Tagged: college degree

Five Habits of Highly Successful Military Online College Students

Posted by Kelli McKinney

militaryauthority.com 5 habits of successful online studentsThe semester is underway. Books are bought. Highlighters uncapped. And yet for some military online students, there remains a lingering feeling of dread. If you’re in that crowd – already wondering if you’re going to make it to midterms, much less graduation – now is the time to turn it around.

Check out these five habits that successful students practice daily for some things you can incorporate into your routine:

  1. Break it down. No, this is not about dancing. This is about taking a good look at what you have to accomplish during the semester and deconstructing big, unwieldy goals into smaller, achievable tasks. For example: If you know you have to read two chapters each week, break that down into ten pages a day. Or if you have a 50-page term paper due in a month, plan to write 13 pages a week. Plan the work and work the plan.
  2. Show up. It sounds easy, but we all know it’s not. Online classes are different than red brick classrooms. It can be extremely tempting to gloss over assigned videos, multi-task during lectures and slip in and out of the room. Don’t do it or (trust me) it will become a habit. A bad habit, one that causes you to miss test-worthy information and damage your grade. A huge part of success in life is simply showing up. When you don’t, you miss out. Don’t miss out.
  3. Be a joiner. This one can be tough for introverts. Give it a try anyway. Seek out productive study groups, labs, discussion boards, weekly Skype review sessions or any other group resources that allow you to connect with other people, clarify any confusing topics, get study hints or just exchange ideas. The biggest benefit to this is the human connection. If you’re struggling in a class you will probably find quickly that you’re not alone in your struggle. There’s strength in numbers if you’ll make room for them.
  4. Maintain. A lot of times, people who feel pressure start neglecting the basics. Don’t. Make sure you get enough rest, eat healthfully, and exercise your body. Talk with trusted friends or family if you are stressed and listen if they offer coping suggestions. Managing a complicated schedule leaves little time for dealing with illness or burnout. The best way to avoid either is by practicing daily self-care – especially when you don’t feel like it.
  5. Protect your time. Give family and friends clear “no-fly-zone” instructions – and enforce them. Letting people know ahead of time when you’ll be studying or doing homework sends the message that your studies are important to you, and it lets them know not to interrupt. True friends will support your goals and be understanding if you have to decline social activities for a little while.

Success in online education is a result of hard work, discipline and persistence. It doesn’t happen by accident. It can happen for you. These tips are just a handful of key habits adopted by successful online students.

Have you tried any of these tips? Tell us how they worked for you in the comments.

The Best Education Advice I’ve Never Received

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

militaryauthority.com education advice ive never receivedA new school year has begun in most parts of the country. And since September 11, 2001, the start of the school year also provides a poignant reminder of freedom, democracy, and all that we hold dear. While it is true that the educational system in our country is in need of improvement in many areas, we can’t ignore the fact that few places on Earth provide the freedom to pursue the number and variety of educational and professional opportunities we have here in the United States.

Whether this marks the start of your first or final semester, the beginning of a new academic year can bring on a case of the butterflies (or worse). Many students experience anxiety and stress about their educational path and future job prospects. After more than a decade’s worth of experience in higher ed – and my own learning adventures – I have two pieces of advice that you aren’t likely to get from your education officers or even from your family.

Don’t be a follower.

You’ve probably been told by many well-wishing people “follow your passion.” Or, “follow your heart and the rest will fall into place.” Although it sounds wonderful, this kind of advice is better suited for relationships than for your education and future work.

In today’s economy, simply doing what feels good isn’t a sustainable practice – it can lead to frustration, accumulating debt, and a string of broken dreams. Plus, if you’re a working adult with a family to support while you go to school, you have responsibilities that you can’t simply shirk to follow your own interests.

Instead – bring your passion with you. Whatever you do, give it 110%. Find something to love about whatever you’re doing and give it all you’ve got. Look for the opportunity to share your passion with others and leave your own unique mark.

Strive for harmony, not balance.

