Are you planning to get an online college or graduate degree? If so, be prepared to do research on schools, apply for financing that fits your budget, make a work-study schedule that allows for enough sleep and leisure time, inform your employer about your plans, learn how to pace the amount of coursework (and homework) you take on, set aside a study space within your home, and compare program costs so you get the best value. Here are more details about how to maximize the positive learning experience of any online degree you select.
1. Choose Programs Wisely
There are literally thousands of online degree programs out there, but only a few hundred are worth their tuition fees. That’s why it’s imperative to spend a significant amount of time vetting any schools that make your shortlist. Do whatever you can to collect information about institutions.
Speak with former students, read everything on schools’ official websites, carefully examine the resumes of faculty members, find out how long the institution has been offering remote degrees, obtain specific data about all associated student expenses, and check with official accreditation organizations to make certain your favorite colleges are in good standing and are legally allowed to offer diplomas. Remember, it’s your money, your time, and your career. Proceed carefully and assume nothing. Verify every detail for yourself and come up with a shortlist of two or three institutions that meet your specific criteria.
2. Arrange Financing in Advance
Getting your degree and paying for it are two entirely separate challenges for the vast majority of students. That’s why it’s so crucial to get the money question taken care of up front. Fortunately, applying for an education loan from a private lender is a quick and simple process, all of which can be done online. For example, this option here includes a form that takes just a few minutes to fill out.
Plus, you find out almost instantly about approval, rates, terms, and all the pertinent details of the loan. Perhaps the main benefit of dealing with finances first is that you’ll be able to zero in on coursework once classes begin. You won’t have to wonder, from semester to semester, whether there’s enough money in the bank for next term’s tuition and fees. Private student loans offer competitive rates and sensible repayment plans to fit any budget.
3. Make a Detailed Time Schedule
Unfortunately, it’s easy to get in too deep with study, work, and family time commitments. To avoid hassles and headaches, sit down and write a detailed schedule of a typical week. Remember to include time for daily chores like exercise, social commitments, family obligations, live class sessions, homework, job duties (if you’ll be working), sleep, leisure time, meals, and personal hygiene.
Consider using a time management app that you can download for free or buy a book on the subject. It’s essential to know in advance, what your average day will look like. That way, you can calibrate the number of courses to take per semester. Most online degrees are self-paced so that candidates can literally design their own schedules right down to the minute.
4. Pace Yourself
One of the key benefits of non-traditional coursework is that you can set your own pace by taking as many or as few classes each term. It’s essential to know your limits before embarking on a serious, long-term educational path like a computer-based degree. Once the coursework begins in earnest, consider studying at fixed times each day. Avoid cramming for examinations.
Instead, spread study hours throughout the month or week so that you’ve never bogged down. Pacing is as important in school as it is in competitive track and field sports. Starting out too fast and with too much intensity can mean a slow, unsatisfactory finish. Everyone has a unique set of life, work, family, and other commitments, but aim to spend at least a couple of hours on coursework each day and add an hour or two to the schedule just before important tests.
5. Communicate With Your Employer
If you’re currently working, it’s wise to let your supervisor know that you are enrolled in a degree program. Some people would rather keep their ambitions secret, which is okay as long as the schooling does not interfere with job duties. However, most companies look favorably on employees who seek to advance their education and are fully supportive of the effort. In fact, some offer tuition reimbursement for degrees that are relevant to your current job responsibilities.
6. Create a Study Zone
Whether you live in a small apartment or a large home, create a designated study zone where you can escape from distractions (like TVs and music) and get your homework, reading, and other school projects done. An extra bedroom is ideal, but if you don’t have that luxury, consider building an office-style cubicle in one corner of a bedroom, basement, attic, or garage. Research study habits for online learners so that you can see what other students in your same position are doing to optimize their study spaces and processes.
7. Don’t Overpay
When vetting programs, be careful not to pay too much. That’s because, in the world of non-traditional academic programs, price and quality do not go hand in hand. Some of the best schools charge much less than unaccredited, low-quality ones do. This is one area where you simply have to do your homework on pricing and be very specific when it comes to comparing the relative values of one option against another.
8. Network with Classmates
Chances are good that you’ll be involved in several groups and team projects. These situations are an ideal time to make friends, build social and professional networks, and identify a few other students who might make good business partners or information resources in the future. Some of the largest and most successful companies in the world were founded by groups of people who met in college or grad school. Even with virtual degrees, it’s important to make those personal connections and build long-term relationships for professional purposes. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with making a few friends while you’re at it.