Why do students choose to earn their degrees online instead of in a classroom? Work? Family? Health? A combination? Typically, they have too much going on in their lives to be in one location at a certain time of day.
But while earning your degree online provides the convenience and flexibility of being able to access course materials anytime and anywhere, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily easier than earning a degree on campus. While your professor is available when you need them and you have classmates to interact with, being a successful online student requires a high degree of self-motivation, hard work, grit and perseverance.
So – how can you successfully navigate this digital learning environment and earn that diploma? Who better to provide advice than those who have done it! Here are six tips from Florida Tech grads who have graduated with their degrees online and have bettered their lives because of it.
Managing your time is a central component of being a successful online student. Brian Tocci says, “My biggest piece of advice for online students is to manage your time correctly because you don’t have the teacher to go to class and see every day. You have to know everything and set up your schedule perfectly.”
Sometimes, this means looking at your current schedule and finding an unused chunk of time to dedicate to schoolwork. Matthew Donlan’s strategy? “I found balance when I was able to identify the best times that I would be able to get my schoolwork done without distractions. I chose the best way to do so was to wake up at 4 a.m., Monday through Friday, and complete most of my assignments before getting ready for work at 7 a.m. Any work that was left over got finished on the weekend, but my Saturdays and Sundays were not consumed with day-long coursework.”
Similar to time management, scheduling your to-do list is imperative to avoid being overwhelmed. Amanda Knittweiss says, “I think the key to success is really strategic scheduling. Not allowing all the work that needs to be done overwhelm you, but give yourself some flexibility throughout the week, break things up into small pieces and just work every day on achieving just a little something.”
One approach is to pull up the syllabus and plot out exactly which assignments are due on which date for the whole semester and put it on a calendar. That way, there are no surprises, and you know what has to be done. If you are taking more than one course, creating a master calendar with dates from both of your courses can be very helpful.
Creating a schedule from the calendar can help you establish an overall routine. Dan Pino recommends creating a routine: “It’s very important to get into a good study habit and work on your assignments in the order that they are due. Get into a routine early, and don’t break that routine. Before long, it becomes second nature. This makes life much easier.”
While it’s easy to do, given that you aren’t stepping foot into a classroom every day, procrastination is an online student’s worst enemy. Not only are you adding unnecessary stress to your life, but you’re also not making the most of your education if you procrastinate.
As Marla McGuinness advises, “You can’t wait until the last minute to do your homework. You have to get it done and make dedicated time for your homework, and then go out and do whatever it is that you want to do. Everybody who waits until the last minute and just does their homework on Saturday or Sunday is not getting the education that they should. They need to take that extra time, get the homework, find out the research – not just type out words just to get it done – find out, get the education, absorb the information.”
Planning helps you avoid stress and earn a solid comprehension of the lessons and knowledge.
Have a Support System
Having your significant other, family, friends and even the people at work behind you can help you stay motivated and push through. As McGuinness says, “You have to have a support system. If you don’t have your spouse or significant other behind you – it’s not that you’re going to fail, but you’re gonna struggle. And that’s not what you want to do. You want to continue and have your significant other really help you through the journey.”
Talking to your partner, friends and family about your academic goals can help them understand that you can’t always make it to every event. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being an online student can mean sacrifice, and it’s important for people to be in your corner when you explain to them why you can’t attend that happy hour or that baseball game. Sharing your experience can also help you hold yourself accountable – if you tell people you’re in school, you will also be motivated to share your success.
Communicate Early and Often
Your instructors and your student services representative are there to help you throughout your academic journey. Use them as a resource! Chrystal Young says, “Always utilize the student reps, as they are the forefront of one’s success due to their contact with so many students and feedback received from students. Never hesitate to state a problem at its earliest inception to the professor and/or student rep. Always log into your class just in case the professor has made changes to the assignment(s). Remember, communication is key, as you cannot be a silent learner. Finally, your student rep is genuinely there to help you with your success.”
If you have a question about an assignment or you have a planned vacation, reach out as soon as you possibly can to your instructors. Florida Tech professors are typically industry experts, so they are a wealth of knowledge you will miss out on if you do not reach out to them.
Go For It!
From an associate’s degree grad to an MBA grad, the resounding sentiment from Panther alumni is to go for it! As Amy Harrison says, “The advice that I have is that you have to have the dedication and push yourself. At times it might feel difficult, but if you push yourself, what you get in the reward is so worth it.”
When you decide to make the leap and pursue your education, you will be supported along the way, Lisa Garcia notes: “Don’t wait! Florida Tech is the perfect school to jump into. You’ll be greeted with assistance and support in all facets of the admission process, including which degree may be right for you, immediately.”
Are you ready to start your academic journey? Start your application here.