I did my entire Masters degree online, while working full-time. And Hubs is currently utilizing his GI Bill to complete his Bachelors degree online. Between the two of us, we’ve kind of become pros at this online schooling thing.
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The first thing that you should know is that online school is not a cop out. It’s not easier and, depending on your other obligations, it could be even more exhausting and difficult.
Believe me. There were nights that involved a can of chocolate frosting among my statistics book and PowerPoint slides.
Though, I have to say, it was totally worth it and, if I had the money, I’d gladly tackle a PhD. But, that’s another story for another time.
Today, let me tell you a little about online schooling and what to look for and consider when making the decision.
What to Look For in an Online School
Just like any on-campus school, you want to make sure the online school you’re considering is accredited. If it’s not, your degree will basically just be a piece of paper. You can find out this information easily by:
- Googling it
- Researching on the school’s website
- Contacting the school directly
- Contacting the governing association for your area of interest
For example, my field of study was Recreation, which meant I needed to find a school that was accredited by the National Recreation & Parks Association.
Not all online schools are created equal. They don’t offer the same curriculum nor do they offer it in the same manner.
Some online schools allow you to work at your own pace, others will require you to work step-by-step in a specific time frame.
Some will want you to visit campus once a semester, others will require you to log-in weekly for a scheduled instructional period. While others you won’t even hear from until your deadlines pass and grades are posted.
My online school had me complete two classes at a time over the course of seven-weeks. Other schools will only allow you to take one class at a time. Yet, some will want you to take a full course load (12 credit hours) over the course of four months, just like an on-campus schedule.
Make it Work
It’s important that you figure out what type of scheduling works for you. And for your family, for that matter. Being a Mom doesn’t stop, for work, for school, for anything. Make sure that the requirements of the school are going to fit into your family’s schedule.
And, if you’re working full-time on top of Mommin’ and doing school, be forthright with your boss. Let them know what you’re about to undertake. They’ll be more lenient on you if they are aware upfront. Even if you mention in passing the fact that you have finals or papers coming up, fingers crossed they listen. In the end, your added education will help them out with a more well-rounded employee.
Give Yourself a Break
At the same time, don’t be afraid to take time off. You might just need a sick day to catch up on course readings or write a paper. Even spend your lunch break working. You can accomplish a lot with an hour and a protein box from Starbucks. Believe me.
As I mentioned before, some schools are very hands-off and you won’t hear from them until the semester or term is over. Other schools, though, may offer a dedicated advisor who reaches out to you monthly, or even weekly, to make sure you’re getting along fine.
If you need someone to hold your hand through the process, make sure you choose a school that offers this. But, if you’re all about tackling things on your own (like me), and you’re stuck with an advisor, be forthright with them about your needs. If you don’t need them, all the easier for their job.
Either way, don’t be afraid to ask questions of this person. They may just be able to help you out with tips and tricks once the semester or term begins.
Okay, this is a biggie. Somebody’s got to pay for this online schooling expense. Will it be you? The federal government through the FAFSA program? Will it be through a scholarship? Will your employer foot the bill with tuition assistance? Are you eligible to use the GI Bill?
Do your digging early. And even if you’re not sure, ask! Maybe your employer hasn’t considered offering tuition assistance before and your request could be what changes the company’s mind. Perhaps they’ll even pay you more once you finish your degree. This is the case with a lot of local governments.
If you’re funding this bad boy out of pocket, do the math and make sure it won’t affect your ability to feed your family or pay the bills. If the tuition eats into your monthly take-home pay too much, you may need to consider an alternative school or schedule. Perhaps a part-time schedule will be more economical for you.
Find a Friend
Just like in on-campus classes, it’s important to find someone in each of your classes that essentially ‘has your back.’ That way, if you ever miss a class session or have questions about an assignment, your professor isn’t your only go-to person. It also helps when you need to vent about the stress.
Take the time to find another student that seems to show the same interest as you in the program, and one that works in the field, too. Read the chat boxes available in each class and find someone that has the same train of thought as you. Contact this person outside of class and ask for suggestions, edits, advice, help. Before you know it, your go-to best friend might just be someone you’ve never met in person.
However you decide to tackle your online schooling, good luck to you! And, if you have any questions about choosing your school, comment below. I’d be happy to help!
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