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Adjusting to Online College: Success Strategies for Freshmen

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

Going off to college is one of the biggest milestones in a young adult’s life, but that experience has been seriously altered for millions due to COVID. The class of 2020 not only missed out on events like prom and graduation, but they are also facing serious economic hardship that may impact their ability to go to college at all. It's completely natural to feel down over having to attend online school instead of moving onto campus. Even if you live at home, the experience of going to classes and meeting new people is a far cry from distance education. If you're still getting the hang of online learning and curious how to make your first year of college still memorable from afar, read on.

Stay Social

Making new friends is one of the most important parts of the college experience. While it would be nice to actually see people in the classroom and on campus, you can still connect online. Most online schools have a variety of virtual meet-ups, clubs, and social media groups that you can join. You can also connect with classmates through course discussion boards. Although online college encourages independent learning, don't forget the importance of connecting with others. College gives you a chance to hear so many different opinions and ideas on a wide variety of subjects; this opportunity is much harder to come by later in life, so take full advantage of it while you can.

Take Care of Costs Early

The financial hardship brought on by COVID and state closures has left millions of Americans unable to pay their rent and even afford groceries. Your plans to go to school might have to be pushed back while you work to provide for your family. If this is the case, it's okay to take a year or two off while you focus on more pressing concerns. Don't lose hope about ever getting a degree, though. First of all, there are many adult learners who enter the classroom each year, some who are well into their 30s and 40s. It's never too late to get an education.

Paying for school can be more affordable online as distance education tends to have lower tuition than on-campus institutions. However, even mustering $5,000 to $15,000 a year is still difficult when you're fresh out of high school. Explore both your free and paid options for financial aid; scholarships are offered year-round and can award you thousands of dollars in free tuition. A guide to private student loans can help you learn about the different options available to you, how each one works, and how it will impact your future.

Work on Your Time Management

Just because you don't have to wake up at 6 AM every day doesn't mean you shouldn't have a good schedule. Avoid sleeping in late on weekdays, and treat your online schedule with the same level of priority that you would on campus. Just like in regular college, you'll need to dedicate time to study outside of the classroom. Avoid treating assignments casually or leaving things until the last minute. You should designate at least four hours of studying per class each week. If you're taking five classes, that means you'll need at least 20 hours a week outside the actual course to go over material and complete assignments. Having a clear boundary between school and free time will also make it easier for you to balance your hobbies and interests with responsibilities.



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