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5 tips to get you started when you’re going back to school

Written by Ashworth College on Monday, 27 August 2018. Posted in Life Hacks, Online College

5 tips to get you started when you’re going back to school

You got the kids back to school, now what about yourself? What are you hoping to accomplish this fall?

Put a diploma, career certificate, or degree in your future by making a commitment to furthering your education. You’ll be setting an excellent example for your children (or grandchildren) and advancing your career at the same time.

Going back to school as an adult doesn’t have to be intimidating. You can achieve success with online learning by using these five tips to start off on the right foot.

1. Plan Your Study Time and Place

When you were in high school, you may have studied primarily in your bedroom in the evening. Or perhaps at the kitchen table before dinner. You may not have called this “creating a study schedule,” but that’s exactly what it was. Now, as an adult, you likewise can structure your study periods for maximum effectiveness.

The most successful adult online learners create a dedicated study schedule and share it with family members to minimize distractions. Pick a time frame that works well (let’s say Monday-Wednesday-Friday from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.) and write it on your family calendar. Then choose a quiet location where you can shut the door and focus. Maybe your home office would work well. Or the public library. Committing to a study schedule helps you get into a rhythm with your educational program and makes the best use of your time.

2. Set SMART Goals

Online learners sometimes make the mistake of setting broad goals, like, “I’ll complete one module per month.” That might sound good in theory, but it may not be realistic or achievable because so many factors – subject matter, time available for studying – can affect your pace.

The better way to set goals? Use the “SMART” criteria:

S = specific
M = measurable
A = achievable
R = relevant
T = time-based

Here are a couple of examples: “I will complete one [measurable, achievable] assigned reading [specific, relevant] per week [time-based].”

Or: “I will use two hours of study time [measurable] this week [time-based] to write the assigned paper [specific, relevant] and then turn it in [achievable].”

Using the SMART criteria helps you study efficiently while being able to adjust your goals based on how difficult the subject matter is or how often life interrupts your academic journey.

3. Enlist the Help of Your Family

Earning an online degree, diploma, or certificate takes time. To create the time necessary for you to study, you may need to rely on family members to shoulder more responsibility around the home.

Before you begin your degree program, hold a family meeting. Talk about the types of support you’ll need (like uninterrupted study time) to achieve academic success. Also discuss how to reallocate chores and other tasks to free up time for you to study. If you have younger children, identify age-appropriate responsibilities they can accomplish, such as picking up their toys to keep their rooms tidy. Older children can take on more family cooking, laundry duties, and other helpful tasks that used to fall to you.

By involving your family in this way, you allow them to participate in your success. When you graduate, they can feel pride in having helped you achieve your goal.

4. Surround Yourself with Supporters

You need not feel isolated or alone just because you don’t take classes in a bricks-and-mortar building. You should take the time to gather supporters and keep yourself surrounded by others who want you to succeed.

Start by building good rapport with your academic advisor and faculty members. Spend time “meeting” other students in the online community. You might be surprised at the strong bonds you can form with people you only know through message boards! And socialize regularly with local friends and family members who can provide moral support and be your biggest cheerleaders.

5. Celebrate Small Victories

Don’t save your celebration for the big commencement ceremony. Instead, take the time to celebrate the “small” accomplishments, from passing a tough exam to finishing a class. Treat yourself to lunch, reward yourself with a family getaway, or buy yourself some new career clothes to mark your academic milestones.

Celebrating the smaller successes acknowledges your dedication and motivates you to pursue the next goal.

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