Determination. Guts. Will power. And a fair amount of insanity. These things combine to make the ultimate online student.
At this very moment, I am pursing a business degree online. It takes a lot of will-power, sacrifice, and determination, but it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made. As a nearly 1-year old online-college veteran, I’d like to share 5 tips for you “freshies” that just might help you survive.
1. Read fast and write well
Off-the-charts paragraph comprehension is a must. Online school is all about reading from multiple sources and writing what you learned. Every week, my school requires one discussion post by Wednesday, and two replies and a 3-page essay by Sunday. Some weeks are extra special and have other required assignments like participating in a forum or submitting an extra essay. To get an “A” (and make my education worth the investment) requires A LOT of reading and A LOT of writing about that reading.
There’s no teacher, no tardy bell, and no one asking stupid questions to distract the teacher so they don’t get a chance to announce the homework assignment before class is over. It’s up to me to carve out a time in my schedule for reading and writing and a little bit of hair pulling and crying.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but my priorities are often tested when a new movie comes out or my friends want to hang out randomly. Sometimes, I pick fun first. And sometimes I regret staying up until 10:55pm to submit an assignment that’s due at 11. But for the most part, I try to stay one step ahead of the due dates so I can hang out and have fun, and not have a panic attack.
3. Become a multiple-tab master
You’re probably already a pro at this, but have you practiced reading, comparing, and quote 3 or more articles while also referencing the assignment aka mission log? Assignments are graded by a strict rubric. So, when I write anything I always have the assignment description open in one tab. Google homepage (to look up words I don’t know) in another tab. And I keep any links that the teacher suggested open in their own lovely, little tabs as well. This requires a lot of jumping, but the hardest part is remembering where a quote came from for the bibliography. *I’ve performed many “where did I read that again” searches…*
Still, attending college online is one of the greatest gifts our generation could ever receive.
We can work towards making a better future, while working and gaining experience now. But before I started I doubted myself. I was afraid that after the first week, or maybe semester, or maybe year I would start to let my grades fall and skip assignments.
I was so afraid, that I almost didn’t enroll. But, when my teacher asked us to share our biggest challenges about online schooling, I learned I wasn’t the only one. And my classmates had some great advice for me, and anyone else struggling with this big decision.
Sarah said: “Starting out as an online student with a full-time job and all of our artistic jobs that make us money, is trying at first. I was very nervous when I first started out and doubted myself on more than one occasion, yet I was able to make it happen. Best advice I can give is be patient with yourself and set a couple of hours a day to just school work with no distractions (if possible). I’m sure you will do great.”
Ruth said: “Some of the important things that I found helped me while I was working on my doctorate online, was to use my phone to set alarms for study time, have a space set aside for studying and through habit, every time I sat in that space I was immediately in the study mode…even if I was not ‘in study mode’ prior to entering the space. And the final thing was a sign, just a paper folded in half to form a TP…I wrote Dr. Ruth and I encourage you to create a study space – no matter how small – where you write…”
Then, she added my name with my completed degree:
What had me like:
It’s so beautiful I could cry
Matt said: “I was watching Downton Abbey with my wife last night and the grandmother had a quote that came from a glass-half-empty position, but was apt for our busy, modern lives. It was something along the lines of “Life is just a series of puzzles that we have to constantly solve….and then we die.” As a fellow Christian, I’d say we both know it’s not nearly that depressing to die. But the first part of her quote is something I tell myself every day. Don’t wake up expecting any day to be easy. Just appreciate the few “easy” moments you might get in a week’s time. We spread ourselves thin so that we gain the tensile strength to never be able to be torn. I have no doubt you’ll figure out a way to do well in school mixed with everything else!”
4. Give your best in every assignment
School is frustrating. It’s like you pay someone to work for them. With online classes, usually, you can see the percentage that each assignment will affect your grade. I see critiques and discussion boards that are only worth 1%…I feel a lazy green goblin inside me want to recline on the couch. I could just skip it, just this once. It’s only a little bit. BUT NO!
The teacher grades these assignments, and by not submitting an assignment because it’s only 1% of my final grade, their respect for me will drop. Slacking off once can cause massive damage to your grade on assignments later on. I wish teachers were immune to judgments and favorites but they’re people too. So just be a good person and it can work for you.
5. Get a journal
Get you an undated weekly planner and make check-boxes for everything. Seriously, this is the only thing that keeps me on schedule. My weekly planner has 2 boxes on Wednesday for when the discussion posts are due. 4 boxes on Friday for when replies are due. and 2 boxes on Sunday for when the big assignment is due.
Do not overlook this step. Give yourself small victories for every little thing. Sometimes checking a box is the only way to push through assignment burn out, especially if it’s a class you didn’t want to take.
Karianne is the founder of Windmill Ways. She plays the cello professionally and currently works as an Art Director for a charity. Because she loves animated shows and movies, she studies 3D animation and graduated with a BFA with the unfortunate class of 2020. Her dream vacation would be just staying home, but "home" being a glamorous cabin somewhere in the mountains surrounded by forest.
Favorite band: Lord Huron
Favorite book: This Present Darkness
Favorite quote: "Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:20-21 (NLT)
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