The team at GradSchools.com knows what it’s like for new grad students just starting a program, especially if it’s online and requires a lot more self-discipline than an in-person program. But that’s why we’re here to help you with some helpful tips to make the start of your new remote program a little bit easier.
Take care of your financing and scheduling before you begin
With the understanding that your online grad school classes will add a good bit of stress to your life, eliminate and manage the stressors you can control. Have your graduate financial aid, which may be available for qualified students, in place and be comfortable with your monthly payments before you begin. If you are unable to afford your monthly payments, the financial burden has the potential to derail you during harder study times. Next, set your schedule to enable plenty of structure for classroom learning and course work. You need to be very disciplined with your approach to online learning if you want to succeed.
Ensure you have the tools necessary to help you succeed
Prepare your workspace and make sure your computer, operating system, software, and internet connectivity are all set-up as specified by your program. Develop an online filing system for course-related documents and emails. Make it easy to file and find all of your work. Finally, order whatever books or materials you need in advance so you are ready to go before the course begins.
Get comfortable with the online school landscape in advance
All online schools use some form of a course management system. Take the time before you begin to login with the credentials you were provided and access both the program’s resources as well as the actual online classroom if possible. Get a thorough understanding of the resources that are available to you. Learn how to navigate the course management system, including discussion boards, assignment pages, and the email system. Next find the syllabus for your course and read it. Use your resources and ask questions before the course begins about anything you don’t understand. You will feel much more confident knowing how to navigate your online classroom environment.
Make friends in your online class
Chances are your online class will begin with you writing an introduction about yourself and posting it on a discussion board. Think about what you want to say about yourself and write it up ahead of time. Really embrace this as an opportunity to make positive connections in the program. Take the time to develop relationships with fellow students. This will be invaluable to your online learning experience and potentially your future career.
Be prepared to write high-quality forum posts
Ask questions, brainstorm, and identify contradictions. Think about how you can foster conversation in forum posts. Most importantly make sure you maintain an appropriate length for your posts and watch your spelling and grammar. Don’t write posts like you text. Your posts will be a reflection of your writing abilities, intelligence, and professionalism and should be treated as such. Be thoughtful in your responses to fellow classmates and always polite, even if you disagree.
Online classes are very different from in-person classes, and grad school is very different from undergrad. So combine grad school with online learning, and you’re bound to have an adjustment period—especially if you never conducted online learning in your undergraduate program. But with a little extra conscious preparation, you can succeed in your online graduate program and feel confident in your academic journey.
For more advice on getting through your grad program, check out our Graduate School section.