“Work/Life balance,” as blissfully ideal as it sounds, is something that everyone seeks but few accomplish. It’s an incredibly popular topic that has everyone from CEOs to bloggers weighing in with their opinions and ‘how-to’s.’

Be careful about setting yourself up to achieve someone else’s idea of a balanced life. What works for them may not work for anyone else. Struggling to achieve an unrealistic ideal adds unnecessary (unhealthy) pressure.

What I would propose instead, is to strive for harmony as opposed to balance. Think about those televised singing competitions – sometimes a group is asked to sing in harmony together. It works well for some groups; others, not so much. In some groups, each of the singers wants to extend their 15 seconds of fame so badly, they sing over each other and refuse to yield the spotlight. The result is a musical mess that hurts to the ears.

Accept that there will be times when one aspect of your life takes priority over another. One area of your life will “sing lead” for a while and the others will support it and make it shine. You are the only person who can decide your priorities – your “lead singers,” if you will. Too many lead singers and you get a train wreck of a song. Too many backup singers and the music doesn’t really shine. The challenge is in making sure the right voices are singing lead at the right time.

The decision to earn your degree is one of the most important you can make, and if you’re reading this, you very likely already understand that. No matter where you are in life – whether you’re a working adult, a veteran, a military spouse or recent high school graduate, as you move forward in your educational pursuits and your professional career, you will be on the receiving end of all kinds of well-meaning advice. I hope the two pieces of advice I offered will help guide you toward achieving your goals. Best of luck to you as you begin the fall semester.

I’d love to hear from you. What kind of education or career advice has helped you? What do you wish you’d known when you started out?









Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.

Are you gut-strong?

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

militaryauthority.com are you gut strongEven the best-made plans can go awry, and even the most organized of us can sometimes be caught by surprise. Some people are motivated by challenges – so when things are running smoothly, they are easily distracted. Others, when faced with obstacles, need a little support to get over the bumps in the road.

The great industrialist and automobile pioneer Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right.” The difference maker that can change your attitude is gut-strength. 

In their book Heart, Smarts, Guts, & Luck, authors Anthony K. Tjan, Richard J. Harrington and Tsun-Yan Hsieh define one of the characteristics of successful businesspeople or entrepreneurs as “guts-dominant.” Guts–dominant people are not only the people who have an idea, but they’re willing to take action on it, endure trials and tribulations to keep it alive, and evolve as necessary to see that idea come to life.

When you have guts, you take action. You are resilient. You are accountable. And you get things done. This is a concept our military students and veterans know quite well; they are people who have a vision,  make a plan, take action, measure results and adjust accordingly.

How can you tell if you are gut-strong?

When you encounter an obstacle, do you stop in your tracks, unable to fully function because you are analyzing every possible outcome (repeatedly)? Or do you briefly consider your options then take a decisive action? Gut strong people take action.

Are you willing to make tough decisions and accept the outcome? Notice this is not the same thing as blindly forging ahead and damning the torpedoes – that isn’t strength, that’s carelessness. Gut-strong people accept responsibility and consequences for their actions.

If you’re saying to yourself, “But I don’t have any of these qualities,” think again.

You’ve already made a tough decision: You’ve decided to earn your degree. The responsibilities attached to this are substantial – you’ve got to do the work to gain the prize. If you have a family, work, or other commitments as well, you must work out a way to honor those too. That takes resilience and – you guessed it – gut strength.

You can bet that the ride won’t be smooth. But it will be worth it. The experience and knowledge you gain will propel you toward your goals, and the sense of achievement and confidence you earn will stay with you throughout your life.

If you’re willing to keep moving forward, take action and accept responsibility, you can endure and not only succeed, but thrive in your educational and professional pursuits








Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.

Financing a Degree in Tough Economic Times

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

financing a college degreeWhen I first joined Grantham College of Engineering, now Grantham University, almost 13 years ago, the median annual tuition rate to attend an in-state four-year college or university was about $3,200/year. Out-of-state college tuition, also at a public four-year university, was about $9,300/year. Now, just over a decade later, the median annual tuition in-state is about $8,500/year. Out of state tuition is out of sight at about $20,000/year. That’s a lot of money to fork over – or in most cases, a lot of money to finance. According to the US Consumer Financial Protection Board, at the end of first quarter 2012, outstanding student debt totaled an estimated $1 trillion.

