One of the greatest things about technology is that it can help us in so many ways. What once required travel or phone calls or face-to-face interaction can now be accomplished in seconds via the web.
This is especially true when it comes to education–online degrees and distance education.
If you’re like many students considering an online degree, there are two main things you’re looking for: Speed and convenience. But, even with the technology of online colleges becoming better and better, some people still want to know: How can I get my degree even faster?
It’s not a crazy request. Even though technology may have helped expedite the process for students, it can still take years to obtain that certification you need.
With that in mind, we did some research to see what tricks exist to help make the process even faster–how can students earn their degrees as quickly as possible?
Some of these tips may be obvious, but others may not. In fact, some of these tricks even shocked us:
1. Figure out how many classes you can realistically handle
It can be tempting to jump into a full load of courses to try to expedite the process of earning your degree–after all, taking more classes at a time means that you finish sooner, right?
This may be the case–but only if you can handle it.
Many times, students going back to school overestimate how much time they can commit to coursework (or underestimate the amount of time the coursework will take).
This can cause big issues if your full schedule becomes overwhelming and you can’t finish–or, don’t pass–one or more of your classes. It may mean you’ll have to take classes all over again, which will end up costing you more time than cramming in all of those hours would have saved.
So, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take some time to really evaluate your life and put together a schedule that makes sense before you enroll and choose your classes. This way, you’ll know that your schedule will allow you to do your best.
2. Create a solid plan for your degree
Nothing will derail your degree progress faster than taking the wrong classes at the wrong time.
Before you even enroll, you should do your homework. Put together a strong plan with a specific timeline. Which classes will you take at which times (specifically!) and how does that impact your time to graduation?
Write it all down–make sure that you have a schedule that works for you.
Doing your research upfront can save you tons of stress and anxiety later down the road, not to mention the years it may save you on the road to earning your degree.
3. Use online learning materials
Want to get a leg-up on mastering your subjects? Luckily, the Internet is teeming with free resources that will help you learn and practice just about any subject you can imagine.
Of course, you may already be enrolled in online courses, but many sites offer free courses and study materials that can be done outside of your paid credit courses to help accelerate your learning.
Resources like Khan Academy can help you learn all kinds of subjects while simultaneously keeping you ahead of the curve and ready for your next course.
4. Test out of classes whenever possible
One little-known fact: You can test out of a ton of different college courses without actually taking them.
From math and science courses to English lit–there are many classes that are “optional” and can be replaced with an exam that proves competency in the subject.
So, if you feel confident in your abilities in certain subject areas, you can save yourself a heck of a lot of time by simply taking these exams rather than having to take the full class.
Combine this with a self-study regimen using online courses and study materials, and you could easily earn a degree within months, rather than years. (See: The DIY Degree as an example.)
As an added bonus, it could save you thousands of dollars as taking these exams for credit usually costs much, much less than enrolling in the class at the college.
Note that not all colleges will accept credits from all exams. There are many providers (CLEP, DSST, etc), so be sure to do your research. Going back to your plan, make sure that you carefully map this out and ensure that your credits will all be applicable toward your degree.
5. Cash in on your work experience
Many online degree programs will offer you credit for your work experience. So, if you’ve worked in a field for many years and are looking to take the next step by earning a degree, you may be able to dramatically reduce the number of credits you need by simply proving your experience and competence in the field.
Colleges like Strayer University offer credits for students based on professional licensing, experience, or on-the-job training.
6. Cash in on your life experience
What’s better than getting credit for the work you’ve done? How about getting credit for just having lived?
Be wary of some schools that offer “life experience credit”, as they can be predatory in nature. But, there are certainly many accredited and reputable colleges that will offer you college credit based simply on your life experience.
Schools like James Madison University offer “Portfolios of Prior Learning Experience”, where prospective students can create a portfolio of their life experiences and detail what they have learned along the way–for credit, of course.