How To Be Successful Online Student: 10 Steps for Working and Going to School

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 15, 2022 | Published May 3, 2021

Updated August 15, 2022

Published May 3, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Attending a college or university degree program or certificate program can help people develop their academic interest and it's likely to increase your chances of advancing in your career. Choosing to attend school online offers many benefits for students including flexibility. If you work full-time or part-time, you may be wondering if an online degree is the right path for you. In this article, we explained the benefits of attending school virtually and describe the steps for how to be a successful online student.

What does it mean to be an online student?

Online students are those who are enrolled in virtual classes. They attend colleges or universities remotely and often are in pursuit of certificate or degree programs. Many times people choose to earn their degree virtually because of the innate flexibility of being able to learn online. They may also select this learning option for the flexibility to continue working or providing for their family.

Related: The Best Online Jobs for Students

Benefits of attending school online while working

Here are four benefits of attending school online while working a full-time or part-time job:

Personal obligations

Attending school online allows full and part-time workers to fulfill more of their personal or family-related obligations. Being an online student requires less travel, and in an instance in which someone wants to attend a university outside of their state, it doesn't require any physical relocation.

Many online classes offer more flexible schedules than their in-person counterparts. These distinctions allow for less disruption and more available time for online students to attend to duties or responsibilities they may hold outside of their academic pursuits. Also, by working and attending school simultaneously, a student is able to earn a paycheck and continue to pay for things like housing, groceries, transportation and any other personal expenses they may have.

Employer contribution

Sometimes employers May cover some or all of the costs related to furthering your education. If you choose to go to school part-time while working a full-time position, and the degree or certification you are earning is directly related to your job, your chances of tuition assistance, reimbursement or other financial help from your employer is very probable. Tuition reimbursement or other financial assistance makes attending school full-time or part-time more accessible to people.

Also, in order to qualify for financial assistance, most employers require that their employees maintain a specific grade point average during their studies. An employer may also pay people a higher wage or salary after they have earned a certain number of graduate-level credits, and they may also increase their salary after degree completion. Offerings like this may incentivize you to finish your certificate or degree program, and they can also motivate you to stay organized and do well academically.

Limit student loan debt

Attending online while also working allows students to earn an income while they learn. Not only does this help with paying for daily life, but it may also help people make payments toward their education during their enrollment. Making payments while you're enrolled in an online degree program, may limit the amount of student loans you will need to apply for, and it could eliminate that need altogether.

Related: 16 Jobs That May Forgive Student Loans

Professional perspective

Having a professional career while attending school online can be beneficial to your learning experience. If you are earning a certificate or degree that pertains to your career or the next steps in your career, your professional experience and connections may offer you a deeper understanding and perspective. Additionally, having industry experience and connections might also guide your focus and your goals regarding skill-building and course selection during your studies.

How to be a successful online student while working

Here are 10 steps to take to help ensure academic success while taking online classes and working:

1. Research the time commitment

Each School and each type of degree program or certification course will have its own unique set of time commitments. For example, the average time commitment for learning a bachelor's degree is four years of full-time study, and the average time commitment for earning a master's degree is between two and three years of full-time study. While an associate's degree or a certificate program may take between one or two years to complete.

Enrolling in school full-time often requires a person to participate in a minimum of nine to 15-course credits per semester, and students regularly attend classes between four and six days per week. While attending school part-time, students typically have a course load of one or two classes per semester. However, the time frame for completing a degree program or certificate program may be extended by one or two years.

While attending school online, whether part-time or full-time, it's important to consider the time commitment needed to fulfill program requirements. Being an online student may offer more flexibility, However, it's important to think about how many hours you can commit to attending classes and completing assignments each week.

2. Make a map of your current responsibilities

To ensure success as an online student, it's important to look beyond the academic commitments of your program. You should also take time to think about the things you are already responsible for. Make a list of your personal or professional obligations.

Consider the hours or days that you spend working, caring for family members or pets and volunteering. Remember to include your leisure activities and any routines may you have regarding your personal health, fitness, home maintenance and personal wellness. Making a physical list or a map of your commitments can help you visualize the way you currently spend your time, and it can be a helpful tool for later steps.

3. Apply for grants or scholarships

Most colleges and universities offer scholarships and grants for students who fit certain criteria. Additionally, a wide variety of private groups and nonprofit organizations also offer scholarship opportunities. Learning a grant or scholarship May cover the cost of your books and other school supplies, or it may completely pay for your education.

