How to Make an Online Degree Fit Around Your Lifestyle
Have you decided to pursue a degree to further your education and set you up for a successful career?
Where it used to be that degree programs involved in-person classes on school campuses, times have changed. Thanks to technology, online degrees have taken off, and they are now more popular than ever. They offer a convenience that traditional in-person classes simply can’t compete with. But even with that added convenience, it doesn’t mean that your lifestyle will automatically adjust to, and allow for, an online degree program.
Here we’ll take a look at some practical tips and solutions that will make it possible for you to fit an online degree around your lifestyle, so you don’t feel like you’re making huge sacrifices.
How Many Changes are You Willing to Make?
A good place to start is by asking yourself just how much you are willing to change in your lifestyle. It’s easy to get set in your ways and your routine, but changes don’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes fitting an online degree program into your lifestyle is more about coming to terms with changes, accepting them, and realizing they can lead to fabulous things.
If you know you’re going to be signing up for an online degree program, it can be helpful to start making little changes right away, building up to a different lifestyle once school begins. Baby steps can seem less intimidating and stressful than big sweeping lifestyle changes.
Get Family and Friends On-Board with You
While the changes you make will ultimately affect you the most, it’s helpful to get family and friends on board. When you make changes to your lifestyle, this can affect the amount of time you have available to spend with family and friends. If you’re attending full-time online courses, you won’t have a ton of free time available. That doesn’t mean you’ll have no free time; it just means it may be a lot less than you currently have.
Speaking to your family and friends about how your schedule will change will help them be more understanding and even encouraging. They will know that if you can’t attend every gathering and night out that it’s because your schooling has to take the front seat for now.
Create a Quiet and Productive Workspace At Home
Because your “classroom” will be your home, you’re going to want to take steps to ensure you’ve got a productive workspace. Setting up at the kitchen table in the middle of all the action probably isn’t the best plan as it will be tough to block out distractions and focus on your studies.
Here are a few tips you can use to set up a quiet and productive study and workspace at home.
- Choose a place in the house that is free of distraction, has privacy, and ideally is self-contained. A spare bedroom or a quiet room in the house is ideal. If you can’t have a separate space, you can get creative by using a folding screen, bookcases, or furniture to give you that privacy.
- Invest in ergonomic furniture – a desk and chair. You will be spending long hours at your desk, so you want to be sure that it is comfortable and supportive.
- Think about how you will organize your workspace. Do you need shelves or a filing cabinet to stay organized? You may have textbooks, notebooks, and other items.
- Proper lighting will be necessary to prevent eye strain, especially during those long study sessions.
- Do you need a printer in the space? If so, where will it go?
- Your office area should have a good and reliable internet connection. Nowadays, most people have Wi-Fi throughout their house, so this probably won’t be a problem.
- What about snacks and beverages? If you have them at hand, then there is no reason to get up from your desk, get distracted, and set yourself back in terms of how long your work takes you.
Creating the perfect study and workspace in the home can take a little bit of work but will be well worth it in the end. It can help you to be much more productive.
How Much of the Program Is Online?
To plan your schedule properly, you’ll need to know how much of the program is online. Is the entire program online, or will there be in-campus classes and even placements or clinicals? You can find this information by speaking to the school you are interested in or visiting their website. TWU’s FNP degree includes online classes plus clinical hours, which means you’d need to factor both into your lifestyle and schedule.
Each program will be unique, so you want to know what you’re in for before you go ahead and enroll.
Invest in the Right Hardware and Software
Making sure you have the right equipment to do your online degree from home will also make your life a whole lot easier. Trying to get stuff done on a slow, outdated computer and software that isn’t ideal will make life a lot harder than it needs to be. Simple tasks and assignments can end up taking twice the time without the proper hardware and software.
The biggest investment you will likely make is your computer or laptop. Typically, a laptop is best for those who want to be mobile and study from different locations at home and out of the house. If you don’t plan on studying on the go, then you may choose to invest in a computer instead.
A few things to keep in mind when shopping for a computer or laptop include:
- The storage space (can it be expanded later on?)
- The speed
- The budget
- The screen size
- If it is compatible with the software you will be using
- The operating system
- How lightweight it is (for laptops)
- Do you want an all-in-one model (desktop computer) to save on space?
- Will you also be purchasing an external hard drive?
You want to be sure you’re getting exactly what you need and good value for your money.
Sometimes You Will Need to Say No to Invites
While it would be great to have time to fit everything in, it’s important to accept that you will need to say no to invites. That doesn’t mean you have to say no to everything, but there will be times when personal invites will overlap with your study and work time. Accepting that as a fact from the get-go can make it easier to say no at the moment. Sure, FOMO (fear of missing out) is real, but you’ll need to learn how to control that feeling and not let it make decisions for you.
Learn How to Prioritize Like a Pro
This brings us to a skill that will come in extremely handy while you’re trying to make an online degree program fit in with your schedule. Learning how to prioritize is a skill, and it doesn’t always come naturally to people. The good thing is that once you learn to prioritize like a pro, this is something you can apply to various aspects of your life, not just schooling. It will likely help you in the workforce too, as plenty of jobs will require you to prioritize tasks.
If you’re new to prioritizing, a simple way to approach it is to place items in a few main categories. These categories are:
- Urgent items
- Important tasks
- Not urgent
- Not important
This will probably take a little time to master, but soon, it will become second nature. Once you are in the workforce, you can also add the categories of delegate and delete.
Start Using a Schedule or Day Planner
If you’re the type of individual who has rejected the idea of using a schedule or a daily planner in the past, now is a great time to re-examine that stance. Schedules don’t box you in or constrain you; rather, they can help you to your most productive self. They work to keep you on track, helping to identify priorities and making sure important events, activities, assignments, and tasks are overlooked or forgotten.
You can choose to use a traditional paper scheduler or something more portable and flexible in the form of a daily planner app.
Remind Yourself This Is All Temporary
Finally, you need to keep your eye on the prize, and in this case, it is your degree. Sure, there is a lot of work involved, and your lifestyle has probably changed significantly, but this is all temporary. Once you graduate, you can start looking for your dream job, which will allow you to have a much more balanced schedule and lifestyle. The hard work will pay off in the end, so do what you can to stay focused and motivated.
Choosing to pursue an online degree is an investment in your future and yourself. Finding a way to make it work with your lifestyle isn’t just important; it ensures you’ll have a fulfilling and rewarding career in the future.