your classes or search for free options.
MIT Open Courseware
Through its Open Courseware site, Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers more than 2,000 undergrad and graduate courses in Business, Humanities, Engineering, Fine Arts and more. Courses are delivered in a variety of formats including traditional textbooks, audio lectures, and video.
Open Yale Courses
Even when Yale's just not in the budget, you can still access some of its courses free online. These introductory, non-credit courses typically consist of videotapes lectures in live classrooms, led by Yale teachers and scholars. Open Yale offers dozens of departments and thousands of courses spanning Geology and Geophysics, Economics, History, Psychology and more.
Strict content creation guidelines and a rigid course format have helped Udemy keep the quality of its content offerings high, even though in theory, anyone can create one. Some courses are paid, but many are free and all are offered on-demand, with the ability to start and stop as your schedule allows. Over 10 million students have used Udemy, and there are over 40,000 courses available.
Free online classes aren't for everyone -- you need to at least have the drive and discipline to commit to your coursework and power through everyday distractions. But if you can master online, self-directed learning, it's entirely possible to earn yourself the quality of education offered at ivy league schools, right from the comfort of home.