Become a Student

Tips for making the transition to student life

If it's been a while since you were a student, chances are you're going to need some help making the transition back to the academic world. Online learning may be much more flexible than taking classes on a traditional campus, and it may allow for more tailored scheduling, but no matter what you've decided to study, there is one universal truth that always applies: you only get out as much as you put in. Becoming a student means making a commitment to learning, and the more committed you are, the more you will get out of your educational investment.

The Essential Skills of Successful Students

Regardless of what you're studying, you will greatly enhance your chances of earning good grades if you work on developing the following skills:

  • Time management. Most adults who engage in online learning are doing so while balancing their current jobs or family responsibilities. Thus, the development of good time management skills is absolutely essential. One of the major advantages of online learning is that it allows you to set your own schedule, but don't make the mistake of taking that to mean that you can put your schooling at the bottom of your priority list.
  • Regular effort. Avoid cramming all your schoolwork into a single afternoon or evening each week. Instead, spread it out over more days but spend less time on it per day to the greatest degree your schedule allows. This will create a more even and consistent engagement with the subject matter, which in turn will help with your ability to retain the material.
  • Sound study skills. Remember the basics of being in school? Don't leave your assignments to the last minute. Don't wait until the night before the exam to start studying. Don't put off questions you've been meaning to ask. Instead, be proactive, regularly review the course material, and be sure you understand foundational concepts before moving into more advanced material. Online learning actually makes this easier; since all course materials are stored digitally, you can instantly go back and access previous lecture sessions.
  • Taking care of yourself. Eat a balanced diet and try to get regular exercise, but above all, be sure to get enough sleep. Nothing has as detrimental an effect on academic performance as insufficient sleep. Aim for seven to eight hours every night. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, and avoid physically or mentally stimulating activities in the hour leading up to your bedtime.

Prepare Yourself for the Online Learning Environment

One of the major differences between online schools and their traditional counterparts is in the class structure. When you take an online program, you won't have real-world, person-to-person interaction with the other members of your class the way you would in an actual classroom. However, that doesn't mean that you won't interact with your fellow students at all; it only means that you will do so in a nontraditional forum.

Many online courses are set up so that students must participate in an online forum, message board system, blog, or other digital space that facilitates the exchange of ideas, opinions and information. In fact, a significant portion of your course grade may depend on your participation in such activities, as well as your level of engagement with them.

Your instructor will make course requirements clear at the outset, but in general, you should always be prepared to:

  • Participate in forums and group discussions on a regular, ongoing basis
  • Respect the ideas and opinions of your fellow students, even when you disagree
  • Assume that the instructor will read anything and everything you post

Student life can be fun and rewarding, but you need to allow for a period of adjustment, particularly if you've been out of school for a while. Anticipating challenges is a great way to face them head-on and best them without losing your forward momentum.