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If You Want To Succeed at an Online Degree Program, Here Are 5 Steps You Need to Take First

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5 Steps to Succeeding at Your Online Degree Program

In a perfect world, we would all have the luxury of enrolling in an on-campus degree program. Being on campus and attending class on a regular basis promotes a sense of ownership of the degree program. Putting in the effort to attend class, take notes, and get to know your professor will put you in “school mode” which will make the process more fluid. However, on-campus programs aren’t viable for everyone. 

Choosing the right program for you: Online vs. On Campus

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. For that reason, on-campus degree programs many times aren’t even an option. Living miles and miles from a brick and mortar university or college makes that impossible.

We set spoke to students who have successfully completed online degrees and asked them what helped them to succeed.

RELATED: Online Colleges for the Military

5 steps that will help you not only survive, but succeed in your online degree program:

  1. Connect With Your Instructor Early
  2. Make A Schedule
  3. Get Organized
  4. Find An Accountability Buddy
  5. Designate Study Space

RELATED: What Veterans Need to Succeed in College

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 mentors at the beginning of your program.

You are actually 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 during the semester 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. Set aside time for 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 ask.

RELATED: 5 Tips to Ensure a Solid Start to Your College Experience


Get Organized

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. Purchase books before the course begins so that there’s no option for them to arrive late and put you behind. Make a plan for how you are going to stay on top of your course work. Will you study daily? 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..)

Related: Tips To Save Big On Textbooks

Find an Accountability Partner

Just as having a gym buddy makes going to the gym and working out easier, having a study buddy or accountability partner will help you stick to your educational goals.

Whether that is someone that you met from both being enrolled in the same course, a local friend who is also enrolled in a degree program, 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 work. 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 not 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?

If you are still undecided on which online degree program is the best for you and your lifestyle, this helps map out the different degree options you have and the pros and cons of each. It gives great insight into what each degree program can do for you.