Once you've been accepted into an online program, you'll need to get ready for school. Preparing for an online degree program is similar to getting ready for a traditional college-but there are a few other issues to take into consideration. Here are a few things to add to your preparation checklist as you gear up for online college classes.
Prepare a quiet place to study
You won't be going on campus to study in the library or at the student center-so you'll have to make your own study space. Choose a place where you can be alone without the distractions of work or family, and make sure the area is neat and well-organized-for many people, a mess is a big distraction. You may want to set up a room in your house as a home office, with a desk, bookshelves, comfortable seating, and everything else you need to study.
Get a dedicated Internet connection
You'll be relying on your Internet connection, so it's absolutely crucial to be sure it's fast enough and won't cut out at inopportune moments. If you're borrowing someone else's Internet connection, now would be a good time to get your own. If your Internet connection is slow, consider switching to a faster company or technology. Now's not the time for dial-up, dropped connections and other Internet glitches.
Be sure you have up-to-date software
The software requirements of each program will be different, so check with your school to see what they require for your classes. Be sure your operating software and programs are up-to-date enough to handle watching videocasts online and performing any other tasks that might be required during assignments.
Get a working computer
This might sound obvious-if you don't own a computer, get one. But if you already have a computer, consider whether it's suited for online college. Many students prefer laptops with wireless Internet connections so they can study anytime and anywhere, rather than being stuck in front of a desktop at home.
Set a schedule
Setting a regular schedule will help you be consistent in your study habits-something that's crucial for most successful online learners. Before you start classes, consider your existing responsibilities and work out a tentative schedule that will allow you to dedicate uninterrupted time to your studies. You can always change it later if you find it doesn't work in practice.
Get to know your school
It's a good idea to take a virtual tour of your school-some online programs offer web-based orientation programs. Know how to get in touch with your professors, admissions and financial aid officers, the key academic departments responsible for your courses, academic advising officers, and other important school personnel. Write them down in your own personal directory. This will make things easier if you ever have a problem and need to get in touch with someone from the school.
Get your books early
You can't buy your books at the bookstore or check them out at the school library a day or two before classes when you're in an online degree program. You'll have to order them, and this process can take over a week-so be sure to start shopping as soon as you can. Check out cheap and used book resellers like Amazon, Campus Books, and Big Words if you don't want to pay full-price for your college textbooks-they can get expensive.
An online college is likely to be challenging, but expect it to be a rewarding experience as well. Take some time to prepare for school by making sure you have the right hardware, software and Internet connection, setting up a dedicated area to study, and setting a regular schedule ahead of time. In addition, be sure to get your books early-and look at used textbook reseller sites online to cut costs on textbooks. With the right preparation, you won't have to worry about technology, books, finding school staff contact information, or finding information about your school-leaving you free to concentrate on your studies.
About the Author
Jennifer Williamson worked as a GED teacher for an adult education nonprofit for two years. Her students came from all walks of life, and ranged in age from sixteen to sixty-eight. During that time, she became knowledgeable about the unique needs of non-traditional learners. She counseled hundreds of students about their higher education options, including online degree programs. Today, she works as an education writer in Pennsylvania.