Making the choice to go back to school for a master’s degree is a big decision. With so many programs to choose from and so many online options gaining popularity, it never hurts to get a little extra advice.
We asked students currently getting their master’s degrees online for some advice. Here are their eleven tips for successfully getting your masters degree online:
1. When each class starts, take a broad look at the course
Having a broad understanding of the course will help you to complete your work in the way that the professor expects. Making sure that you have a good idea of the layout of assignment deadlines, types of assignments, and any extra expectations (like attending a poetry reading or show) is a great way to ensure that you are prepared for the entire course and to avoid surprises.
2. Understand what is expected of you and don’t be afraid to ask questions’
Take a hard look at the syllabus and any assignments you have access to right away. If there is something you don’t understand, it is better to ask questions right away than to wait until the last minute.
3. Pace yourself and don’t try and get too far ahead. You’ll learn as you go
Getting ahead may sound like the best way to stay on top of things with your classes, but being too far ahead can actually hurt you, especially if you rush to complete assignments. Pacing yourself will help you to stay engaged in the material and do your best work.
4. Use your peers in your course for support and feedback
Just because the course is online, doesn’t mean that you have to go it alone. Swap emails with a couple of your classmates. That way, if you have questions or just want to commiserate about a tough assignment, you have someone who understands what you’re going through.
5. Try to join a cohort with someone you talk to daily or who is close to you so that you have support and can bounce ideas about assignments off of them
One of the best things that you can do as you complete assignments is talk about them with other students. They help you to get your ideas straight and improve your work.
6. Don’t forget to take a break at least once a week from the course to keep you on track, and keep you from getting burnt out
Online classes can be intense, so taking a break once a week from your classes will help you to stay focused and relaxed throughout the course.
7. Ask colleagues or anyone in your profession for help when you need it
Don’t be afraid to ask! If you are getting your degree to move up in your work world or change careers, some of your best assets may be your colleagues or someone in the profession. Don’t be afraid to tap those resources when you need them. They may provide you with a fresh perspective that you may not have considered previously.
8. Seek individual support from your professor when you need it
They are there for you just like in a face-to-face class and love to support students. It can be easy to feel like your professor doesn’t care about you when you don’t see their face on a daily or weekly basis, but they do! Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you have them or even just drop them a note to introduce yourself. Professors are a lot more likely to help you out in a pinch if they know who you are.
9. Make sure you schedule time for your course and understand the time expectations before starting
Online classes can take just as much–or even more time–than traditional classes. So scheduling a time each day to work on your reading and assignments will help you to stay up to date on your work. It can be overwhelming at first, but as you move through your courses you learn the pattern that works for you and it takes less time overall to complete the work.
10. Make sure you are ready for the commitment before starting and are serious about embarking on the degree
Committing to a new program is a big step. So do your research before making a commitment. Take a look at our 5 things to consider before going back to school post as a starting point.
11. Do the reading!
This is the most important piece of advise for any class, but especially for one that is online. Without a scheduled class time, it is too easy to let things pile up and get behind. Readings are where you will et most of your information so keep up with the readings and ask questions if something is unclear.