In a perfect world, we would all have the luxury of enrolling in an on-campus degree program. Being on campus and going to class on a regular basis promotes a sense of ownership of the degree program. Putting time and effort into going to class and taking notes will make the entire process more fluid. Studying and writing papers will come more easily because you are used to being in “school mode.” However, on-campus programs aren’t viable for everyone.
There are many different reasons that keep students from being able to physically be on campus. For military-affiliated students, one of the main factors is that they are constantly picking up and moving while they serve. (Kudos to those who still choose to enroll in a degree program while juggling the military lifestyle.) Because it is such a daunting feat – working full-time and enrolling in an online degree program – we set out to figure out just exactly how to set up these students for success…
5 steps that will help you not only survive, but succeed in your online degree program:
- Connect With Your Instructor Early
- Make A Schedule
- Get Organized
- Find An Accountability Buddy
- Designate Study Space
Connect With Your Instructor Early
Going back and forth between a military and degree environment can be tricky. That is why you need to establish allies and mentors at the beginning of your degree program. Believe it or not, you are paying your professors to be a resource for you. You pay them for their knowledge and expertise on the topic. Therefore, you should reach out to your professor early on, introduce yourself, inform them of your lifestyle (being involved in the military), and ask them if they have any guidance or tips on how to do your best in their class.
At the end of the day you want to acquire knowledge and learn. But, also your professors are the ones grading you (unless it is multiple choice exams for the entirety of the course.) You should therefore make an effort to learn how they grade, and also tell them a little about yourself so they can better understand you as they grade your work.
Make a Schedule
When enrolled at traditional on campus program, students have a consistent schedule with classes meeting on certain days. However, that’s not always the same with online courses. Sometimes it’s a matter of having to perform on 2 key tests and that is it. Other online courses have some sort of schedule to them. Regardless, to succeed in an online degree program, you must create a schedule for yourself: when you will go online to watch/listen to lectures, when you will read each day, when you will study, and most importantly when you will take breaks.
Many professors will help you with an outline in the form of a syllabus or even give advice on how students have succeeded in the past and what their habits were. If none of this is given to you for a specific class, then it is the perfect opportunity for you to connect with your instructor and build a relationship.
Starting out the semester organized and on track is of the utmost importance. Otherwise, you’ll spend the entire course trying to play catch up. Get your book before the course begins so that there’s no option for it to arrive late and put you behind the eightball. Make a plan for how you are going to stay on top of your course work. Will you study daily the material you learned earlier that day? Or will you study the entire week’s worth of knowledge for the entire weekend? Make goals for yourself at the beginning and hold yourself to them. (Which brings us to our next point..)
Find An Accountability Partner
Sometimes we let ourselves go. (Ex: You’re trying to lose weight but day after day you are so good until sneaking chocolate at night before bed.) So often we think, ‘Oh it’s ok, no one else will know…’ However, when you let yourself go with your studies, there’s no coming back. That’s why you need to find yourself an accountability partner. Whether that is someone that you met from both being enrolled in the same course, a local friend who is also enrolled in school, or even someone you know who is trying to reach a goal that requires a lot of dedication, time, and hard work. Keep each other on top of your goals. Don’t let them slip, and they won’t let you slip.
Designate Study Space
If you’re taking classes online, chances are you are using your kitchen table or coffee table as work spaces. (This is exactly what we suggest doing.) In order to ‘turn on & off’ your ‘school mode’ you need to have a designated study space(s) where you do your school work. That way you can better delineate when you are studying and when you aren’t so as to not get distracted in environments that aren’t conducive to concentration. We suggest having a go-to coffee shop, library, or home office space where you only go to, to study or complete school work.
Haven’t decided on a degree program yet?
Now that you have a gameplan, does succeeding in your online degree program sound more manageable? (We sure hope so!) If you are still undecided on which online degree program is the best for you and your lifestyle, this search tool helps loads! Simply use the search tool to select the characteristics and programs you want in a degree program and military-friendly not-for-profit schools will populate in the search engine. Enjoy exploring all that they have to offer military-affiliated students! Happy studying!
(Featured Image Courtesy: DVIDS)