If you were a Hollywood star, or even a professional athlete, you would have the luxury of having a personal trainer. Even Creed had Rocky, and Rocky had Mickey. Unfortunately, taking online classes doesn’t come with a trainer to keep you on track and propel you to graduation.
So how do you stay motivated when furthering your education? Especially when you’re trying to balance work, school, family, and community activities. How do you deliver that knock-out punch to procrastination and being stuck in a rut? These tips for staying motivated in college will give you practical action items for remaining on top of your learning game for the long haul.
Find Your “Yes” People
We’ve all had a Debbie Downer in our lives. Maybe you are one – a pessimist by nature. It’s easy to see the glass as half empty when the degree road ahead looks so long. That’s why it is imperative to surround yourself with supportive people. Those you know will be your cheerleaders and encouragers while you’re in school. These are the people who understand how important earning your degree is. Let them know up front that you may be calling on them to bolster you when you’re struggling, or to help you with your everyday responsibilities when you have a school deadline looming. Knowing you have some people you can count on to be there for you in a slump will be a huge boost in motivating you to keep going.
Identifying some short and long-term goals and setting mile markers for achieving them will help you break down the larger ambition of earning a degree into manageable tasks. Short-term goals can be created and crossed off a list as they are completed, while long-term goals can be revisited at intervals throughout your degree pursuit.
Short-term goals often center around a specific term or course and are driven largely by your course syllabus. For example, weekly assignments have hard deadlines that you can’t miss. But course projects due at the end of the term can get pushed to the back burner. A short-term goal could be to spend two hours each week on the major project. Other sample course and degree goals might include:
- Get to the degree halfway point by X date
- Double up on classes at least two terms each year
- Develop professional networking relationships with 2 classmates per term
To monitor your progress in achieving your short and long-term goals, you may want to create a spreadsheet with assignments, milestones, and due dates; regularly check your grades and progress within your online classroom; and keep track of your GPA. Periodically checking in with your academic advisor is also a good idea to make sure you are staying on track.
Develop a Rewards and Consequences System
Instead of waiting for someone else to celebrate your accomplishments or hold you accountable for not reaching a milestone, you can do so yourself by setting up a rewards and consequences system. It might look something like this.
You make a deal with your teenager that every time you meet your weekly deadlines, you put $5 in a jar (8 weeks X $5 = $40!!). Every time you finish a course with all assignments submitted on time, you put in another $10. And if you earn your targeted GPA for the course, you put in $15 more. At the end of the term, if you’ve stayed on track, you get to splurge by spending that money on something you want. On the other hand, every time you miss a deadline, your teenager gets to take the week’s money from the pot for themselves.
This is just one example. It could be you’ll treat yourself with a night out with the girls if you meet your goals – and lose it if you don’t. Whatever motivates you, figure out a system to either earn a reward or give yourself the proverbial “wrist slap,” if needed.
Take a “Big Picture” Field Trip
Sometimes you get so stuck in the grind that you lose track of why you started doing this in the first place. To keep your motivation going when taking online classes, it can be helpful to take a little field trip to keep the big picture in focus. You likely know by now the types of jobs you are hoping to get once you finish your degree. Do a little homework to find some of the companies in your area that employ professionals in those jobs. Then set up a visit to a couple of those companies to get a feel for the working environment.
Maybe you know someone who works in the field, or you could develop a list of professionals who do. Set up a meeting. Ask them questions about their experience, what a typical day is like, and any tips they have for your future career. Remembering where you are going can motivate you to stay the course.
Put New Knowledge to the Test
Another big motivation can be seeing results today – not 3-4 years from now. When you learn something in class that is applicable to your job, apply it! You’ve been doing it one way, but what if you tried a new principle instead? What if you interacted with that difficult co-worker using new techniques for corporate communication that you’re learning? Compare your results and bring back anecdotes to your class discussions. Then tweak and try it again. This will make what you’re studying more relevant and worth making the effort to master.
Throw Out the Planner (What??)
Okay – this isn’t what you think. Using your planner to be a successful online student is extremely important. Occasionally, however, IF you have stayed abreast of your coursework in a class but just need a day to breathe, it’s okay to put the planner in the drawer and head to the lake (or the mall, or the mountains – whatever’s calling your name). Take a day to reset and let the stress roll off your back. When you return, dive back in with renewed fervor.
Know What Makes a Successful Online Student
It’s possible that you’re having a hard time staying motivated because you have not learned good online learning strategies, especially if you’re new to online learning. There are many resources for best practices for furthering your education online, but lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list for you.
Do the Next Thing
Finally, when all else fails, just do the next thing. Maybe you can’t look to the end of the semester, or even the end of the week. You’re overwhelmed by all that’s going on in your life and finishing this course seems impossible. If that’s where you find yourself, then do that one discussion post. Read those 15 pages. Then take a break and come back for the next thing.
Whenever you’re feeling you are falling into an academic slump, review these online learning strategies and tips for staying motivated in college and choose one to help jumpstart you back into action. But whatever you do, DON’T QUIT!
If you are considering furthering your education and would like to more about how Ottawa University can help you achieve your dreams of earning a college degree, Contact OU today!