For a good majority of the country, school is back in. Many kids have already started. But there are many adults who will also be in school – some returning and some just entering to get either a bachelor’s master’s or a doctorate. What an exiting time and kudos to those who are!
As a professor in higher ed, I have seen good students and those who need reminders of why they are getting their degree to begin with. As one who has made – and crossed – the journey in all three degrees, I can attest as to how arduous a trek it can, especially if you are working and raising family, among other obligations. Again, I’ve done all.
So, to ensure your success, here are nine tips that can help you on your journey:
- Plan – planning out assignments, their due dates, along with your other obligations, will keep you focused and in control for how your time will go. This includes: study times for readings or research, writing assignments, or times to attend class. In class will be scheduled but online classes are left to you, so plan your time wisely. A suggestion is to have a calendar and then enter all the dates so you won’t have to wonder of due dates, etc.
- Be Engaged – be sure to participate in discussions, questions asked and the like; participation is usually counted in your grade (this can dependent by instructor) but this also is where experiential learning occurs. Hearing the opinions and insights from your peers, as well as them sharing their work environments, can open your mind to other knowledge and experiences to make better decisions or to see hope in your current situation. You can also show your expertise and be a subject matter expert which is great validation that you’re on the right track
- Be Informed – don’t just read assignments; go outside your scope and read other publications or research on the subject. Survey within your organization as to the opinions or experiences of others; I’m always impressed when I have students who have taken the initiative to do their research on subjects and concepts.
- Challenge the Status Quo – don’t always take concepts and theories as fact; challenge their validity and reliability, as well as applicability, to your work environment or how they relate. Show that in your writing and discussions. Ask questions of your peers as this stimulates more critical thinking and analysis, as well as points-of-view.
- Review Feedback Given and Use It – be sure to read feedback given by your instructors; they have taken time to help you with your writing or other assignments so give the same courtesy and read it; but, also, listen to it. Feedback is to validate your thoughts and opinions; to give you an outside perspective or give needed resources; and it also is there to challenge your thoughts and to enhance your writing and how you communicate. Make corrections on grammar, word phrasing, and citations. This applies not just to school but also to the workplace, where you are expected to write and think critically. You may not be aware, but employers do look at how you write, no matter if it’s as simple as an email; it can hold you back in some way.
- Communicate – with your professors of an adverse situations that may occur. We recognize that work issues will occur, kids will get sick, and the like, but be sure to notify your professor when an issue first arises, not later or after-the-fact. We are more willing to work with students when we know but not after. It doesn’t help with participation or how we may view a student. Treat school as you do your job.
- Focus on the end-result – always keep in mind the reason you are getting your degree, which is a commitment. Hopefully, it is to enhance your learning and not just because you have to; education is meant to enhance your knowledge and skill-base and shows proficiency. Yes, employers are requiring higher and higher levels of education but just having a degree does not guarantee expertise or success; keeping the end-result of how you will use this education helps to get through.
- ‘This, too, shall pass‘ – as the saying goes, school will not last forever. Yes, there will be times when you can’t pick up the book or write another word; yes, it will interfere with hobbies or family time; heck, you may even hate it (we all do at one time or another). But there is an ending. Keeping this in mind helps to get through those detestable days and keeps you going; this is why placing your focus on the end result will keep you motivated and get you through.
- Enjoy the journey – take deep breaths and appreciate that you have this opportunity and, I can’t stress enough, the end-result of what you want by obtaining this degree. Focus on the positives and it will elevate your excitement and commitment to your journey.
I hope these tips are useful; they are meant to help you be more successful with your school experience so you can get the most out of it. Remember, you get out what you put in, so put your all in and be a success. Best of luck if this is your journey!
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