If this coming fall will be your first experience as an online college student, now’s the time to begin preparing. Use the summer months ahead to get ready for your online classes so you can hit the ground running in September.
If you are actually planning to live on-campus this fall, check out 10 Things to Do the Summer Before College
Otherwise, read on and find out how you can use this summer to prep for online college.
Time needed: Three Months
Estimated Cost: $100
Tools you will need:
In a few months, your computer will be your primary medium for attending class, learning new material, communicating with your professors, engaging your classmates, and pretty much everything else. Take this time to get your tech setup humming like a NASA launch site. Be sure that your laptop or PC is new enough, fast enough, and powerful enough to facilitate everything you need from supporting your school’s Learning Management System (LMS) and engaging in real-time videoconferencing to creating multimedia presentations and taking on online exams.
Make sure you also have all the peripheral devices you might need including headphones, video camera, printer, external hard-drive, and anything else your studies might require. And of course, be sure that your high-speed wireless connection really is high-speed. If you find that your Internet speed is struggling to keep up with your needs, it might be time to change your provider. Get this done during the summer so you are not struggling with frozen screens and dropped connections when your online classes start this fall.
In a few months, your computer will be your primary medium for attending class, learning new material, communicating with your professors, engaging your classmates, and pretty much everything else.”
Now that you have all the equipment you need, you nee. to putit somewhere where you can actually use it. Make sure it is a place where you can focus. Each of us has a different learning style. Create a space that reflects your style, whether you require a tiny closet with bare walls in order to avoid distraction or you function better in a big, colorful basement office surrounded by old books and silly tchotchkes. (I prefer the latter for what it is worth). Build out your perfect workspace now and use this time to get it exactly the way you like it. You will be ready to settle in and get down to some serious online learning in the fall.Back to Top
Once you have taken care of your physical space, it is time to start connecting with your new community. It can be challenging to adapt to the isolation of attending classes from home. You can take some steps to preempt this experience by following your school’s various social media pages, as well as social media accounts for clubs and groups that might interest you. For online students, these social networks are the first line of contact to an actual community of classmates and educators. Start building these connections during the summer so you feel like a part of that community once classes begin. It can make a dramatic difference in your online college experience.Back to Top
While you are building connections, make sure you also use this time to extend a line of contact to your academic advisor. Your advisor is an important resource for support and information. Make sure you take advantage of this resource. Send an email indicating your educational goals and arrange for a face-to-face conversation (likely by video conference) Touch base, ask your burning questions, and receive important counsel as you plot your path forward. Connecting with your advisor early on is a great way to make sure you start your online education with your best foot forward.Back to Top
It is a good idea to politely introduce yourself to your professors as well. In online education, it is up to you to distinguish yourself. You can choose anonymity if you would like. For some, this is actually a major advantage of online education. But acquainting yourself with your professors can help to set you apart, especially when you require additional help, advice, or flexibility. Your online learning experience will be partially defined by how effectively you build relationships with your professors. Get a head-start this summer so that you arrive in the fall with a few solid connections in place.
While visiting campus may seem like an unnecessary step for an online student, you might be surprised at how beneficial this visit can be to your sense of belonging. If your school is based on a physical campus, seeing the space can give you a stronger understanding of your school’s culture, the make-up of the community, and the type of environment where traditional students learn. These features might also tell you a lot about your compatibility with the school, even as an online student.
Not only that, but you may find that you wish to be a part of your campus community, even as you attend your courses exclusively online. Your first visit could be the start of regular engagement in on-campus study groups, campus events, and public performances. Plan a visit during the warmer months to find out exactly what you are getting yourself into this fall.Back to Top
A lot of students choose online learning because of its flexibility. Attending classes online makes it a lot easier to balance work and home-life responsibilities. Take advantage of this flexibility by beginning your job search now. Look for opportunities in your intended field, and see if you can land a gig that can be scheduled around your educational responsibilities. And if you manage to build a strong relationship with this employer, they may even be willing to provide some level of financial support as you advance in your online education. Do your job-hunting now so you are fully in a groove with your part-time position by the fall.Back to Top
While online education is defined by its flexibility, this also means that the time management is entirely on you. The price of your academic freedom is heightened organization. But there is help in the form of countless desktop and mobile apps, aimed at helping you develop and keep a calendar.
From scheduling appointments to building daily to-do lists, from setting alerts to blocking out segments of your day, there are planning apps with a wide range of functionalities. It is all about preference and personal style. In other words, use the summer to explore your options. Play with a few of these apps—they are generally free—and find out which one actually optimizes your workflow. This should make it a breeze to get yourself organized in the fall.Back to Top
However you feel about writing, you will have to do it to survive online college. In addition to the usual essays and research projects that you will be required to complete, online education creates added writing tasks. Much of your communication, classroom discussion, and assignment completion will now require adequate use of the written word—even those tasks that could once be achieved through in-class discussion.
Practice sharpening your writing skills over the summer. Keep a journal. Write emails to faraway friends. And become a more active reader—taking note of the writing strategies and rules used by those who do it for a living. If you are struggling, ask for help. Indeed, if writing is really a challenge for you, we strongly advise using some part of this summer to seek the help of a writing tutor. It may be a hassle to do over the summer, but trust us, you will be glad you did once you have to use those writing tools in your virtual classes this fall.Back to Top
After all, it is summer. And the reality is, online education is every bit as rigorous and challenging as in-person instruction. In fact, if you are new to online education, the adjustment may make it even more challenging than the educational experience you are accustomed to. Prepare by having some fun, getting plenty of rest, and unwinding if possible. Make sure that you are up to the challenge of an online education by enjoying an enriching and relaxing summer.
And once you do start your online classes, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Your enrollment in online college comes with an array of support resources. Make sure you take advantage, especially if you are experiencing anxiety, stress or depression. Don’t neglect your mental health while getting your online education.