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Three Things to Know Before You Earn an Online College Degree

Jan 21, 2008
If you're considering a return to college to study for a degree, it's important that you know exactly what you want to get out of the experience. The more preparation you can do before you plunge into your studies, the more benefit you'll get from your decision. You're going to invest a lot of time, hard work, and tuition fees into this process, so it's important that you are clear about your objectives.

There are as many different types of distance learning students as there are people in the world. But research and anecdotal evidence suggests that the most successful students have seriously considered the following three questions:

Why am I returning to college?

It's tempting to answer this first question simply: "To get a degree." And for some people, that may be motivation enough. Many of us choose to go straight to work after high school, or there may be reasons that you dropped out of college without completing your degree. And the desire to finally return to school and earn that degree can be very strong.

But most students who choose to return to school later in life do so for a practical reason: Career advancement. Skilled manual & technical work is becoming more scarce, and in a knowledge-based economy the better-paying jobs often demand a college degree.

If that's the reason you're considering college, be sure that you spend the necessary time researching which subjects you should study. This is especially important if you're studying a rapidly-changing technical field like computer programming; you don't want to be the last student in the world to become expert in an obsolete programming language.

Do I have the self-discipline to earn an online college degree?

At first glance it's tempting to think that studying for your degree online will be easier than attending classes on campus. After all, you don't need to get out of your pajamas, let alone out of the house!

But the fact is that you need to be extremely self-disciplined to complete even one course ... and you'll have to take quite a few to get that degree. Without the discipline that a regular schedule imposes, it's very easy to fall behind on your course work. And while most colleges and universities now allow for asynchronous learning, which means that you don't have to login for an online lecture at a specific time but can instead watch it at your convenience, you do still need to watch it.

Online colleges recognize the danger of students slipping behind in their work and will schedule papers, quizzes, and exams in such a way as to monitor your progress. But the final responsibility for your success or failure is yours.

Will my friends and family give me the support I need?

You're going to spend a great deal of time studying when you plunge into your course work and, unless you have an awful lot of spare hours on your hands right now, that means time that you'll have to take from other activities. Particularly if you'll be working and studying simultaneously, you'll have a lot less opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Are you, and they, comfortable with that?

If you're married, the support of your spouse is absolutely vital. They may have to be willing to accept a much greater share of the housework, errands, and parenting. At the same time, you're going to have much less opportunity to relax and go out for a quiet meal; see a movie; or even watch TV together in the evening.

Are you, and they, willing to make compromises to allow you to fulfill your dream of earning a degree? Are they equally invested in the potential career opportunities and rewards of your studies, or is it possible they will feel threatened by you moving up the career ladder and broadening your horizons?

If you're already fully committed to getting your degree, don't let these questions be a barrier to your goals. But by taking the time to address the potential pitfalls ahead of time, your experience will be more enjoyable, more manageable, and more rewarding in the long term.
About the Author
A college degree is vital in today's job market. Learn how you can earn an online college degree and improve your career prospects at EarnAnOnlineCollegeDegree.com
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