If you want to go back to graduate school, but don’t like the schools in your area and don’t want to uproot your whole life and that of your family to move to another city for two or three years, then you should consider going back to school online.
An online master’s program can make it surprisingly easy to fit coursework into your schedule as an adult. It can even be a great option for a traditional student coming out of college and wanting an option that allows them to save some money, avoid another costly and annoying move, and attend any school in the world from right where they are.
But you need a lot of discipline to succeed in an online master’s program. You won’t have the external structure of attending scheduled classes in a brick-and-mortar building. You’ll have to put more effort into bonding with peers in your cohort and seeking out your professors for mentoring and advice. Here’s what you need to do to succeed in an online master’s program.
Block Out Time for Coursework
When it comes right down to it, the only way to succeed in an online master’s program is to actually do the work. You have to make time to watch recorded lectures, do your reading, and complete your homework. You may have to find time for on-campus residencies in some programs, and even in fully online programs, you may have to occasionally make time for synchronous virtual meetings and activities, as well as attending real-life events, such as academic conferences.
You need to be able to sit down with your schedule and block out chunks of time that you can dedicate to your online Master’s in Special Education, Social Work, or Fine Arts, whatever it is that you want to study. Most people going to grad school online try to take one day off a week to relax and focus on their families and friends, so that leaves a full weekend day, plus evenings during the week, depending on your work schedule. Schedule time to study, but also block out family and personal time. You can schedule your study time late at night or early in the morning, or in the middle of the day if that’s what works best for you. That’s the beauty of getting an online degree.
Designate a Study Area in Your Home
You may find that you learn and recall information better if you do your studying and test-taking in the same area. Designating a study area can help you get into the academic mindset whenever it’s time to sit down and study, as well as help you do better in school. Your family will learn that going to the study area means you’re studying and aren’t to be distracted.
Bond with Cohorts
Your cohorts have the potential to help you manage the stress of going to grad school online, and they might also help you manage the workload by becoming study buddies, sounding boards for ideas, and sources of advice. Reach out to your peers in the program and introduce yourself. Create a group chat that everyone in your cohort can use to talk to each other. Put in the effort to make friends – form study groups, get virtual drinks together, or just chat once in a while. The people you meet and befriend now will form part of your professional network later.
Connect with Your Professors
One of the great benefits of going to grad school online is that it allows you to access programs and professors at a much wider range of schools from anywhere in the world. When you go to graduate school online, you have the chance to work with some of the best minds in your field, and you’d be remiss if you didn’t make the most of your professors while you’ve got their attention. Introduce yourself to your professors via email. Attend virtual office hours. Participate in online discussion groups. If you really like a professor, take multiple classes with him or her, and they’ll be more likely to remember you later.
Going to grad school online isn’t the same as going back in person – you need to be a self-starter to a certain extent to handle the coursework without the structure and supervision of a traditional program. But if you’re looking for a degree program that fits into your busy life, going back to school online might very well be for you.