Another area that has changed quite a bit over the past decade is the job market. The unemployment rate in 2003 was 6 percent. At the end of 2012, the unemployment rate was hovering at around 8.1 percent – for veterans, that rate for 18-24 year olds is just over 20 percent. Think about that for a moment: one in every five veterans ages 18-24 is unemployed. The total unemployment rate for all veterans over the age of 18 is 7 percent. In January of 2013, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 1,328 mass layoff actions (more than 50 employees were laid off at once), involving more than 134,000 workers. With federal furloughs looming and a number of employers making or considering reductions in workforce, competition for good jobs is fierce.

This picture may seem bleak, especially if you’re a prospective student or the parent of a prospective student. It may appear that the prospect of graduating with significant student loan debt is more likely than the prospect of graduating and securing a well paying job. But there are a number of ways for students to earn a degree without taking on significant financial debt at the same time. It may be even more important now, during tough economic times, to ensure your student is competitive by having a solid educational foundation.

The nonprofit group College Board authored a study in 2010 that compared median hourly wages of high school graduates with college graduates over time. For example, in 1982, the median hourly wage for high school graduates was about 50% lower than that of college graduates. Twenty-six years later, college graduates made more than double what high school graduates earned. This study is very similar to one completed by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. In that study, the results demonstrated that each additional year of education completed beyond high school results in increased hourly wages between 8%-13%. So what does this mean? Recent high school graduates and recent college graduates might be competing for some of the same jobs today – but in ten years, the college grad will be more likely to have a higher salary.

So how do we make college education less of a financial burden and more of a wise investment? Start by getting the facts. If you’re interested in a path of study at a particular school, ask for a line item cost estimate. Schools – especially those who participate in Department of Defense tuition assistance, Yellow Ribbon and GI Bill programs – are required to fully disclose costs. College cost calculators, like the one provided by Grantham University, are very useful tools. The best way to be prepared and build a financial plan is to know the facts.

If you’re a working adult considering college, your current employer may have a tuition assistance program or offer grants or scholarship money that would help offset your costs. Letting your employer know that you plan to attend school on your own time, at least in some cases, can demonstrate commitment to the company’s ongoing success. This is true especially if you plan to obtain a degree that will help you progress in your current field. If you aren’t sure whether or not your employer offers tuition reimbursement or other financial assistance, check with your HR department.

Another good resource for uncovering funding sources is your city or county public library. These places are often repositories for all kinds of civic information, including lists of local businesses and organizations who contribute to local scholarship and charitable funds. You can also do a simple Internet search using the search terms “scholarship funds” and your city or state’s name. Just use caution – no reputable, legitimate scholarship fund is going to ask you for bank information, a deposit, or social security number in order to apply for a scholarship.

If you are a member of the US Armed Forces, then you may have earned military education benefits that you, your spouse or your children can apply toward an education program. There are a number of ways to reduce the cost of education: CLEP testing, applying military training and service toward college credit, Tuition Assistance and the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill are just a few. Veterans’ education benefits, by and large, expire ten years after leaving the service, so it’s worthwhile to explore your options sooner rather than later.

Finally, when looking at potential colleges, take a good look at online education offerings through accredited institutions. Many online programs offer quality courses, certificates and programs of study, just like those offered at more traditional state schools. But many online programs come without the traditional fees and overhead costs, so the bill you receive is typically much smaller than what you’ll find at brick-and-mortar institutions. Plus, you can attend class and study on your own schedule – rather than adjusting your world to school, school fits into your world.

Despite the current uncertain economic environment, an online education is a solid choice to bolster your future prospects. Education benefits — military, local, and federal — plus the high quality and reduced cost of online programs will allow you to make the most of all available resources.


Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.