At-risk students' guide to an online degree

By  Allison Morris

Ready for a shock? We're fans of online education. To us, there is no better way to mold your pursuit of a degree to fit the schedule of your life, and not the other way around. It puts access to schools, courses, and professors within your reach that you never would have had otherwise. In many cases it makes an affordable undertaking out of what's become an outrageously costly endeavor.

However, just like traditional campuses, online schools are not without their share of students who drop out. Online students drop out at a rate that is 15-20% higher than students who attend class in person. All things being equal, this would seem to imply that in-person education is the option that ensures success more readily.

Because of their busy schedules, these online students with job and families face risks that can put their degree completion on the line. If you count yourself among their number, check out these tips and tools for guaranteeing you see the quest through to the end.

Risk 1: You get fired, fail class, or both

The most obvious risk of being a degree-seeking online student with a job is that you'll spread yourself too thin and succeed at nothing. Dedicate too much night time to studying and you'll be too tired to do your job well the next day. Try to put in too many hours at work and your grades will slip.

How you can overcome it:

·         Communicate with your professor and boss.

·         Combine the two.

·         Don't take on too much.

Risk 2: Your health suffers.

Working online students run the risk of damaging their health to the point they get sick and can neither work nor study. And, really, is education even worth it if you have to damage your health in the process?

How you can overcome it:

·         Exercise

·         Don't sacrifice your sleep.

·         Watch what you eat.

·         Instead of throwing a candy bar in your backpack, bring along a banana (which cost about $0.15 each) or an apple (about $0.50) and some peanut butter, which will give you protein and fiber.

Risk 3: You lose your motivation.

At a certain point in your journey toward an online degree, there is a risk that your motivation will begin to wane. You may forget why you wanted to get that degree in the first place and begin to come at your schoolwork halfheartedly. You may think you can just power through on sheer stubbornness, but you shouldn't underestimate the power of motivation in learning.

How you can overcome it:

·         Remember why you're there.

·         Get involved: Connecting with your fellow students is a crucial part of the college experience.

·         Set goals and reward yourself.

·         Motivational apps.

·         Lean on family.

There's nothing easy about getting a degree, online or otherwise, and for students with time constraints it's even harder. Knowing what you're up against is half the battle of making it all the way through to graduation day.


Reprinted with permission from

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