Getting a degree online is not easy. It requires a tremendous amount of drive and discipline. Here is what I have learned after getting a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree (both online) through two different schools:
- Decide WHY you want a degree. What do you hope to accomplish? What will be your options either way? I wanted to finish my college degree to satisfy myself and to be an example to my children. I also didn’t want to be labeled a “quitter.” Are you truly willing to make this lengthy commitment?
- How will you pay for it? If you plan to incur debt, how much additional salary will you make after getting the degree? Will it be worth it? Are books included in this quote? Are there any other fees (registration fees, activity fees, graduation fees, late fees) that are not mentioned until the bill arrives? Are you required to subscribe to any extra curricular periodicals or journals?
- Your number one question: Is the school accredited by one of the regional accreditation agencies? Check their accreditation at The Department of Education’s site. There are several different accrediting agencies. Which one accredits your school will depend on the schools geographic location.
- Do your research. Find out as much information as possible about your potential schools. How are tests administered? Are they proctored? Are they open book? What is the estimated time frame for completion? Does it have any flexibility? Who is your academic adviser? Are there any on campus requirements?
- Since books are a large expense, I recommend buying from an online site such as Ebay or Half.com (which is an Ebay company with great prices on textbooks). Half.com is a great place to sell your textbook as well.
Once you get started:
- Find a quiet place to study, free from distraction. I’ve found the local library to be fantastic.
- Develop a study rhythm. Set aside a certain time each day to study, do research, take tests, and read your textbooks. Stick to it. Never take off more than one day per week.
- Never take more classes than you can handle at one time. Trust me. Taking too many classes could cause you to burn out and question whether you should have even started.
- Participate daily in the online discussions. Interact with your professors and your classmates. If you’re part of an online group project, jump in and do your part. Nothing is more frustrating than a group member who doesn’t participate. If others aren’t participating in your group, email the professor and ask to be reassigned. If you are not reassigned, go ahead and do the work anyway. It’s your grade that’s at stake.
- Provide honest feedback to the professors about what you liked and didn’t like with the course. They are constantly trying to improve their classes.
I started at a major state university over 20 years ago. As an 18 year old, I wasn’t mature enough to know what I wanted to do with my life and, I found myself constantly changing majors. I dropped out after 4-1/2 years with no degree and thousands in debt, got married, got a job, had children and began just living life. But I regretted not finishing college and went back for among other reasons, to set an example to my children. I hadn’t performed well previously and my low grade point average haunted me after going back because the university had minimum GPA requirements based on your hours completed. I took two classes and did well, but these two classes put me into a different classification with a higher overall GPA requirement. When I went to fall registration, I was told that I would not be allowed to register. I appealed to the dean but he told me that I wasn’t college material and that I should consider trade school. I was devastated and demoralized.
A decade of different jobs went by and I still desperately wanted to finish college. I began researching online and distance education options and found Baker College. I enrolled and thankfully was able to transfer many of my previous college credits. I will always be grateful to this school because of the way their advisers were so encouraging.
I graduated with honors with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2004. So much for not being college material.
A year later, I decided to research MBA degrees and discovered the University of North Alabama. It was quite affordable and I began in 2006, graduating in December of 2007 with a 3.82 GPA. My motivation was two-fold. First, I was motivated because I wanted to make myself more valuable to my organization and second, for personal reasons. I wanted to learn and to keep my mind sharp.
Should you take this step? Only you can answer that. You may say, “But it will take two years.” Think of it this way: if you had started two years ago, you would be finished by now. Only you can make the decision. Only you can do the studying and only you can take the tests. This has to be a decision that you have to make.