Tips for Online College for Working Adults
Going to college is challenging enough, but trying to take online classes while also working and managing other responsibilities can feel overwhelming. However, with some planning and effort, it is possible for working adults to succeed in earning their degree through online programs. Here are some tips to help working adults thrive in online college.
Organization is key when juggling work, family and online classes. Get a planner to map out all your responsibilities and commitments. Block out study and class times as you would work shifts or other obligations. Having a schedule mapped out will help ensure you dedicate focused time to coursework.
Use calendars, to-do lists, reminders and other tools to stay on top of assignment due dates, test dates, and meeting times for group projects. Apps like Google Calendar and Evernote can help keep everything in one place. Set aside specific times each week for studying based on when you have the most energy and fewest distractions.
Create a dedicated study space if possible, and collect all the materials you need ahead of time – laptop, books, notepads, headphones, snacks, etc. The more organized your study area and schedule, the easier it will be to transition into school mode.
Set Realistic Expectations
Many adults underestimate the time commitment required for online classes. Don’t assume that because a class is online it will be easy or require less work. Most quality online programs have similar time demands to on-campus programs.
Be realistic about what you can handle. Taking one or two classes per term while working may be more manageable than trying to tackle a full course load. Recognize that you’ll need to make sacrifices and adjustments to your work and personal life to make time for classes. Allowing sufficient study time in your schedule is essential.
If you have a partner, enlist their support in taking over more household responsibilities and providing uninterrupted study time. Schedule quality time with family as well so you don’t lose that connection. Evaluate your work and personal commitments and pare down obligations where you can to free up time for school.
Utilize Academic Resources
While online programs allow for flexibility in when you study, that level of independence can also pose challenges. Make sure to utilize all academic resources provided by your program. Professors, teaching assistants, academic advisors and tutoring services can all help support your success.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your professor if you need clarification on course material or requirements. Get to know what resources your school offers for online learners. Develop relationships with other online students that can lend peer support. Schools with strong online programs provide resources to help students feel connected and succeed. Make full use of the academic help available.
One big challenge of learning online is the number of potential distractions around you. Set guidelines with family that when you are studying, you need undisturbed time. Silence cell phones, close email, and try to avoid social media when focusing on schoolwork.
Some adults choose to use noise-cancelling headphones to minimize auditory distractions. If you have children at home, see if you can arrange childcare or tag-team with your partner during your study blocks. Study somewhere like the library if your home is too distracting. Create an environment tailored to your needs that helps you focus.
Improve Time Management Skills
Managing your time effectively is critical when juggling multiple responsibilities. Review how you currently spend your time and look for areas where you can improve efficiency. For example, you may be able to complete certain work tasks or errands during lunch hours or on weekends to free up evenings for school.
Look at when you tend to be most productive and do challenging coursework during those high-energy hours. Batch similar tasks together, like knocking out all household errands in one trip. Take advantage of small pockets of time to review notes or read, like during a lunch break.
Put systems in place to help streamline key tasks like meals and laundry. Improving time management will ensure you don’t shortchange your studies.
Technology can be extremely helpful in fitting education into an already busy schedule. Take advantage of tools that allow you to complete coursework on the go. Use a tablet or laptop to work on assignments during a lunch break or right after work rather than waiting until evening.
Mobile apps allow you to read course materials when you have small blocks of time. Utilize time-saving software and tools like voice transcription to get assignments done efficiently. Make use of online calendars and cloud-based platforms so you can seamlessly switch from work tasks to schoolwork.
Your program may have apps specifically designed to support online learners. Use tech to streamline studying and maximize productivity.
While online learning has great flexibility, that flexibility can come at the cost of feeling isolated or disconnected. Make an effort to engage and build community with your fellow online students. Participate regularly in discussion boards and group projects.
Attend live sessions or virtual office hours when possible to get face time with your professors. Join study groups and interact regularly with peers. Treat it like an on-campus program in terms of investing time in relationships. The more connected you feel to your school and fellow students, the more motivated you’ll be to keep up.
Check In On Progress
When life gets hectic, it’s easy to fall behind on online classes without realizing it. Check in periodically on your academic progress to ensure you’re on track. Review syllabi regularly and reassess if assignments or exam dates have changed.
Keep a page in your planner to log important upcoming tests and due dates. Set reminders on your calendar for key milestones. Don’t let tasks pile up without realizing it – always know where you stand in each class.
Periodically examine how much time you are able to devote to each class and whether you need to ramp up studying. Reach out to professors if you feel yourself starting to fall behind. Don’t let yourself get too off track before seeking help.
Prioritize Self Care
Trying to balance work, family, and school can negatively impact your physical and mental health if you aren’t careful. Make self-care a priority so you don’t burn out. Make sure your schedule includes time for healthy meals, exercise, sleep, and social connection. Don’t sacrifice your well-being for academics.
Build in meaningful downtime to relax and rejuvenate, whether it’s reading, enjoying nature, or meditating. Take regular breaks when studying to stretch, rest your eyes, or listen to music. Maintain hobbies and interests outside of work and school for balance. Listen to your mind and body and take a break when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Online education allows working adults flexibility and access, but also requires diligence and time management. Utilizing organizational tools, support resources, efficiency strategies, and self-care habits will help you be successful in earning your degree while still meeting other life demands. With the right systems in place, it is possible for working adults to thrive in an online program.