For any working adult bearing the burden of supporting themselves financially, the time and resources it takes to earn a degree may make the endeavor seem like an impossible desire. With more schools offering fully online college degrees than ever before (and a 100% online community college here in California currently in the pipeline), this limitation is being challenged in a big way. Online degree programs are flexible, affordable, and are breaking down the barriers separating adults everywhere from the education of their dreams. Yes, that even includes an online graduate education.
Naturally, there will be some differences between distance learning and attending school in a traditional classroom setting. What effect will these differences have on your future prospects as a student in such a program? What do the top accredited online colleges and universities have to offer somebody like you?
Whether you choose ALU or another accredited online program, education is the most powerful tool at your disposal when it comes to improving your life and making your mark on society. In this article, we go into some of the habits and study strategies for college students you can adopt that will help you succeed as you enrich yourself in your online classes this semester.
1. Set Clear Goals and Come Up with a Realistic Way to Accomplish Them
So the saying goes: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” One of the oldest pieces of advice history has to offer is to plan out your path to the very end before taking the first step of your journey. This is one strategy that applies just as much to both attending school in-person as it does to one choosing an online college.
It may be tempting to do a Google search for the degrees that statistically lead to the highest salaries in a general sense, but this will tell you very little about the practical applications each one will offer you and even less about whether or not you’ll have an aptitude for the opportunities they will open up. Before filling out your application, decide what exactly you want to do post-grad. This is the phase where a significant amount of soul-searching will be necessary.
Once you have your ultimate goal in mind, you can work backward and look into the qualifications that will get you there. Does counseling sound like a field you could contribute positively to? You’ll need a Master’s degree for that, and there are several specific disciplines you can choose from. Once you’ve settled on the one that appeals most to you, you’ll be able to find the schools that offer the best programs to suit what you want to do, as well as affordable institutions that you may be able to earn some of your prerequisites at in the meantime. Keep putting in your research and due diligence until you end up with a task that you can accomplish today, such as submitting an application or reaching out to career specialists representing the institutions you are considering.
Take careful note of application and registration due dates for all of the schools you choose; draft out a six-month plan with all of these deadlines clearly marked. Break the process down into a list of smaller tasks. Once you know what must be done, actually doing it becomes much more manageable.
2. Utilize the Resources Available to You
Included in your arsenal of resources: your professors, your peers, and the support they stand to offer you (the same goes for the support you stand to offer them). It sounds obvious, but the fact that distance learning takes place outside of an institutional setting often causes students to feel disconnected from their professors, as well as others in their program. This network will be vital, especially after graduation. Cultivate these bonds; the effort invested will pay off generously in the future.
Many fellowships and post-graduate programs will require letters of recommendation – making a good impression on your instructors will supply you with a pool of ready and willing advocates to help you find your way, once you’ve completed your time in school. And, of course, your peers in school will become your peers in the field once you’ve all received your degrees. Forming and maintaining these relationships will help you all get on your feet after graduation. Inquire about resources your online university provides that help students stay connected remotely and meet up if possible. Having a few extra study buddies will never do you wrong, and you may even make a few lifelong friends in the process.
Material resources will also prove to be very valuable as you educate yourself through an online degree program. Your school will no doubt offer many, but your toolbox doesn’t end there. Obviously, the internet will provide a wealth of knowledge no matter what type of degree you happen to be pursuing. Public libraries, however, are often quite undervalued, especially to those without a background in academia. No matter where you live, there’s a good chance you have a library in your area to pull resources from – that, and they make a great place to study if your local Starbucks is a bit too rowdy for your liking.
3. How to Study in College: Manage Your Time Wisely
One of the most difficult aspects of online distance learning for most students, especially younger ones? Time management. This is crucial whether or not you are attending class physically or online – you are what you do with your free time.
Laying out your weekly schedule visually will help you balance your course load with your work schedule, personal life, and other important commitments. Identify blocks of time you can dedicate to your studies; setting this time aside and marking it down in your planner will help ensure that you won’t blow off homework, projects, and revision sessions, especially before important exams. Cramming is one of the least efficient and effective means of retaining information, so take a bit of time to look into strategies to make the most of your time outside of class and lectures. Studying is much more useful if you don’t need to constantly be reviewing topics you’ve already taken the time to learn.
In an online setting, the student is the catalyst propelling the learning experience. Self-motivation is one of the most important qualities that an online student can embody. You’ve got to want it, and if you do, your grades and the final outcome will reflect that effort.
4. Take a Vested Interest in Yourself: Earn a Degree Online
If you value yourself, you value your goals. This goes beyond the practice of taking your education seriously – this endeavor must permeate every aspect of your life.
Burnout is a common problem for students, especially in higher-level areas of study like engineering, medicine, and law, online or otherwise. Your health should be at the top of your list of priorities. Eating properly, exercising regularly, engaging in a rewarding social life, and making sure you’re getting enough sleep to function properly will be pivotal when it comes to your success in an online degree program.
The Bottom Line: In an Online Classroom, the Deciding Factor is You
In order to succeed in any distance learning program, you’ve got to get motivated and find the drive to dedicate yourself to your final goal as a student and future professional. You’ll never regret learning more – your education is one thing that nobody can take from you once it’s been acquired. If you’re the type to know what you want and are willing to do anything in your power to get it, we cannot recommend the pathway earning a degree online provides students young, mature, and everywhere in between.