A college degree is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. It prepares you with the skills you need for the job you want, empowers you to change your community, and shows employers that you’re serious about ascending the career ladder.
In addition to all of that, a college degree can also help you make more money. Bachelor’s degree holders have median weekly earnings of $502 more than those with just a high school diploma. That adds up to $26,104 more per year and more than a quarter of a million dollars in excess earnings in the 10 years following graduation.
Despite these impressive statistics, many adults fear going back to school. They worry that they won’t have enough time, that school will take them away from their families, or that they can’t afford college tuition. To overcome these challenges, many adult students opt to pursue their degree online because it offers the freedom and flexibility needed to fit school into an already busy schedule. Studying online, though, is much different than attending class in person and takes a lot of commitment and dedication to be successful.
If you’re thinking of earning your degree online, here are nine of our best study tips to help you stay successful and master your degree program from start to finish.
Master Time Management
Each of us gets only 24 hours per day. How are you spending that time? Each moment of your life is a finite resource that you can never get back. Budget your time like you budget your money so that you can use it wisely. The right time-management tools can help you assemble a study plan that works with your lifestyle. These tips can also help:
- Plan each day—not just with a to-do list, but with a detailed and realistic schedule.
- Establish clear priorities for each month and week, then break these down into actionable steps each day.
- Enact a closed-door policy during study time. This reduces interruptions from kids and other family members, and it encourages the people you live with not to intrude on your schoolwork.
- Experiment with different time-management systems. The right one for you should be easy to use, help you make better use of your time, and make tackling your to-do list feel less daunting.
Establish a Study Routine
Don’t approach studying in a haphazard fashion by trying to work it into your schedule when you have a free moment. Instead, carve out a set period of time each day during which you study. Study in a comfortable, distraction-free study spot, and find ways to make studying pleasurable. You might pour yourself a cup of coffee, put on your favorite fuzzy slippers, or sit in a comfy armchair.
Over time, your daily study session will become a habit—something you do without thinking. This routine will also make it easier for your children and spouse to accept not having you around. No matter what you have going on, make the most of your study time, and avoid getting bogged down in irrelevant tasks. If you don’t have homework or an upcoming test, work ahead or do school networking tasks, such as posting to the class message board or talking to your cohort.
Integrate Studying into Your Schedule
In addition to your daily study time, find options for incorporating more learning into your day. Take your books with you to the dentist, and instead of scrolling through social media, catch up on course reading. If there’s an audiobook for your textbook or a podcast that’s relevant to your class, listen to it as you fight traffic on your way to work. The goal here is to ensure you’re constantly thinking about your classes—not just frantically trying to memorize information that’s disconnected from your daily life.
Take Advantage of Extra Resources
Everyone learns a little differently. Some people find that talking through the theoretical principles they master in class makes them feel more comprehensible and concrete. Others love watching movies related to course material. Some people thrive in a lecture setting, while others need to move. You ultimately need to do what’s best for you.
Don’t shy away from sending your professor an email. Engage more deeply with the material by starting a discussion on the classroom message board. Listen to podcasts about your chosen field of study, and page through any extra material in your textbook or supplemental lesson plans that your teacher posts.
Treat Your Online Degree Program Like a Job
Getting out of bed and heading to work can be tough when you’re tired, stressed, or sad. But you do it anyway because you need your job, your colleagues depend on you, and work has become a habit. Finding this motivation when you’re not getting paid can prove more challenging. So treat your online degree program like a job. That means showing up no matter what and demanding that the people in your life give you time to attend school and study.
Identify Your Motivation
Identifying your motivation can play a key role in helping you keep going. It also makes it easier to treat college like a job. So spend some time thinking about the real reason you want to go back to school—not the reason you tell everyone, but your true desires. Consider the following:
- How will graduating college feel?
- What new opportunities will a degree open up?
- How might more income change your life?
- How will your degree improve the lives of the people you love?
- What do you want to do with your degree?
- Might your degree get you out of a difficult situation, such as a bad job or a neighborhood you dislike?
Make a list of four or five reasons you’re doing this. Then put it somewhere accessible. When things get tough, reach for the list. Some people also like to put together an inspirational soundtrack—music that gets them pumped up, inspired, or sentimental about the future. Listen to it in the car on the way to study or late at night after you’ve completed your last little bit of homework for the evening.
Distraction is the enemy of progress, no matter what you hope to achieve. So consider which things distract you most. Needy kids? Social media? Financial stress? Physical discomfort? Then adopt a strategy for getting those distractions out of sight and out of mind for the entirety of your study time. Whether it means hiring a babysitter, blocking social media, or having a delicious snack ready to go, commit to a distraction-mitigation strategy.
Ask People You Trust for Study Tips
No one can possibly solve every problem on their own. So if you know someone who has returned to college as an adult, consider that they might be an expert on surviving the stress and competing demands of an online degree program. Ask them for study tips. You might be surprised to learn some new tactics you never considered.
Your cohort is also a valuable form of study support. Ask people how they study best. These are the people facing similar challenges to those you encounter daily, so what works for them may also work for you.
Get to Know Your Peers
If you apply to an online degree program at SNU, you’ll work alongside the same group of students from the first day of class all the way until you graduate, offering a built-in support system. Make the most of this group by getting to know one another, then planning group study sessions. You can even reduce your workload by asking each group member to tackle a specific topic for a shared study guide. You’ll build your professional network and shave hours off of your test preparation time. Don’t leave getting to know your cohort to the last minute. These relationships will serve you well at SNU and beyond. So check in regularly, and consider allocating some time for social fun—not just schoolwork.
How SNU Helps
SNU believes in the life-changing power of an online degree program. We proudly support students to pursue their dreams on their own terms, without neglecting the rest of their lives. Work, raise a family, volunteer, and still go to school. You really can have it all. We’re here to make sure you find a way to juggle your various roles, with campus support for veterans, a dedicated chaplain, and a flexible degree program that allows you to pick the schedule and start date that works best with your lifestyle.
No matter what the future holds, a degree can help you get closer to your dreams. It’s not as time-consuming or expensive as you think. To learn more, check out our free guide, What to Expect from an Online Degree Program.