Many people attend graduate school online for the convenience of being able to study from any location and fit their studies around family or work obligations. It can be gratifying, and the education quality is often equal to that of in-person courses. Many notable universities are now offering online degrees. On the other hand, many students are starting out their traditional on-campus programs online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of which category you fall into, you are probably excited to learn and grow in your online classes.
If you’re pursuing graduate school online, you’ll want to put your best foot forward and ensure that you make the most of your time in the program. To help you do this, we’ve compiled some quick tips.
Be sure to start online graduate school off on the right foot by keeping yourself organized and staying on top of assignments. Buy a planner and note down all assignment due dates. If you have scheduled lectures via zoom or another distance learning platform, note down all of those as well. If you are attending an asynchronous online program with no set meeting times, you should still try to schedule out blocks of time to read, review videos or recorded lectures, and work on assignments.
It’s easy to procrastinate, especially when you are completing the entirety of your course independently from your home. Take some time to figure out what study schedule will work best with your weekly assignment deadlines and work or personal commitments. Find a desk or other space in your home that you can work without distractions.
Remember that while undergrad started out with a variety of general ed courses that you may or may not have been interested in, graduate school is focused on your area of interest. Each class will most likely pertain to your career goal, so you’ll want to develop study habits right from the beginning to not miss anything that could be useful to you later. So you’ll want to avoid waiting until the last minute and rushing assignments, as that doesn’t usually lead to the best level of understanding of concepts or to long-term information retention.
The connections you make in graduate school can help you throughout the rest of your career. For many prestigious graduate programs, the connections and networking opportunities are a major part of the appeal. When you’re attending graduate school online, you’ll need to put in extra effort to connect with others in your program.
Creating virtual study groups can be a great way to connect with online students and help each other. Zoom, slack, or a group chat can help you get to know other students and allow everyone to ask questions or help. During in-person classes, you have an easier opportunity to ask other students about how they understood a particular principle or approached an assignment that you’re confused about, but this is not really what the forums are for in an online graduate school, so creating your own virtual network and communication channel can help out a lot.
Most online classes use forum assignments to facilitate class discussion and student interaction instead of in-person discussions and contributions. Forum assignments typically involve responding to a prompt and then replying to other student’s responses. Often students rush their responses to other student’s posts and make generic comments. However, if you want to make genuine connections, try to take your time reading other students’ posts and replying in a manner that shows real interest in their opinions, thoughts, and life experiences.
Be sure to connect with your classmates on LinkedIn. This will help you keep in touch after graduation and leverage the connections you’ve made in graduate school for the rest of your career. One of your classmates may end up at your dream company, teaching at an institution you’re interested in teaching at or conducting research that you’d like to be a part of. There are so many ways to utilize a graduate degree, and it can be fascinating to see where everyone from your class ends up.
You should also be sure to actively engage with your professors. They can make great mentors, and you never know when you might need a letter of recommendation if you decide to pursue further education, such as a Ph.D. You may also want a recommendation for a job, internship, or research opportunity.
Attending office hours, most commonly offered via zoom or skype for online programs, can also improve your learning experience. This is especially true if you are new to distance learning. If you have trouble understanding a concept discussed in class or adjusting to online learning, they can be a great resource. Your professors want to help you succeed in their class and in your career! So, if there is something that you need help or advice on, don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
Make sure you are picking classes, research topics, and most aligned activities with your interests. You have a lot more flexibility to pick topics and research activities during grad school. So, make sure that you’re choosing to learn, write about, and research what interests you rather than what you already know or what seems easy. Picking a concentration area, if it’s an option in your degree program, can also help you focus your studies and take a deeper dive into an area of interest.
If you’re looking for internships, there are also remote graduate internships and research positions available. These can be great ways to supplement your learning! There are even more remote opportunities now! Companies that traditionally offer in-office internships are now offering remote internships, research assistantships, and part-time jobs. You can find these on traditional job sites and even through your school in most cases.
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