6 Tips to Being a Successful Online College Student

5 min read

When you consider going back to school to earn your master’s or finish your bachelor’s degree, there are a lot of options to weigh. You could go to a local campus, take night and weekend classes, or earn a degree online. But which is the right fit, and how do you know if you have what it takes to be successful as an online college student?

At the University of Cincinnati, we have entire cohorts of online students—people who are dedicated to this form of learning and are able to make huge changes in their careers and their lives through their online degrees. How did they find success in their programs? These are six secrets of our most successful online students.

Learn the Technology

This may seem like a no-brainer, but taking an online class involves learning a new technology. The courses, discussions, and assignments are all completed in an online platform. Getting familiar with the new platform at the very beginning of your course is essential for future success. You don’t want to wait until the day your first paper is due to figure out how everything works.

Do yourself a favor, learn the online platform early.

Get to Know Your Professors

College students are constantly encouraged to get to know their professors. This makes sense when you are seeing them in person and interacting on campus. But this is important for the success of online students as well.

Reach out to your professor as soon as you can. Send them a quick email to introduce yourself and let them know why you’re excited for the course. Start a conversation. Having a good relationship with your professors can help you be successful as an online student and in your future career or graduate studies.

Be Organized

When you attend a class on campus, you come prepared with notebooks and folders, armed with ways to organize your school supplies. You should take the same approach to online classes. Set up a file structure on your computer that will clearly divide your readings and assignments so that you can find them easily and keep up-to-date with your school work, stress free.

Set this up as early as possible, even before you start your first class. This will help you be successful in the long run.

Have a Schedule

Online students often maintain their full-time job while they are in school. Having a set schedule can help you manage the stress of such a heavy work and study load.

Use your course syllabus at the beginning of the semester and draft a schedule that highlights all your major assignments, exams, work deadlines, and course milestones. Then force yourself to stick to that schedule, building up your powers of self discipline.

Have a Routine

Similar to setting up a schedule for the whole semester, establishing a daily routine that works for you can help you be successful in the long run as well. Figure out what time you like to study—whether it’s in the morning, on your lunch break, or late at night. Then, fit your coursework into your daily routine.

If you make studying a habit, finding success in your online college courses will become a lot easier.

Start Part-Time

Online college can be intense. Your schedule is more flexible, but your workload can often be heavier than expected. To compensate for the lack of facetime and in-person discussions, professors may assign more reading and writing assignments.

For this reason, we encourage hesitant students to start out taking their course load part-time. The transition to online learning can be challenging, so help yourself out by starting with a light course load. Figure out how you can best be successful in the new online format before adding more classes.

Learn to Love Writing

As we mentioned in the last point, professors for online courses will often add extra reading and writing assignments to the syllabus to compensate for the lack of in-person discussions. On top of that, students still participate in online discussions of the course material, write emails to classmates and professors, and complete the usual papers and written exams.

All this adds up, meaning online students have to write a lot! If you learn to write well, and to enjoy the process of writing, you’ll ultimately find more success as an online student.

Your Success is Within Reach

Ultimately, the best way to be successful as an online student is to figure out what works for you, and stick to it. Earning a college degree isn’t easy—whether on campus or online—but if you are studying something that interests you and that you are committed to, you’ll achieve your goals in the end.

If you’re looking for highly-ranked, accredited online programs that can help you make a career change or earn a promotion, visit our list of online programs offered at the University of Cincinnati. If you’re ready to go, we encourage you to start your application today.

birds eye view of students working at a round table with laptops and study materials
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