Use online resources, community centers and your school's student resource center or financial aid department to find out about these opportunities. Each scholarship or grant program is designed to assist students, and there are many different types of awards available. For example, sometimes scholarships are merit-based and other times they are need-based. Also, there are lots of scholarships and grants that people can learn based on certain interests or circumstances. For example, it's possible to be awarded a scholarship or grant for writing a creative story, overcoming hardship or adversity or furthering your education as a single parent.

Read more: How To Earn an Impressive College Scholarship

4. Let your boss know about your plans

After making your applications trying to secure funding, it could be beneficial to let your boss know about your plans to become an online student. Whether you plan on attending school full-time or part-time, your thoughts may be impressed with your drive. If the degree or certification you aim to earn is related to moving up in your career or industry, let your boss or supervisor know about your aspirations. It may improve your chances of being selected for a promotion or a leadership role as time goes on.

Additionally, your supervisor may be able to offer you helpful advice regarding your academic journey. This person might have knowledge of programs or connections that you can take advantage of as an online student.

5. Bolster your organizational skills

When attending classes as an online student, you'll need discipline and organization to help you focus and stay on track with your classes and assignments. Have an honest conversation with yourself about which organizational skills are your strongest, and which you may need to work on. Pick one or two organizational skills to improve on and make an effort to add these skills to your daily routines. For example, you might start by making a to-do list each morning, or you might set alarms or reminders to do a specific task.

Engaging in this type of behavior and making small changes to your routine is likely to improve your overall organizational ability. Here's a list of seven common organizational skills or qualities to consider working on:

  • Inner motivation

  • Goal setting

  • Analytical thinking

  • Interpersonal communication

  • Strategic thinking

  • Time management

  • Delegation of responsibility

Read more: Organizational Skills: 10 Types and How To Improve Them

6. Design a schedule

Maintaining and utilizing an accurate schedule is crucial for success as an online student. Using a physical or digital monthly planner and a daily and weekly schedule can help you stay organized and productive.

Review your course syllabi as well as your map or list of personal obligations and responsibilities. Take time to note important dates regarding classes, seminars, assignments, work and personal or family obligations. Starting by organizing your monthly schedule can help you in designing a weekly and daily routine for keeping up with your assignments and commitments.

7. Connect with people in your program

It's important to realize that becoming an online student means you're a part of a virtual learning community. Making connections with people within that community is likely to help you be more successful. Reach out to people in your program or those attending the same classes as you. By opening up these lines of communication, you can help each other stay more accountable and you might even be able to set up virtual study sessions.

You can also reach out to your professors, academic advisors and anyone working in the student center. People in these positions are very familiar with the benefits and challenges of being an online student. Making these connections avails you of their knowledge and resources.

8. Reach out to your support system

Your support system is made up of a combination of trusted friends, family members, advisors and community members. They comprise a group of people who you can rely on for guidance or help. Becoming an online student is an exciting and challenging learning experience. I can help you gain knowledge and move up in your career or industry.

Whenever you embark on a journey like this, it's important to let your friends and family know about your academic goals and career aspirations. Explain your plans regarding school and ask them in advance if they might be able to offer you guidance, assistance or emotional support if you encounter a challenge. This exercise is helpful for creating a sense of security as you move forward with your goals.

9. Be mindful and self-aware

It's important to be mindful and self-aware of your feelings, energy levels and motivation as you move through the stages of your online degree or certificate program. If you're feeling particularly positive and productive, try to take note of your behaviors or any outside circumstances that might contribute to these outcomes.

Similarly, if you notice your motivation declining or you are productivity waning, try to investigate the source. A pep talk for a friend, taking time to do something you enjoy or making an effort to replicate positive behaviors or feelings could be all you need to recenter and keep yourself on track.

Related: Tips on How to Get Rid of Nerves and Feel More Confident

10. Set goals and reward yourself

In order to be as successful as possible while attending school online and working, you should set long-term and short-term goals. Setting in long-term goals helps you determine your overarching goals regarding school and learning. Setting short-term goals helps you focus your energy, and it's likely to aid you in reaching your overall long-term goals. Offering yourself small rewards for reaching these goals can improve your motivation and fortitude while working toward your online degree or certificate.

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