The decision to start or return to college comes with a range of emotions… excitement, motivation and even nervousness. Here’s the good news: These feelings are normal! Having been a Success Coach Manager for 12 years at Accelerated Pathways, I’ve worked with thousands of students through all the ups and downs of getting a degree.
To help you along your journey, here are a few things to know before starting your online education.
1. Plan ahead
Studying at your own pace is a key advantage of Accelerated Pathways. However, it can be dangerous if you don’t develop a plan ahead of time.
Before starting, determine how many study hours you’ll need to set aside weekly to complete your course. For example, it takes 10 hours of study each week to complete a course in eight weeks. Find your course term length and then figure out how many hours you’ll need to study each week to complete that course on time.
Next, figure out when those hours will take place during your week. The orientation course has a calendar that you fill out to know when to study. Work with your Success Coach on a plan to adhere to those study hours. I tell my learners this: Protect your study hours, treat them like a part-time job and you will be successful!
2. Find a routine
Studying autonomously has amazing benefits. It allows you to study the way that works best with your personal learning style. However, this also requires discipline.
Here’s one tip to be successful while studying autonomously: Find or create a study area that’s free from distractions. Throughout my master's degree, I had one place I studied. All my study needs were there—my computer, notecards, pens and highlighters. My phone was left in another room, so I’d use a computer timer to set my study for 25 minutes. Then I’d take a five-minute break before returning to study for another 25 minutes. This routine helped me to graduate in 10 months!
Be sure to work with your Success Coach to find a routine that works best for you. Because Accelerated Pathways courses are similar, once you’ve found a schedule pattern that works, it’ll most likely work for the rest of your courses.
3. Discover your intrinsic motivation
Here’s one of the most important things I’ve discovered over the last decade as a Success Coach: Learners with intrinsic motivation are often more successful than learners who rely on external motivations such as a better job, more pay or even encouragement from others. While these are great to have, they don’t provide an immediate reward for learners. They’re future motivators.
Intrinsic motivation is the desire within a learner to better themselves. They want to complete tasks and assignments because it helps them feel better about themselves and gives the immediate reward of self-improvement. They feel joy and motivation when learning something new, completing a course or turning in an assignment.
To build your intrinsic motivation, try to recall the desire within yourself to want to go to school. Focus on why you wanted to challenge yourself and how you’re building your personal development each time you sit down to study. This will drive you forward, and you’ll be able to find that immediate satisfaction in a job well done.
4. Stay connected
One of the biggest challenges of online learning is the isolation that comes with it. You study alone. You go to class alone. You make your study plans alone. Unfortunately, this can lead to depression and burn out.
That’s why Accelerated Pathways pairs you with a supportive Success Coach, so you are not doing this alone. However, we also encourage you to find an accountability partner or partners. Your coach is there when you need to vent, create study plans or solve learning obstacles. But having someone you can see and interact with in real life will provide more complete support and help ease the feeling of isolation.
Look for a friend, family member or fellow student who can help you with study ideas and hold you accountable for the goals you’ve set. This will take honesty and often stepping outside of your comfort zone but having this type of community support will be important to your success!
Just starting your journey with Accelerated Pathways? Remember, your Success Coach is always just a call or email away. We’re here to cheerlead you from start to finish, help you reach your full potential and celebrate when you fulfill your goals. You've got this!