An online degree can be a great option if your location, work schedule, or family responsibilities require more flexibility than the average student. Like anything though, this process comes with its own unique pitfalls. In order to guarantee a great experience, avoid these five common mistakes for online classes.
1. Ignoring accreditation
Best-case scenario: a degree from an unaccredited school looks sketchy. Worst-case: for certain professions, a degree from an unaccredited college or graduate program means that you’ll be ineligible for certain certifications or licensures. In the long run, this might negatively impact on your career. There’s an easy solution, though. Before applying, confirm that your school has been accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, as well as any discipline-specific accreditation bodies. Or, you can check out our list of accredited graduate programs.
2. Ignoring red flags
There are some great online schools. There are some solid online schools. And then there are diploma mills that are just out to make a buck. Do your research! A Google search can yield clues about a school’s reputation. Is there a history of law suits or high student loan default rates? This helps you avoid the many dangers diploma mills pose.
3. Lack of motivation
Online classes are self-paced, and you often don’t have to show up at a given class at a particular time the way you must with on-campus programs schools. For the self-motivated student, this is no problem. For those who love procrastinating, it can lead to trouble. Before deciding that an online school is for you, take an honest assessment of your own level of motivation. You don’t even need to be a model of self-discipline, as long as you’ve got a study schedule that you’re prepared to commit to. But if you know your tendency is to slack, you may want to reconsider your path or read motivational success stories from online students.
4. Lack of structure and systems
Even highly motivated students may not succeed if they don’t have a clearly defined schedule. Before your class starts, take an inventory of your current commitments and responsibilities, and decide where class and homework will fit in. Physically write it down – paper or electronic, it doesn’t make a difference, as long as you refer to it frequently. Then stick to it. One of the best ways to do that is by staying organized while pursuing your graduate degree.
That said, remember that the best schedules aren’t rigid. Allow for some flexibility – for example, you may want to build in an extra hour or two per of studying, so that if Friday rolls around and a quick happy hour is looking appealing, you can blow off some steam without sacrificing your academics.
5. Lack of technology
Some must-haves for online classes include a computer that works well, and that you can access nearly 24/7, and a swift internet connection. If you’re lacking any of these items, your academic success may be severely impacted. Before starting class, make sure that you have the technology that you need and that it’s in good working order. Some schools also list specific technological needs as there are a variety of technologies used in grad school.