Online degrees and a career: 5 tips to staying on track

Posted November 02, 2015 by
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Online Degree / Word cloud concept background. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

More and more students are pursuing an online degree while holding a full-time job. Online universities are a great opportunity for students going back to school, studying in the military, students pursuing a graduate or professional degree, or even a traditional student who needs to start working straight away after high school. However, balancing the rigors of an online degree while maintaining a successful career is easier said than done. Students are encouraged to follow some basic time management tips to survive this tricky balancing act.

1. Create a daily schedule

Students who will mostly be studying at home are advised to create a strict daily schedule. If, like many people, they work a standard 8 to 5 job, the bulk of the evening can easily be wasted due to fatigue or inefficiency. Students are encouraged to take a short break in between their work and studies to help their minds relax and refocus on the future task at hand. For example, students who arrive home from work at 5:30 may wish to take a dinner break from 5:30 to 6:30 and then commit themselves to full time study from 6:30 to 8. It’s important to create a reasonable daily schedule where students can get all of their work done and still have time to tend to chores and relaxation.

2. Use a virtual classroom environment

Students are encouraged to create their own virtual classroom. This way they can separate their career from their studies and their home life. If a student has a spare bedroom or a quiet space within their home, this can become their classroom environment. If they remove all distractions of the day, they’re more likely to be able to study in an effective manner without losing concentration. Students who don’t have a quiet place in their home can join the ranks of students who use local coffee shops as a study hall. Any place will do as long as it’s separate from the distractions of home and work.

3. Make use of the online school’s social and communication tools

It’s easier for students to stay on task if they utilize the social and communication tools put forth by the online university. Students who email their professors regularly, join discussion boards related to the topics, and interact with their peers, are more likely to finish assignments on time and hold themselves accountable. When someone is part of a community they tend to want to actively participate throughout the whole experience. Additionally, students who begin to get frustrated will have more support from their academic social circle.

4. Discuss full and part-time job options

Many companies will allow employees to cut down from 40 hours a week to 35 and still be considered full time. Although each company is different, and students should double check before making any irreversible decision, those extra 5 hours could greatly speed up the completion of their degree. Additionally, some larger companies will have part-time opportunities for students who simply cannot complete their studies while working full-time. It’s best to research these opportunities prior to signing up for a school program where possible.

5. Have a strategic plan for the weekend

Students who also have full-time jobs are advised to be highly strategic when it comes to their weekend hours. The days of sleeping in and lying on the couch to recover from a long week are long gone for those in pursuit of a degree. Although everybody needs some R&R now and again, students are encouraged to get up at their normal time and get in a couple hours of study while the rest of the world is still waking up. Additionally, they should make a plan on how to get their household chores done as quickly as possible so they can utilize the bulk of the day for study when exam time comes around. Each student should do what works for them as an individual. Some will get in three hours in the morning on Saturday and Sunday while other students would prefer to work all Saturday and have Sunday off. Each hour of the weekend will become precious, and students are advised to use their free time wisely.

Robyn Scott is a private tutor with TutorNerds LLC. She has a BA from the University of California, Irvine, and a MA from the University of Southampton, UK.

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