First Semester of Online College? What You Need to Know.
Make a Degree Plan
Think of your degree plan as a map to graduation. Once you’ve chosen your major, you need to find out from your advisor how many credit hours are required to graduate. It’s up to you to sort out how many classes you can take each semester in order to graduate within your desired timeframe.
Make a Study Plan
If you’re like most online students, you’re keeping track of several schedules: work, family commitments, guard or reserve duties. Take time at the beginning of the semester to review your course syllabi and mark class times, test dates, homework assignments, study group meetings, and other projects on your calendar so there are fewer unpleasant surprises. You will also want to carve out time to take care of yourself – set dates and times for exercise, date nights, and relaxation time so you don’t get burned out. As a general rule, for every credit hour, you should plan on 3 hours of study time per week.
Show Up for Orientation and Class
At an online university, new student orientation is – you guessed it – online. It’s usually a zero credit or a one credit hour course that’s required of every new student. Orientation covers key things you need to know in order to function in the online learning community. These things include how to access your coursework, how to contact your instructors, where you can go for help, how to connect with study groups, how to submit homework and take exams, and how to make tuition payments.
You want to start off on the right foot. Orientation is the first step. The second step is to make sure you show up for class. Whether your class meets as a synchronous group each week, or once a month, it’s important to keep up with the work.
Similar to class on a traditional campus, the best way to meet people in an online campus environment is to get involved. Sure, there may not be pickup basketball games on the quad at an online university, but most quality online colleges and universities offer student portals where you can meet people who have interests similar to yours. You can browse through the various groups and join those that apply to you, for example: Army Veterans, USCG, Women in Law Enforcement, or Military Spouses.
Social Media is also a fantastic way to meet and connect with others. You can “like” your university’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages and follow their Twitter feeds to stay up-to-date on news and events.
Stay the Course
Statistically speaking, a quarter of all college students drop out during their first year. Your chances of success are greater if you can get past the initial jitters of the first few weeks. It takes, on average, three weeks to develop a new behavior into a habit. Give yourself time to adjust to your new routine, get your bearings, and get into the amazing journey that is the online college experience.
Guest post written by Christine Shelly
Photo credit: Vito Drago